Leaders of the Time’s Up organization on Thursday said their movement and legal defense fund will be highlighted during the telecast for the 90th annual Academy Awards on Sunday.
In a roughly hour-long briefing with members of the press, leaders of the movement, including Shonda Rhimes, Laura Dern, Ava DuVernay, Tessa Thompson, briefed nearly a dozen journalists about the work and efforts made in the two months since the organization first formed and publicly launched its legal defense fund at the Golden Globes.
Though unspecified what the moment during the Oscars ceremony would involve, leaders said they had worked with the show’s producers to bring attention to their cause. “There’s a moment that’s been carved out,” DuVernay said.
Other members participating in the discussion included political consultant Hilary Rosen, Bad Robot co-CEO Katie McGrath, and entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw.
Leaders of the group said the unlike the Golden Globes, the Time’s Up organization is not planning a coordinated protest Sunday. Individual members of the group will be going as themselves, they said.
The Oscars, which concludes the awards season, will not be the last you’ll hear of the group, members said. While the Golden Globes’ red carpet became the platform from which activists launched their effort to marshal their star power into action, the focus now is on building the organization’s infrastructure.
The legal defense fund, which has now reached $21 million from 20,000 donors, is intended to provide legal assistance to women across the country in all industries. Already, around 1,700 requests for assistance have come into the group from women in a long list of occupations, said attorney Tina Tchen. They include first responders, farm workers, hotel and restaurant employees, and others.
On the legal front, the leaders said that the organization has 500 attorneys who have agreed to assist on a pro bono basis, and the assistance comes in a number of ways. Some complaints may lead to the filing of civil suits or demand letters for a negotiated settlement, or anti-discrimination complaints with state or federal agencies.
But the organization is not just working on preventing sexual harassment, leaders made clear. Newly emboldened in the wake of the #MeToo movement, women will also be speaking out against other gender biases in pay and job promotion practices, paid leave and other workplace safety issues. To that end, Time’s Up members said they have partnered with StoryCorps, a non-profit that records everyday stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs for historical preservation. The effort will first feature stories from Ashley Judd, Jane Fonda and America Ferrera, who have agreed to share their stories as part of the partnership. Rhimes, too, will record a story.
The StoryCorps partnership will help put a human face on the range of problems the organization hopes to tackle. “Sexual harassment is a symptom of a system and a culture, so the story becomes really important,” DuVernay explained. The HIV epidemic in the 1980s stigmatized the gay community, but it was stories told in seminal films like “Philadelphia” that helped end discriminatory policies, the “Wrinkle in Time” director said. “There’s a human face to it and the stories make a difference. It’s not raising money or a part of the campaign. It’s a vital record and a quest to change culture.”
Since 2003, StoryCorps has recorded nearly 500,000 stories that are recorded by the Library of Congress. The interviews will feature supporters of the Time’s Up movement, including actresses, executives, activists and people from across a number of industries to share about their experiences as women in the workplace.
Rhimes, the powerful showrunner and creator of “Grey’s Anatomy,” said the organization will not exist only during the awards season. “It’s really important that you know that Time’s Up is not about the red carpet,” she told journalists. “And those women you saw on the red carpet representing Time’s Up are now off the red carpet working their butts off being activists.”