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Time’s Up, But Sexual Assault was Never Acceptable

The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment, and inequality

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     On January 1st, 2018, more than 300 women in film, television, and theater signed a letter of solidarity with Time Magazine to launch and fund a non-profit Legal Defense Fund to help victims of sexual harassment or similar retaliation in the workplace pay for legal support. Support came from hollywood legends like Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Jennifer Aniston, and Sandra Bullock.

    In the now famed letter published in Time Magazine, the women acknowledged their position of privilege that accompanies their access to use the media to amplify their voices and grievances. The women went on to extend their support to women lacking this platform,

    “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 factory worker forced to trade sexual acts for more shifts, every domestic worker or home health aide forcibly touched by a client, every immigrant woman silenced by the threat of her undocumented status being reported in retaliation for speaking up and to women in every industry who are subjected to indignities and offensive behavior that they are expected to tolerate in order to make a living: We stand with you.”

   The next week at the Golden Globes, actresses, actors, producers, directors, and writers emerged on the red carpet in all back to bring attention to the movement—resulting in much needed media attention that galvanized the $17 million donation fund for the organization. Allegations against James Franco were brought to light upon his Golden Globe win for best actor in a musical or comedy and he took the stage wearing a Times Up pin on his lapel.  Five women have come to publicly accuse Franco of sexual assault. And although he denies the accuracy of all the accusations, he’s attempted to avoid silencing said victims, as he noted in an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show the following week.

     Soon after, an allegation against an often believed ally of sexual assault victims, Aziz Ansari an actor who also wore a Times Up pin to the Golden Globes, surfaced. The woman’s, who chose to remain anonymous, accounts of her interaction with Ansari sparked an enormous debate over whether the specificities of their interaction fit the definition of sexual assault. What perpetrators, and self proclaimed experts of the definition of sexual assault on the internet need to recognize is that, whether or not these experiences fit the textbook or cultural definition sexual assault is irrelevant. In reality what matters is that if a large proportion of the population comes to agree that these experiences are traumatizing, then the definition of sexual assault needs to be broadened to include language that focuses on these encounters.

     Inevitably, the expansion of the definition of sexual abuse will put many individuals in apprehensive waters. As @morgmbn quoted on Twitter, “expanding the definition of what sexual abuse is means a lot of men are gonna have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve committed acts of sexual misconduct.”

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Time’s Up, But Sexual Assault was Never Acceptable