When eight activists took to the Golden Globes red carpet Jan. 7, each only had a few minutes on camera to get her message out. Flanked by A-list actors — Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Emma Watson, Susan Sarandon, Shailene Woodley, Amy Poehler, and Emma Stone — the advocates used their moment in the national spotlight to talk about the women their organizations represent, including those who work in agriculture, restaurants, and care services. Although the move to include them was largely celebrated by viewers, some worried that organizers would be pushed aside once the cameras were off.
Two of the activists, Ai-jen Poo and Mónica Ramírez, told BuzzFeed News that in fact the interests of marginalized women have been at the center of Time’s Up, the coalition recently formed by women in the entertainment industry to combat sexual harassment and assault. The women of Hollywood — who have not had the legislative victories of domestic workers and farmworkers in particular — are taking cues from these longtime activists.
Ramírez, 40, the cofounder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Farmworker Women’s Alliance), who went as Dern’s guest, told BuzzFeed News, “They are trying to learn from us.” After Ramírez’s organization published a letter of solidarity with women in Hollywood in November, the farmworkers began working directly with Hollywood on its anti-harassment efforts.
“We are leaders on this,” Ramírez said. “We’ve been paving the way on this work for a long time. We offered our support to them to help work with them, to think through what a strategy could look like.”
Poo, 43, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who attended the event with Meryl Streep, said of her appearance at the ceremony, “What you saw was an actual planned, organized act of solidarity. … It was not at all a one-off. It was part of a larger strategy that is gonna continue to build.”
The film and television industry has celebrated a number of stand-alone victories for women that can sometimes obscure a lack of systemic change — such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director Oscar win in 2010, which was followed by no increase in the share of films directed by women. So it makes sense for Time’s Up to look to activists like Poo and Ramírez, who have achieved concrete goals and gotten legislation passed. Poo helped craft 2010’s domestic workers bill of rights, which established the right to one day off each week and sexual and racial harassment protections for domestic workers under New York state law. It was the first such domestic workers bill of rights in the US.
“When women organize, we are really unstoppable,” Poo said. “For years, people told us that domestic workers could never organize, and then we did. Then for years people told us that domestic workers could never win a bill of rights, and we did. And we did not only in New York state, but in eight states.”
The Golden Globes action was a relatively recent idea, Ramírez and Poo said; both women were formally invited to the ceremony only in the last two weeks. But they saw it as an opportunity to raise the profiles of their respective organizations.
Ramírez and Poo think their work with Time’s Up can lead to societal change. Both want to modify existing legislation, which does not grant the same protections against harassment and abuse to all workers. People who work in small workplaces or who work as independent contractors, among others, are left out of federal harassment protections under Title VII, which puts domestic workers and people who work at small farms especially at risk for abuse. Ramírez pointed out that the small window of time allotted for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes doing so prohibitively difficult for farmworkers. “A law is only good if it’s accessible to people,” Ramírez said.
Many viewers and journalists did take a short-term view of their appearance at the Golden Globes last night; they were mistaken, Ramírez explained. “People were asking me things — they were really focusing on things like, ‘Oh, this red carpet moment,’ and ‘Tonight is such an incredible evening,’” she said. “But the reality is we feel strongly — I feel strongly — that this isn’t a moment. This is a movement. It’s a continuation of our movement that we’ve been working on for years and years and years.”