How has Time’s Up, a group that was formed to help women, become one defending male predators?
It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Time’s Up, the anti-sexual harassment organization that sprang up from the #MeToo movement, and this weekend, it is suffering a mass exodus of many from its high-profile board. On Friday, a number of prominent board members announced they were stepping away from the group, including actress Eva Longoria, TV mega-producer Shonda Rhimes, and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, along with five other names.
This announcement comes quickly after the resignation of CEO Tina Tchen, who stepped down after the unsettling revelations that she, and other members of Time’s Up, had been working with and on behalf of Andrew Cuomo with his sexual assault allegations. This was nothing short of a staggering discovery, considering their actions appeared to be in direct conflict with the very stated intentions of the organization. What has become realized is that this was not a unique reality, as there have been numerous examples of Time’s Up taking steps that looked to defy the mission of its formation
This was set up to be an organization that was supposed to be the preeminent example of fighting systemic toxicity, and to support women both legally and through corporate restructuring. In short order, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, hundreds of women came together from various parts of Hollywood, the press, and politics to form an alliance that would work against the poisonous structure in the studio system and corporate board rooms. It established legal assistance for victims and fought to change laws as well the structures inside companies to deliver gender fairness.
It is significant that names like Longoria and Rhimes are stepping away, considering they were touted as part of the founding over three years ago. Over the past year, Time’s Up has been exposed as operating in the very toxic fashion that it was charged with addressing and fixing, and the reasons behind this are completely mystifying. It becomes impossible to claim it fell victim to classic structures of male oppression when this was a completely new organization and one populated almost entirely with females.
An initial sign of trouble came in 2019 when then-CEO Lisa Borders, a former President of the WNBA, resigned as a result of her own son coming under fire for sexually harassing a woman in her home. This was a case of the group becoming victimized by its own tactics, as they were extremely vocal during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. After boisterously supporting the accusers without allowing due process they could not very well take the opposite stance without appearing hypocritical — so Borders had to go.
But over the past year or so Time’s Up leadership has been willing to take curious moves without regard to appearing compromised as a result. The very fact that there is a list of problematic examples — any one of which would cause deep concerns — says just how dysfunctional the organization has become.
- Last summer, a number of members were expressing they had problems with the leadership being overly focused on outside concerns and projects, items that built up the image but were not focused on taking action. One such item was a for-profit consulting division proposed that would consult for companies facing sexual harassment claims.
- When the charge of sexual harassment was being brought up against then-candidate Joe Biden, instead of speaking out loudly, as had happened with Kavanaugh, Time’s Up’s official position was to support Biden. In fact, when his accuser, Tara Reade, came to the group for help, she was rebuffed by the group. This makes more sense when you understand Tina Tchen, then head of the legal division, was Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, and the PR firm for the Time’s Up legal defense fund was headed by an advisor to the Joe Biden campaign.
- When the financial disclosures of Time’s Up were looked at last Fall, they showed its highly promoted legal defense fund was regarded as an afterthought internally. Despite drawing in millions of dollars annually, just over $312,000 was earmarked for the defense fund. At the time, the salary of Lisa Borders was $342,000, and many others were paid in a similar range.
- In March of this year, the healthcare industry division of Time’s Up saw a mass resignation of members when the leadership refused to act on behalf of members who had been sexually harassed by a male celebrity doctor. Many executives, including new CEO Tina Tchen, fought to stifle the issue, leading to an external lawsuit and then the resignation of 18 members.
- Early last month, Roberta Kaplan resigned as chairwoman when it was revealed that the lawyer had been coordinating public messaging and lending legal advice and other assistance to Andrew Cuomo and his staffers accused of harassment, not to the female victims coming forward.
- Just over a week ago, Tina Tchen stepped down as CEO after her denials of knowing about Kaplan’s actions were blown to confetti by reports showing Tchen had been advised on the Cuomo statement, as well as shooting down plans by Time’s Up to publicly support one of the accusers
Ahead of Tchen’s resignation, Shonda Rhimes telegraphed the turmoil that the organization was experiencing. On the weekend of August 21, she issued a public statement expressing her dismay with how things had spun out of control, while still supporting Tchen.
“The mission of Time’s Up is for a safe, fair and dignified workplace for women of all kinds. That mission is of paramount importance. The fact that Time’s Up has become viewed as a receptacle for and the focus of men trying to cover up their obscene behaviors is exhausting to me. Saving men, especially predatory men, is not on Time’s Up agenda. Men have dominated the planet long enough that we are quite sure they know how to save themselves. Tina and her team are working to end the systemic patriarchy that has gone on for far too long, and I proudly support the organization that is fighting for this change.”
Days later, the reports of Tchen not only having been made aware of the Cuomo work but actively participating in it came to light, and she came to leave as a result. Now, Time’s Up has seen the mass departure of a significant number of its founders. As for the future of the group, this is up in the air, something ominously revealed by a visit to its executive leadership web page. Instead of a list of names of those with the outfit it now only carries a pithy statement:
We are currently in an evaluation and transition period. Please read this statement and stay tuned for updates to our governing board.