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Time’s up for white women’s complicity

<ast Sunday night, the 75th Golden Globes aired, and if you tuned in on TV or watched the action unfold online, you saw that nearly everyone was wearing black. The women who started Time’s Up Now decided an unofficial dress code of black clothing would demonstrate solidarity with those who have come out against sexual assault and misconduct.

Eight actresses brought activists as their companions down the red carpet—Michelle Williams invited Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement and senior director of the nonprofit Girls for Gender Equity—in an effort to redirect the conversation to survivors and work that will provide solutions to this pervasive problem.

The Time’s Up Now website showcases its opening letter and call to action, links to other resources for those dealing with sexual assault and harassment, and their legal defense fund. Having this conversation about sexual assault and harassment is important and needs to happen, and it’s about time that powerful cultural figures use their voices to bring attention to an issue that impacts everyone.

However, I’m not sure I share the same enthusiasm as Oprah Winfrey when she said “a new day is on the horizon!” in her acceptance speech of the Cecil B. DeMille award. Ultimately, I do share her feeling of hope. I’m hopeful for the impact that the Time’s Up Now has the potential to make. I’m hopeful that this conversation will have a persistence and longevity. I’m hoping there can be some change.

Even with my hopes, I remain skeptical. The Time’s Up Now opening letter begins “Dear Sisters.” I wonder how inclusive their vision of “sisters” is, how we can make sure that sexual harassment and assault within every industry is called out.

Ilana Glazer, comedian widely known for her popular show Broad City, posted on her Instagram Sunday night about Time’s Up Now, saying “Harvey Weinstein wouldn’ta been brought down in a Barack Obama presidency… We NEEDED a sexual predator in the White House for women to sand up and say NO. NO MORE. ENOUGH. the FUTURE IS FEMALE, and women are going to take over and get this planet back on track.”

Glazer’s message disturbed me. I don’t think that we couldn’t have had this conversation under an Obama or a Clinton administration. I don’t think that we “NEEDED a sexual predator in the White House” for this organization to form. It baffles me to think that people don’t believe we always have the power to take these stances and make this change. I don’t think we need to thank Trump, however tongue-in-cheek the thanking may be, for making us saying “NO MORE. ENOUGH.” Tarana Burke has been fed up; she founded the “Me Too” campaign in 2007. She didn’t need Trump as president to act against sexual harassment and assault. We can make change; the people with the most power and privilege have just not been actively and loudly engaged in this work until now.

I’m also not comfortable with Glazer’s assessment that “the FUTURE IS FEMALE, and women are going to take over and get this planet back on track.” According to CNN Exit Poll data from 2016, 52% of white women voted for Trump, a known sexual harasser. In the recent U.S. Senate election in Alabama, 63% of white women voted for Roy Moore, a known sexual predator, while 98% of black women voted for Doug Jones (according to exit poll data from the Washington Post). I’m for empowering women to be engaged, to speak up, and to be leaders, but I can’t in good conscience believe in Glazer’s assessment that women will get us “back on track” without first saying “Wait a second, we need to talk about white women.”

If we are to move forward, we need white women to acknowledge their privilege and their complicity in structures of power. How do we reach the women in Alabama and across the U.S. that vote for sexual harassers and abusers? I’m not sure. I do know that it needs to be done while we work with women who have been consistently fighting for equality, safety, and respect. We cannot sweep the wrongs women (especially white women) do under the rug for the sake of uplifting an ideal vision of “women.” I think so often people like to promote women and putting women in power as the answer to society’s problems, but I think we need to consider the ways in which women are complex and may be working with, rather than against, the structures of power we must seek to undo. Time may be up, but we need to also take time to pause and consider how we need to do better as women and bring all women on board with a better vision of the future.

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