Time's Up Should Be a Conservative Model

Time’s Up has raised $20 million and received 1,000 requests for help

When the Hollywood anti-harassment initiative Time’s Up was first announced, much of the public quickly focused on one aspect: Actresses wearing black gowns to award shows to raise awareness about sexual misconduct and to show solidarity with its victims. This “action” was widely ridiculed, with many critics mocking how pointless it seemed and others negatively contrasting it with the courage shown by women participating in the Iranian protests. Unfortunately, not as much attention was given to the other, less visible parts of the initiative, such as its creation of a legal defense fund.

The legal defense fund is intended to help less privileged women with the potentially costly consequences from reporting sexual misconduct. At the time that the initiative and its legal defense fund were first unveiled by the New York Times on January 1st, the fund had $13 million.

Just over one month later, the Time’s Up legal defense fund has raised $20 million from 20,000 donors, according to the fund’s administrator Tina Tchen, a lawyer who formerly served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.

On Monday, the 2018 Makers Conference hosted a Time’s Up Panel that included actresses, directors, and lawyers, where actress Rashida Jones stated that “there is no change unless you bring every single person along who has spent time being marginalized, harassed, [or] assaulted.”

To be sure, much of the Time’s Up movement may be a PR ploy. Actress and activist Rose McGowan has referred to the Hollywood talent agency CAA as a “company of pimps,” and in a brutally honest “Nightline” interview on January 21, McGowan criticized fellow actress Alyssa Milano and CAA (which is where Milano’s husband is employed as an agent): “Do the math. Who’s behind Time’s Up? CAA. Where do they meet? CAA. Who needs good PR? CAA. Who are part of the pimp problem? CAA.” Her statements may be accurate; the Time’s Up panel did include a CAA agent (Maha Dakhil), and it is certainly obnoxious and frustrating that some of the people now denouncing sexual misconduct undoubtedly knew of the sexual misconduct in Hollywood but pretended not to see it.

In response to McGowan, Milano issued a statement in which she said that her “goal throughout the past few months…has been to use [her] platform to give others a voice…to stamp out sexual harassment and sexual assault.” PR or not, Hollywood women are making a real attempt regarding sexual misconduct, and people in other industries are already following their example — a 23-year-old model and 32-year-old fashion lawyer just launched the Humans of Fashion Foundation to create an advisory board of lawyers, doctors, and therapists to provide assistance to people working in the fashion industry — possibly for free.

PR or not, these efforts are having real results, whether through funding one woman’s legal bills, or through helping one woman realize she’s not alone, or through giving one woman the courage and support to come forward; Tchen revealed at the Time’s Up panel that more than 1,000 people have already sought help from the fund and that more than 200 lawyers have voluntarily provided both time and resources to assist with these requests. Or perhaps change will come because Hollywood women used their platforms to set a loud and clear example that sexual misconduct is not something that women should have to accept, tolerate, or ignore in the workplace; Tchen told W magazine that females as young as high school have reached out to her about supporting the initiative and forming their own projects. This is fantastic news — young women are being empowered, have outlets of support and resources, and feel encouraged to take action.

Is it possible that some in Hollywood view the Time’s Up initiative as an opportunity for good PR? Of course. Is it likely that’s why some are getting involved? Almost certainly. Is that a bad thing? I’d argue it’s not. Less than pure altruistic incentives have often served as the motivators for many changes in society.

One example of that happening in real time are the bonuses and raises occurring in response to the recent tax legislation. Many companies saw an opportunity to pass on some of the money saved in taxes to their employees. Others saw an opportunity for good press. But the motivations behind the bonuses and raises do not make a material difference to most, if not all, of those receiving them. And those who continue to dismiss the raises and bonuses because of their motivations look increasingly petty for doing so.

I’d argue that the same mentality applies when it comes to the Time’s Up movement. Are there industry leaders who stand to benefit from taking this head on and so opportunistically associated themselves with the movement? Of course. Does it matter to the women who will benefit as a result? Not one bit. Could it lead to more positive developments? Absolutely.

And as conservatives, isn’t this the way we should champion change and progress? Not forced by the heavy hand of government but as a result of the motivations of the market? Rather than dismissing the Time’s Up movement as an opportunity for PR, we should be celebrating it as an opportunity to reduce the number of women subjected to sexual misconduct in the workplace and to financially and mentally support the victims seeking justice.

“We didn’t want to be a group of people who got in a room and talked about the change we wanted to see made, we wanted to be a part of that change.” – entertainment lawyer Nina Shaw

Time’s Up is a testament to what can be achieved locally if people work collaboratively. With Time’s Up, we have an example of influential figures within an industry recognizing a major problem and deciding to take it upon themselves to help solve it. They banded together to begin to police their own ranks and to make unprecedented resources available to those who have been victimized. They weren’t content to sit on the sidelines and wait for legislators to act.

Time’s Up was unveiled six weeks ago, but it’s already raised $20 million and over 1,000 women have sought its assistance.

Time’s Up should be a model for conservatives. Not a punch line.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.