Top Hollywood women launch anti-harassment plan

Actresses (clockwise, from top left) Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd are among the members of the Time's Up initiative.
Actresses (clockwise, from top left) Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd are among the members of the Time's Up initiative.PHOTOS: AFP/GETTY IMAGES, REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - More than 300 major actresses and female writers, directors, agents and other entertainment executives unveiled an initiative Monday (Jan 1) to tackle pervasive sexual harassment in Hollywood and working class jobs across the United States.

Time's Up includes a legal defence fund that has so far raised some US$13.4 million (S$17.9 million) of its $15 million goal to provide subsidised legal support to women and men who were sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace.

The plan gives special focus to low-wage agriculture workers, housekeepers, janitors, factory workers and waitresses.

"Harassment too often persists because perpetrators and employers never face any consequences," read a "letter of solidarity" on the group's website.

The open letter, published as a full-page ad in The New York Times and the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with "Dear sisters" and closes "in solidarity". Time's Up also calls for more women in positions of power and leadership, as well as equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation for women, and urges the media to turn the spotlight on abuses in "less glamorised and valorised trades".

"We remain committed to holding our own workplaces accountable, pushing for swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone," the letter reads.

It also vows to tell "women's stories through our eyes and voices with the goal of shifting our society's perception and treatment of women".

And it calls on women to wear black at Sunday's Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality, as well as raise awareness about the group's efforts.

The movement was formed after a deluge of allegations disrupted or ended the careers of powerful male leaders in entertainment but also in big business, politics and the media, sparked by the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal.

Time's Up members include actresses Cate Blanchett, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep, Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley, feminist writer Gloria Steinem, lawyer and ex-Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen and Nike Foundation co-chair Maria Eitel.