On January 7, actresses and activists showed solidarity at the Golden Globe Awards by wearing all black — and by speaking out against sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and across all industries as part of the Time’s Up initiative. Time’s Up was created as a way to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and includes a legal defense fund helmed by attorney Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama. More than 300 prominent women in the entertainment industry have rallied behind the initiative, with a goal of ensuring that all women — including low-income and hourly workers— have access to legal assistance if they are harassed or abused at work.
At the Golden Globes, many men also showed solidarity, wearing a pin with a “Time’s Up” logo to demonstrate their cause for the movement. This included host Seth Meyers, actor Daniel Kaluuya, Steve Carell, Hugh Grant, William H. Macy, Justin Timberlake, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Jonas, and Aziz Ansari. Yet for most men, wearing the pin was as far as it went — the task of actually speaking out against gender-based violence fell primarily on the women in attendance. When asked about what the pin meant, many men struggled to answer. Few men referenced the movement in their acceptance speeches, and if they did, it occurred only in general terms — such as when Gary Oldman stated that, “words and actions can change the world, and boy o boy, does it need some changing.” In contrast, female winners used their time to specifically address the movement, perhaps most memorably with Oprah Winfrey (the first black woman to win the Cecile B. DeMille award) stating, “I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know.”
On the red carpet, the women also took the opportunity to turn the conversation to the Time’s Up movement. Actress Michelle Williams brought #MeToo founder Tarana Burke with her to the awards show (one of several actresses to bring an activist with her). Whenever she was asked about her nomination, she turned the conversation to Burke — brilliantly changing the script to highlight the movement. Actress Debra Messing also shone on the red carpet, as she called out E! for paying its female hosts far less than its male hosts— while being interviewed by E!
Yet men were rarely questioned about #MeToo or Time’s Up, and when they were, they had a hard time coming up with an answer about why the initiative is important or what they can personally do to be part of the change. In this respect, wearing the pin is little more than window dressing — an easy public relations move that has little meaning if there is no understanding or action behind it.
It isn’t hard to put on a pin and call yourself an ally. What is difficult is actually standing up for women and being part of the cultural change that must happen if we are going to transform our society. For male actors, this may mean refusing to work with directors, producers and fellow actors who they know have harassed and abused women. It may mean speaking out when they see a woman on set being treated unfairly, or when they are asked to take on a role that objectifies or demeans women.
It’s time to do something more than just put on a pin. While raising awareness is a start, it isn’t enough to truly make a difference. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, our expectations are higher — and we won’t accept window dressing anymore. So we ask the men of Hollywood who wore the Time’s Up pin: what are you doing to help the cause?
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