Ava DuVernay on #TIMESUP: Hollywood Must Stand Up for Those Without a Voice
If #MeToo was a reckoning, forcing sexual abusers to be tried in the court of public opinion, then Time's Up, its newly announced sister initiative, is about channeling that awareness into action. On New Year’s Day, 300 female Hollywood power players—among them Reese Witherspoon, Ava DuVernay, Meryl Streep, Shonda Rhimes, America Ferrera, and other writers, producers, directors, actors, lawyers, and agents—published an open letter and took out full-page ads in The New York Times and Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion to announce their multi-pronged mission to end sex discrimination, not just in entertainment but across all industries. “No more silence. No more waiting. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment, or abuse. Time's up,” their website declares.
"We stand on the precipice of a very dynamic time," DuVernay, who has emerged as an active member of the leaderless movement, told InStyle yesterday. "And it’s up to us to decide whether this is a moment or whether it’s something that really instigates systemic change," the director continued. The group's plan includes proposing legislation to thwart practices used by companies to silence victims (like the use of non-disclosure agreements), encouraging social protests like the divisive Golden Globes blackout, and establishing a robust legal defense fund overseen by the National Women’s Law Center, which has already raised more than $14 million.
Here, DuVernay speaks up about what it will take for this movement to create lasting change:
On how it started... Around the time [that news broke] of Harvey Weinstein and some of the other men who’ve been complicit in sexual harassment, there were lots of groups of women having conversations about all kinds of ways to do things. Some of them were informal gatherings at homes or email chains, and they started to coalesce into four or five different groups. Times Up was one of them, and it’s the one that kind of gained velocity the most quickly. The women involved are all quite dynamic—they run companies, run conglomerates—and so when you have that many women with that kind of intention putting their mind to it, things get done quite quickly.
DuVernay's goal... The legal fund is one of many different pillars of action that Times Up is taking. Funds that have done very muscular work in the fight for various civil rights, so this is one that I really responded to. You know, as someone who made Selma and studied black liberation theory and black history, made 13th and studied systemic racism and bias, I know that there are moments in time that elongate, that shimmer, that echo off of the culture and become fact, become common practice, the way it is. And so the question is: Will this moment do that? [Will] it have the possibility to do that, if people who care about it put their head down, roll up their sleeves, and do the work, which is what this organization wants to do?
On the name "Time's Up..." The culture of intimidation and harassment, underrepresentation and bias, has gone on long enough. It's an actionable title. It’s one that also kind of throws down a gauntlet. It has a bit of swagger, which this group certainly does, not in a way of spectacle but in a way of having real intention to enact change.
Why intersectionality is key... If it was not intersectional, I would not be there. The women that are working on this are very mindful of this not being a movement that only speaks to one kind of woman in one industry—that it is truly a broad canvas that we are looking to paint a picture on: all women. There are women of all walks of life who came together to make it so, and I’m proud to stand with them.
On supporting victims across industries... That's another reason why I’m there. I was a lot less interested in letting this be a conversation behind the closed doors of women who make film, television, and theater. This is a societal, cultural [issue], a moment that can change the world view and change what the norm is, and so it was vital, it was imperative, that this not just for us.
What Time's Up will accomplish next... We use the voices and the faces and the profiles of women who can grab headlines with just a tweet, and we use that on behalf of the women who can’t. It’s a dynamic time, and I’m proud of the group so far. You know, there’s a lot of work to do. We have to be careful not to pat ourselves on the back too quickly. I don’t think anyone in the group is doing that. We basically just stated our goals and our intention and the ways in which we look to do that and are asking people who believe in the same thing to hold hands with us.