During back to back panels at Variety’s Inclusion Summit, the founder of Me Too and the executive director of entertainment at Time’s Up, among others, discussed how far the movements have come since they started, and also how much work there still is to do.
“How To Get Away With Murder” writer and producer Angela Robinson recalled why the Time’s Up movement originated and its “critical” early moments.
“It was born out of Harvey and pain and this moment in our industry. You knew what was going on, maybe not the extent, but it was there,” Robinson said.
In the year since it was founded, Robinson and Time’s Up executive director of entertainment Nithya Raman agree that one of its greatest achievements has been setting up the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps provide legal and financial aid to people who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
“At the time, the knee-jerk legal move was somebody steps forward and powerful dudes in Hollywood slap back hard with legal. They call their big lawyer and their big lawyer says super scary things like, ‘We’re gonna bankrupt you.’ That was the move,” Robinson said. “Se we thought we’re gonna set up a legal defense fund so that playbook can go bye-bye.”
Krista Vernoff, the “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner who also spoke on the panel, vividly recalled her first Time’s Up meeting and the feeling that change was “not only possible,” but that the people in that room were going to be the ones to bring it about.
From a storytelling perspective, both Robinson and Vernoff agreed that Time’s Up has been “liberating.”
“I realized there’s support and I don’t have to apologize for writing a sexual harassment storyline, I don’t have to ask for permission to write an episode about consent that looks through the lens of the survivor,” Vernoff said. “I can use my creative voice to impact the planet in the way that I want to and not fear pushback.”
During an earlier panel with Me Too founder Tarana Burke and Montse Barrena, EVP and group account director at Deutsch, Burke said that while she “could never have envisioned” how far the movement has come, she feels that Me Too is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
“What people see about Me Too, mostly in the media, is not really a movement. There’s a lot of talk about Me Too and every time something happens people will assign the Me Too label to it with anything related to sexual harassment, sexual violence, but there’s never really a focus on the people who stood up and said Me Too,” Burke said. “Me Too wouldn’t be a viral sensation of individual people didn’t take the risk to stand up and put their most private information out there in public. I come from a tradition that says if somebody takes an individual risk, there needs to be courage to meet that, and there was not enough courage. Our goal was to create something that spoke to survivors and made it clear to people what this movement is about.”
During the panel, Burke and Barrena announced that Me Too is partnering with Deutsch on a series of four spots which seek to “speak to survivors” and make it clear that the movement is about “healing and action.” One of the spots features actor Terry Crews recounting his experience with sexual assault, Burke revealed.
Barrena said that much of the discussion around the spots was how to inspire action.
“We had a lot of conversations about how we get beyond just talking,” she said. “It’s one thing to have good intentions, it’s another thing to roll up your sleeves and do something about it.”