The #MeToo movement has encouraged many people in Hollywood and beyond to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Now, the momentum from the movement has led to Time's Up, a new program implemented by 300 powerful women in Hollywood to combat sexual misconduct not only in entertainment, but in all other industries as well.
Charmed star Alyssa Milano is one such actress standing with Time's Up, and she thinks it's not just women who can shut down a problematic culture that allowed harassers to thrive. In an essay for Rolling Stone, Milano revealed that it's now on men to take a stand and help police the behaviour of themselves and their peers. Providing education can help men do just that.
"I have not told my #MeToo stories, but I will say I dealt with one assault case in the industry and one not in the industry. And I don't know a week that has gone by in my 35-year career that I haven't dealt with harassment and gender inequality in some capacity. So I literally pray. I pray every single night that my daughter does not have to go through what I went through in life. In order to heal, we have to know that things are in place that won't allow for this anymore," explained Milano in the essay.
The initiatives detailed under the Time's Up program includes a legal defence fund (which has already received $13 million dollars in donations) in order to help less financially privileged women deal with the fallout of taking legal action against their abuser. It will also fight for legislation that will penalise companies who tolerate harassment.
These are certainly important strides, but as Milano stressed in her essay, men also need to be educated on what constitutes harassment — and why it's never okay. That starts, Milano wrote in Rolling Stone, with changing one's perspective on things like "locker room talk," a much-maligned phrase that explains away disrespectful discourse as "just how guys talk" when they're alone. (It is, for example, the phrase found in Donald Trump's statement to excuse the lewd comments he made on the Access Hollywood tape, in which he bragged about "grabbing" women "by the pussy.")
"We need [men] to be part of the solution, too. I think shifting the male perspective goes back to locker-room talk and behaviour, as well as education. We're teaching these lessons of equality much too late," Milano wrote in Rolling Stone. "If you think about how college works, for instance, you have your fraternities and sororities and there are things that go on there that would be unacceptable in the workplace or anywhere else. Then these wonder kids are plucked out of these sexually charged environments and put into somewhat powerful positions within corporations. So there's no real bridge as to, 'Oh, that is totally unacceptable behaviour.'"
She added that education will be a part of the Time's Up initiative:
"[We] have to start these lessons earlier – way earlier. Within Time's Up, I'm working towards lobbying for legislation — with education being a big focus."
Milano is right. It's amazing that so many women are coming forward to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment, but awareness is only part of the solution. We need to stop the next wave of workplace harassers from preying on the next person — and education is one way to cultivate a culture of empathy. Hopefully, by educating people on what sexual misconduct is and why it's so important to stop it in its tracks, fewer people will be able to chime in with "me, too."
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.