Entertainment

Friday 21 September 2018

Britain’s biggest female stars unite to ‘stamp out’ harassment across society

They have penned an open letter calling for the eradication of harassment, abuse, and impunity in a world ‘ripe for change’.

Dame Kristin Scott Thomas (Ian West/PA)
Dame Kristin Scott Thomas (Ian West/PA)

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

Around 200 of Britain’s leading female entertainment stars are demanding the eradication of sexual harassment from all sectors of society ahead of Sunday night’s Bafta Film Awards.

Dame Kristin Scott Thomas and Kate Winslet are the latest Hollywood actors to sign an open letter standing with the Time’s Up movement in calling for an end to harassment, abuse, and impunity in a world “ripe for change”.

They joined the likes of double Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, Naomie Harris and Jodie Whittaker as the campaign gained momentum on Saturday, weeks after a letter was first understood to be circulated among members of the British film industry.

The movement, described as “intersectional” in the letter, has also drawn support from abroad including Rebel Wilson and Tessa Thompson.

In total, 200 stars of film, TV and stage signed the letter and simultaneously launched a new fund aimed at making workplaces across the UK safe for all in partnership with more than 160 activists, academics and service providers.

It comes ahead of Sunday night’s Bafta Awards where stars will be joined by some of those activists on the red carpet, and attendees will be wearing black in solidarity with Time’s Up – the movement launched following the sexual harassment scandal which engulfed Hollywood after an avalanche of allegations were made against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Published in The Observer, the open letter – also signed by stars including Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton, Letitia Wright and Olivia Colman – states: “This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.

“This movement is intersectional, with conversations across race, class, community, ability and work environment, to talk about the imbalance of power.”

The letter highlights the gender pay gap, the insecurities of the gig economy and freelance work as well as research which found more than half of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment at work.

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Sienna Miller also signed the letter (Matt Crossick/PA)

The letter reads: “In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable awkward part of being a girl or a woman.

“It was certainly not to be discussed, let alone addressed. In 2018, we seem to have woken up in a world ripe for change. If we truly embrace this moment, a line in the sand will turn to stone.”

It says high-profile stars “need to use our power as communicators and connectors to shift the way society sees and treats us”.

“We need to examine the kind of womanhood our industry promotes and sells to the world.”

In a separate statement given to the Press Association, Harry Potter star Watson said research showed harassment was “systemic, as opposed to individual, one-off events”.

“All of us are responsible for creating change, whatever industry you work in,” she said and called for “strong people of all genders” to ensure this is a “watershed” moment in history.

The letter calls for “collective power” in bringing the Time’s Up movement to workers across all industries “in the limelight or the shadows” to galvanise others and invite supporters to donate to their new fund.

Managed by Rosa, the UK Justice and Equality Fund aims to make workplaces safe for all and ensure anyone subjected to harassment and abuse is able to access support.

They say the Baftas is a time to “celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international”.

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Naomie Harris (Matt Crossick/PA)

Arterton, Harris, Andrea Riseborough, Gemma Chan, and Tessa Thompson will be joined at the prestigious event by activist guests in a move mirroring the Golden Globes last month.

The guests include Laura Bates, who founded the award-winning Everyday Sexism Project, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co-founder of UK Black Pride, and Eileen Pullen and Gwen Davis, two of the ‘Dagenham Girls’ who walked out of a Ford Motor Company plant after learning they were being paid less than their male counterparts in 1968.

A second letter signed by activists, academics and service providers welcomes the involvement of the stars.

It reads: “For each woman in the entertainment industry who has spoken out, there are thousands of women whose stories go unheard… These are not isolated incidents.

“This is about power and inequality; and it is systemic.”

Harris said in a statement: “I am honoured and compelled to be standing in unity with my talented colleagues in the industry to use our collective power to stamp out all abuse and inequity in the workplace and beyond.”

Press Association

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