Time’s Up: Noble or Nonsense?

There are good things about Time's Up. There are also areas where it inevitably falls short.

By Liberty McArtor Published on January 8, 2018

As pictures from the Golden Globes rolled in Sunday night, we saw that nearly all attendees wore black. Many sported lapel pins with the words “Time’s Up.” That’s because last week, hundreds of influential Hollywood women launched the Time’s Up initiative. It’s their response to the #MeToo revelations that rocked multiple industries, including entertainment, late last year. 

Conservative commentator D.C. McAllister labeled Time’s Up “repackaged feminist garbage.” She argued it was merely about “ego, not heart.” At the liberal Slate, Christina Cauterucci argued that the initiative hadn’t accomplished much besides fundraising and making a fashion-based protest. 

Far from perfect, the initiative is easy to bash, no matter what side you’re on. But bashing isn’t the right approach. We can see good things in Time’s Up. And some areas where it falls short. Let’s examine both.

It’s About Something

It isn’t fair to reduce the initiative to “repackaged feminist garbage.” Some events that do warrant that label? The feminists protests of 2017, including the Women’s March and the subsequent strike. The purpose of each was ambiguous mush that centered largely on expanding abortion.

Time’s Up, however, is responding to something real. The sexual abuse suffered by women everywhere deserves a new initiative if anything does.

It’s also worth noting that many of the women involved are sexual assault survivors themselves. So it’s unfair to accuse them all of joining Time’s Up for an ego trip, as McAllister does.

Its Goals Are Admirable

In an open letter signed by 300 actresses and other entertainment executives, members of Time’s Up explain their goals. Primarily, members want to use their influence to raise awareness of sexual harassment suffered by low-income women. The signatories “recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices.”

Time’s Up also introduces a strategy to correct “systemic gender-inequality and imbalance of power.” Members want to help more women obtain leadership roles across industries. They say the lack of “gender parity” in many “centers of power … fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment against women.” 

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Another big part of Time’s Up’s initiative is the legal fund. It has already amassed $13 million, thanks to donations from Hollywood actresses and certain talent agencies.

As signatories of the open letter acknowledge, “harassment too often persists because perpetrators and employers never face any consequences. This is often because survivors, particularly those working in low-wage industries, don’t have the resources to fight back.”

Housed by the National Women’s Law Center, the fund will help provide those resources. 

The Problems

Time’s Up is far from perfect. First, because of this painfully obvious fact: many Hollywood elites knew about Harvey Weinstein and other abusers for a long time. And did nothing. Now, they’re hitching their wagon to a movement by wearing black at the Golden Globes (a solidarity move called for by Time’s Up), signing a letter or donating to a fund. 

Second, while the goal of more women in leadership positions is noble, there is a problem with mandating an exact 50/50 number, which Time’s Up does. Why? Because according to research, that’s not what women want.

For instance, it’s true there is a wage gap in our society. But not usually because of pay inequality. Most of the time it’s because of the fields women choose to work in. Or the time they choose to take off to raise their children. Or whether they choose to work part time as opposed to 40-plus hours. For these same reasons, you see fewer female than male CEOs and board members.

Only so much can be enforced with open letters, new regulations, quotas and even legal funds. What really needs to change is our culture. Namely the way we view sex and women.

Again, the goal of having greater diversity in leadership is a worthy one. Having various perspectives weigh in on crucial matters is a good thing. And yes, men have dominated many industries where sexual misconduct persists. But demanding that companies hire a specific number of women by a specific deadline just to meet a quota will do more harm than good. It also plays into the dangerous mindset that women’s presence alone will solve the deep problems in our society.

Finally, and this is big: only so much can be enforced with open letters, new regulations, quotas and even legal funds. What really needs to change is our culture. Namely the way we view sex and women. Are Hollywood actresses ready to sign their name to that?

What to Do

It’s easy to criticize Hollywood for what many see as another useless effort by out-of-touch celebrities to score public approval points. But goodness knows, if these Hollywood A-listers weren’t attempting to do something after #MeToo, we’d be criticizing them. If they weren’t donating some of their millions to a legal fund, we’d be ridiculing them. If they had showed up to Sunday’s red carpet event decked out in their usual colorful bling, we’d probably be rolling our eyes. 

So let’s identify the good intentions behind Time’s Up and other responses to #MeToo. Let’s sincerely point out the problems. And let’s educate Americans with the truth about controversial issues, like the gender wage gap. Then we can move forward with a common goal of supporting women who speak up after sexual abuse, holding their abusers accountable, and creating a future where such abuse is far less common.

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