Reese Witherspoon on #MeToo and Time’s Up: ‘I feel a shift, completely, a reckoning’

The World Premiere of 'Early Man' held at the BFI IMAX

There’s this constant debate that we’re always on the edge of: who should be forgiven, what should be forgiven, and should we give public figures – celebrities, politicians – the room to grow, to apologize, to change their minds, to learn from teachable moments. Several years back, I couldn’t stand Reese Witherspoon. I thought she was such a fake a–hole. But with everything that’s happened in the past year – from her success in shepherding Big Little Lies to her involvement with Time’s Up – I have genuine warmth for her. Do I still side-eye the fact that Reese is getting a lot of credit for “starting” Time’s Up and that this seemed to be a counter-reaction to CAA (her agency, and where her husband works) being accused of failing to repeatedly protect their young female clients? For sure. But let’s not put all of that on Reese, I guess. Reese covers the new issue of Marie Claire, and she’s got some interesting stuff to say:

Where she gets her ambition: “I get a lot of support from my husband [Jim Toth, an agent at CAA], who cares deeply about equality and always tells me,“Why wouldn’t you call the person in charge of a company and have a personal relationship with them?” He’s encouraged me to be outspoken. Oprah has encouraged me before I ever met her to be the best version of myself, through her book clubs, the people I saw on her show. [She’s been] an incredible advocate for me as a businesswoman.

Whether she was surprised by the Hollywood sexual harassment stories:
“Sadly, I don’t find any of this shocking. Women have been sharing stories in each other’s living rooms and workplaces for as long as I’ve been a working woman. It’s just incredible that the media and the world started believing us all and listening. I was particularly moved by the women at Ford Motor Company who came forward and told their stories of harassment and abuse, and by the women in my own industry who told their stories so bravely when they had nothing to gain.

Why so many people stayed silent for so long: “The majority of women—if they came forward—were stigmatized for reporting and in some cases lost their jobs. There was simply no reason to share your story if the results would be so punitive. That’s why I’ve been working very hard on an initiative called Time’s Up with more than 400 women in my industry to raise money for women to have better resources for on-the-job-harassment lawsuits in their own industries. We are trying to level the playing field for all women and men who have suffered from discrimination, harassment, and abuse.

Whether everything will really change now: “I feel a shift, completely, a reckoning of people who have been silent for so long finally coming forward and speaking out even if their voice shakes, as I know mine did when I told my story. The female leaders within every industry have to stand up for those who are voiceless and silent, and we have to do better to create more balanced cultures with female leadership and leadership with people of color. It’s just profoundly overdue. [Women and the public] think, Well, I don’t know how I can really effect change. You can effect change by where you spend your money. We all need to be more aware of the companies we work at and the companies that we do business with, because the consumer is very powerful in this world of social media. Some companies are doing incredibly well with inclusion and diversity—those industries thrive, and abuse goes down when you have more balance at the top.

On her upcoming projects with Jennifer Aniston & Zendaya: “I’m excited about the project with Jen Aniston [one of the first television shows out of Apple]. It’s a show about women in media–the morning news in particular. Zendaya and I are producing a movie on a book I brought to her called The Gilded Years. It’s about the first African-American woman who graduated from Vassar. It’s important to go back in time so that my daughter’s generation and Zendaya’s generation realize that these were hard-fought wins for humankind and that the brave people at the center of them were women and people of color.”

[From Marie Claire]

I hate the way Marie Claire framed it as “why didn’t victims say anything?” I expected more from a women’s magazine, but I’m glad Reese shut it down, and she’s right – some women did speak up and speak out as it happened to them and they were actively silenced and threatened and many of them lost their careers. Sometimes they didn’t even speak out and Harvey Weinstein just destroyed their careers anyway because he’s a f–king psycho. A psycho who kept taking meetings in hotel rooms with CAA clients, btw. CAA still needs to answer for a lot, and I do wish Reese would talk about that side a little bit more.

Producers Guild Awards 2018

Cover courtesy of Marie Claire, additional photo courtesy of WENN.

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13 Responses to “Reese Witherspoon on #MeToo and Time’s Up: ‘I feel a shift, completely, a reckoning’”

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  1. Jillian says:

    For women come forward, I see a lot of “why are they just saying this now?” “Why’d they go to their hotel room?”

