When the idea of actresses observing an all-black dress code to the Golden Globes began to circulate last month, many were nonplussed. It seemed like a strange way to defy years of entrenched sexual misconduct in Hollywood. The entertainment industry was built on power imbalances between men and women! How would a dress code reverse that?
Besides, there was something perverse and almost unjust about women having to change what they wear in order to say something about men. Isn't that kinda what women have always done in a way? Don't wear short skirts, don't wear low-cut tops, lest you draw the "wrong kind" of attention to yourselves.
And why black? Why should women have to mourn over what is, quite honestly, news to nobody?
Almost everyone had heard the rumours about Harvey Weinstein, and every woman in Hollywood - and beyond - has a story of being sexually harassed at work.
But the worst element appeared to be the tokenist nature of the protest. So women are wearing black - and then what? What changes? Will Weinstein serve time? Will laws be upheld? Will other sexual predators be prosecuted? Rose McGowan, who has been leading the charge since news broke of her ongoing sexual assault and harassment at the hands of Weinstein in October, said as much in an angry tweet, calling it hypocritical among other things. She later deleted it, and this is probably why.
On Monday over 300 actresses, writers, producers and directors, including Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Kerry Washington announced that they had formed an initiative called Time's Up, the principal aim of which will be to correct power imbalances, not just in the entertainment industry, but beyond it. As the tagline on the website reads, "The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It's time to do something about it."
The most prominent part of the initiative is a legal defense fund, consisting of $US13 million, ($16.5 million) in donations given by other actresses such as Sienna Miller, Sarah Paulson, Selena Gomez and Jennifer Garner, who signed up and promoted the movement on their Instagram accounts.
The website, which includes grim statistics on how one in three women are sexually harassed in the workplace, also provides clear descriptions of how to spot sexual harassment, and the steps you can take to report it. There is also a list of organisations American women can turn to in order to seek help.
It is, according to the New York Times, "to help less privileged women ??? like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels ??? protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it".
Here now, was something concrete to get behind.
"It's very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven't cleaned our own house," is how the executive producer of Scandal and Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes explained the motivation behind the initiative to The Times on Monday.
"If this group of women can't fight for a model for other women who don't have as much power and privilege, then who can?"
This may be the part where you step away from your screen to slap your desk and exclaim, "Exactly!".
For this is precisely what has been missing from the Hollywood section of the #MeToo movement -- an inclusiveness that stretches beyond rich, largely white women, to reach not just working class women, but women of colour, queer and trans women, as well. Women working in the entertainment industry might earn less than their male counterparts, but they're still earning roughly 100 more times more than the average middle-class woman, who is already well off.
This movement displays the type of leadership that has been sadly lacking from much of American public life throughout 2017. A glance at the current Trump administration speaks to this. But a gap in corporate and government leadership has appeared to only strengthen the resolve of grassroots activists, most especially women. It can be no coincidence that the movement was launched on New Years Day in the US.
Up until now, women - many of them white, and middle class - have been accused of simply value signalling, through social media posts, fashionable t-shirts, and colourful protests. This sort of criticism has come not just from the usual right wing, anti-feminist groups, but from the left, too, who have wondered why so many women of colour, (who are disproportionately working class) have been left behind amid the rhetoric.
But this initiative seeks to correct, not just power imbalances between men and women, but between different groups of women minorities, an important factor in any activist movement, and absolutely crucial in this one.
The final pledge of the Time's Up initiative is to wear black at the Golden Globes next week. Now when women are asked "Who are you wearing?" they will be able to have a real conversation about something that matters to them. We shall have to wait and see if two things arise: 1.How much airtime will be given to explain the reason for the dress code, and 2.How many men will wear black.