Sex war turns to blue-collar 'sisters'

People | 3 Jan 2018

More than 300 top women in Hollywood - from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence to Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett - have unveiled an initiative to tackle sexual harassment in workplaces, calling special attention to "sisters" in no-glamor blue-collar jobs.

The Time's Up initiative opens a year after the later months of 2017 were marked by the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal touching off a deluge of allegations that brought down powerful men in entertainment, politics and the media, prompting a re-examination of anti-harassment policies.

In an open letter in The New York Times, the initiative lends star power to the cause of women in various fields, urging support and respect for those in lowly positions who are vulnerable and voiceless.

"We fervently urge the media covering the disclosures by people in Hollywood to spend equal time on the myriad experiences of individuals working in less glamorized and valorized trades," the group says in its full-page ad.

"To every woman employed in agriculture who has had to fend off unwanted sexual advances from her boss, every housekeeper who has tried to escape an assaultive guest, every janitor trapped nightly in a building with a predatory supervisor, every waitress grabbed by a customer and expected to take it with a smile We support you."

The head of Ford Motor apologized last month to employees at two factories in Chicago and promised changes after a scathing expose by the Times detailed pervasive harassment and mistreatment of women. It was one of the first major media investigations into sexual harassment in blue-collar workplaces.

Among steps, Time's Up has established a fund that in 12 days raised US$13.4 million (HK$104.2 million) toward a US$15-million goal aimed at providing legal aid for women and men who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused in the workplace. It has also vowed to push for legislation to strengthen laws against workplace harassment and discrimination.

The group insists more women must be brought into positions of power and leadership, while every woman should have equal benefits, opportunities, pay and representation.

As for Hollywood, it wants "swift and effective change to make the entertainment industry a safe and equitable place for everyone."

And it wants women to wear black at Sunday's Golden Globes as a statement against gender and racial inequality.

The open letter in the Times, which also appears in the Spanish-language La Opinion, opens with "Dear Sisters" in large, bold type, and closes with "in solidarity" and 300-plus names.

Several of Weinstein's accusers signed the letter. They include Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale as well as Salma Hayek, whose lengthy account of mistreatment by Weinstein - "my monster," she called him - was widely circulated on social media after appearing last month in The New York Times. Weinstein has denied many allegations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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