    With men who come forward it’s “they are so brave for speaking out”

  2. Imqrious2 says:

    A shift? Yeah, Reece…what about a statement regarding your husband and his employment/involvement with CAA? They are beyond complicit in all of this. Where’s THAT statement?

  3. ellieohara says:

    Her husband doesn’t just work at CAA, he’s the HEAD of CAA. I am sideeyeing this entire PR “movement”.

    • Bridget says:

      No he’s not. He’s a powerful agent and huge in the movie department, but he’s not among the managing partners.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Her husband is NOT the head of CAA. The head of CAA is Richard Lovett who has been at the helm since 1995 and has a LOT to answer for.

  4. tifzlan says:

    On the one hand, i do think Time’s Up and initiatives like it are doing great things in empowering victims to come forward and speak their truth without fear of retribution.

    On the other hand, I don’t think enough is being done or even discussed regarding the systemic nature of sexual abuse. In Hollywood, particularly because of how prominent Time’s Up has been, the conversation has completely shifted to “who’s doing what good” rather than a thorough analysis of the entire system.

    We know how Weinstein operated. It was a carefully orchestrated web of abuse that involved so many people. They knew and did nothing. In fact, they participated. Why have these men been able to escape scrutiny, accountability and justice? I truly don’t think much is going to change beyond the superficial.

  5. Valiantly Varnished says:

    While I agree CAA has a LOT to answer for why does that fall into Reese’s lap. We need to stop holding women responsible for the behavior of men. Do I think she should say something? Yes. But I think her husband has far more to answer than she does.

    • Bridget says:

      The people who have been specifically called out have been Lourd and Huvane, who are IMMENSELY powerful and are managing partners. Indeed, CAA has a lot to account for, but does that mean that Jim Toth is specifically responsible? Considering that his name has not come up yet, and his client list doesn’t exactly lean heavily on the Weinstein movies, until someone comes forward I’m inclined to not hold him responsible for the bad choices of others.

      I am also extremely curious about the four female agents who are the ones who are generally credited with starting the seeds of times up. Hylda got hung out to dry with that Michelle Williams debacle.

      • Valiantly Varnished says:

        I agree. Her husband may not be directly involved but unlike Reese he actually works for the company and has for years. I would expect him to make a statement before Reese. My point was more that Reese is not an agent at CAA and I think it’s ridiculous to hold her accountable or responsible for saying anything. Women are consistently made to carry the weight of this stuff and it’s unfair.

      • Bridget says:

        Like you, I am tired of holding women accountable for shitty men.

  6. QueenB says:

    She is overselling her husband quite a bit here. Not only is CAA one of the main reasons for this whole mess in Hollywood but I would really like to see how he negotiated for his female clients. Does he care so much about equality? Because agents have more power than actors. Not all of course and there are some powerful actors but agents and specifically agencies can really put pressure on studios. They represent countless actors, writers, producers and directors. An actress is always replacable if she speaks up and wants money. If an agency tells a studio off they will have to listen. Also you know they get a percentage of the deals so women making more money is making them more money too.

  7. Jaded says:

    I was “actively silenced” many years ago by my married male boss who made repeated sexual advances and suggestions over the course of several years. I got so uncomfortable that I dreaded going into work. I also found out that he’d been scamming his expense reports by including his wife’s expenses on all his conferences, etc. (think Hawaii, Europe, etc.) when, in fact she never attended. She told me she hated going to those things. When I approached HR and Accounting with my stories, guess what? I was fired a couple of months later. Got a big termination package but that’s what happens. So if a woman is the sole bread-winner in the family with children, she’s between a rock and a hard place and keeping her income is the only criteria she has. That’s what’s so despicable about many powerful men – they can snuff out a woman’s income and deliberately ruin her career prospects with no regard to how she will be able to support her family.

  8. hoopjumper says:

    Did anyone else notice that the Time’sUp twitter/Instagram was promoting a Wrinkle in Time yesterday? I felt strange about the fact it was being used to promote a film, especially one that two TimesUp leaders (maybe that’s an incorrect characterization) are in.