Tracee Ellis Ross on the Power of Female Anger
On Monday, Tracee Ellis Ross was among 300 Hollywood power women, including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, and Meryl Streep, to sign their names to an open letter announcing the anti-harassment coalition—and now Internet-shaking movement—Time's Up. Infuriated by sweeping revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond, the Black-ish actress and her colleagues were tired of simply raising awareness; they wanted concrete change. Here, Ross praises the power of female rage to inspire activism—and issues a rallying cry to all women to join the movement in their own way.
As women, we’ve been trained to be uncomfortable with our anger instead of utilizing it as information and energy that can move us forward. I like to look at anger, if channeled in the right way, as a constructive fury that can result in action, such as a resolute pursuit of equity. That’s really what Time’s Up is doing—channeling the right kind of energy into actual change. This is work that I have been committed to for my entire adult life, and Time’s Up is a way for me to get connected, build upon individual work, and move that into a collective force.
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At the Women’s March, we saw our power in our numbers, and it lit a fire in many women. Then came the watershed of the sexual misconduct revelations within our industry (echoing what happens across all industries), which has created a desire for change that’s unstoppable.
And that change seems to be happening. Look at the Time’s Up legal defense fund. The movement has been in the works for months, but the fund has only been open to donations for a little more than two weeks, and we’re almost at $15 million. Anita Hill is leading the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. Those are two actual things that have occurred in the last three months as a result of a whole bunch of women working together. I’ve seen a tangible difference in people’s ability to identify power imbalance, and what behavior is not appropriate.
Wearing black on the Golden Globes red carpet this weekend is a physical and visual representation of solidarity and sisterhood, allowing us to be seen both as a collective and also as individuals in whatever way we see fit. I love that about it. It doesn’t feel silent, and it’s not just for actresses. It is a way to utilize your body to stand up for more than just yourself. People can participate at home, saying ‘I am a part of this,’ and time’s up on harassment, abuse, and exploitation.
Intersectionality is at the root of this work. Those that have suffered the most are those that inform the work that needs to be done. It’s a unified call for change that includes and is fueled by women of color, immigrant women, trans women, LGBTQ women, disabled women, and those that have been marginalized in communities across all industries. The most moving part of all of this is realizing that this is not a personal battle; this is a battle of solidarity. There’s something really extraordinary about a community of like-minded women who work toward change.
There are a lot of people willing to roll up their sleeves. When I first got involved, if there was a task to be done and no one was in charge, every woman was willing to do the work. It was like, ‘OK, I’m going to take that on.’ We all have a shared consciousness that time is up on this imbalance of power and the abuse that comes with it, and the answer to that is actual systemic change. So we have been using our own expertise and skills in how we go about this, with a goal of equal representation and ensuring that those who have suffered the most at the hands of inequality actually can experience something different. We all know that we deserve safety.
This is not an individual movement. This is not a Hollywood movement. This is not about a scandal. This is about a larger systemic problem—abuse of power—that we’ve heard for a very long time. This is an opportunity for Hollywood to use our platform and our voices for something way larger that not only affects us but also connects us all, across the board.
That’s why I love the active language of Time’s up. The clock is ticking, and there’s action to be taken. Get on board, people—this is what’s happening!