Roberta Kaplan, United States V. Windsor Attorney
In this MAKERS interview, attorney Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan talks about why she chose to take on the landmark Edie Windsor case, what made the case personal, and the Supreme Court's landmark decision, ruling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Michelle Kydd Lee, Chief Innovation Officer, CAA
America Ferrera, Actress and Activist
Christy Haubegger, Founder, Latina Magazine
Lena Waithe, Writer & Actor
Roberta Kaplan, United States V. Windsor Attorney
MICHELLE KYDD LEE: If you just get the chance, if someone just gives you the chance, you can show them what you're capable of. And then you can go change the world.
I was born in rural Maine, a teeny tiny little town in the middle of nowhere Maine. My parents were both teachers. And so my brother and I grew up in a household where service and community were absolutely a part of everything that you did. If something happened to a neighbor, then everybody pitched in, and you were there for each other.
It was a pretty idyllic childhood, but I dreamed of something that was very cosmopolitan and very fast moving. So I got a Volkswagen Jetta, and filled it with my stuff. And I drove across the country.
There's a certain kind of person who does great in the field. And what I realized is that's where I'm not going to do a great job. What I should do is go back home, and get people to care about this issue. As I'm trying to explain to people what is happening on the other side of the planet, I met a guy in a diner. And he said, you really should come work with us at CAA. And I didn't think anything of it.
And then I start getting these phone calls from CAA. Come to find out, he was now the brand new president of CAA, and he was calling to offer me a job to start something new. If the leaders of the company were dedicated to doing something meaningful, then this could actually be one of the great opportunities of my life. And so I jumped, and said, let's just build it.
I literally started on the very first day that the partners took over this new leadership role. The vision that they had was, how do you take somebody with a nonprofit sensibility, put them in the middle of showbiz? And it was sort of like a chemistry experiment. And at the time, there weren't companies that were doing this. There was no corporate social responsibility. There was no cause-related marketing or pro-social branding.
So a lot of it was to have a keen understanding of what was happening in the zeitgeist. For example, climate change was something that we could actually help with. Former Vice President Gore came into our office, and gave a slideshow. And we made sure that there was a filmmaker, and a producer, and potentially some money people in the room. From there becomes "An Inconvenient Truth." We just added rocket fuel to the movement.
When I started, there were 300 people that worked at our company. And now we have over 2,000 people all over the world. What matters here is, how good are your ideas and how much work are you going to put behind it? This is an economic imperative. This is a business directive. We want to be the leader in the business of diversity inclusion. That's a really good market to be in.
I think this is an amazing time to be a young woman in our country, to be a part of a moment in time where they are seeing ceilings shatter all around. And our job as the adults right now is to not mess things up. And that optimism and hope are actually going to be the thing that win the day.
AMERICA FERRERA: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents are immigrants from Honduras and they split up when I was quite young. My mother raised six children on her own. Watching her do whatever it took to provide the life that she came here to give us was a real testament of what we're capable of.
I grew up feeling, first and foremost, American. Very aware of the fact that I didn't speak perfect Spanish. The girls who did speak Spanish made fun of me for not speaking Spanish. The very first audition I ever went to wasn't specified Latina. The casting director asked me if I could do it again, but please try to sound more Latina this time. And I was really confused.
I thought, do you want me to speak in Spanish? No, I want you to speak in English. I just want you to try and sound more Latina. And what she was asking me to do was to speak broken English. It became very clear, very quickly that the industry looked at me and saw a brown person, and that there was a specific box for that.
I was playing a young girl whose parents didn't understand her dreams for herself. The fact that it was this 17-year-old chubby Mexican-American girl, who no one would ever imagine would get to be the star of her own movie, I think that really opened up people's ideas of what was possible in terms of storytelling and who got to be the center of their own life.
I went to a professor of mine and started crying and saying, you know, what do I do? It was what I felt completely passionate and drawn to, and then there was go to school, get a really important job, and try and change the world. He said to me that he'd been mentoring a young girl. She was a young Latina girl. He'd been mentoring her for years and he couldn't really break her shell. She came to him and said, "Come watch this movie with me, it's called "Real Women Have Curves."
And so he took some of her friends to see the movie and she was actually going through a very similar thing with her own parents. And so it gave her the opportunity to start that conversation. And they did ultimately support her in her dream to go to college. I had no idea that he knew I was an actress. And he said to me, "She would have never been able to do that if she hadn't seen a reflection of herself." What I realized was that being an actress, it had already become something bigger than me.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and talked about attacking women. So as a woman, as a Latina, as the daughter of immigrants, as an American, it did feel like a death of an idea that I had built my American identity around. And that made me realize that there was just work to do.
So what I chose to focus on was empowering communities to use their voices. So often the narratives about social issues leave out the very people who are most impacted by them. There were people on the front lines living these issues and fighting for their communities. And they know much better than those of us who just got woke yesterday.
I gain strength and encouragement from those around me who are being courageous, and brave, and stepping out. I need them to keep doing that, because it's what keeps me going.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Ava DuVernay.
AVA DUVERNAY: Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you. It's so funny, wherever I go, I know I'm going to hear glory. I walk out, they play Glory. It's going to follow me forever, but I don't mind. Listen, I'm here today-- this is Makers, let's give it around, I'm really excited that this is getting started. Really cool, really cool. We're starting it off with some tremendous, tremendous women. No time to waste, I'm just going to get them on out here, and we're going to have a conversation about Time's Up. Because it is. Here we go, Maha Dakhil, Rashida Jones, Melina Matsoukas, Natalie Portman, Tina Chen, Nina Shaw, and Jill Soloway.
This is basically the Avengers. In real life. So happy to be here with you all, and what we're really just going to do is dive into Time's Up, a real intimate conversation about the inner workings, the origins, the future, the intention, so that we can all leave here on the exact same page. That it goes beyond a cool thing that happened at the Globes, or some headlines, and you will really get inside of it and know exactly what we're doing, right? All right, so what the hell is this thing? Who can give us the overview, the logline, for folks who've never heard of Time's Up? Maha.
MAHA DAKHIL: Hi, everybody. Time's Up. Well, the overview and the origin, it really began when Donald Trump was elected. And it was a shot heard around the nation. And I like to think that Time's Up is born of a collective consciousness. I think the reason why this came together so quickly and so speedily, you know, specifically in response to the allegations that you've all heard in Hollywood in terms of sexual harassment. But I think even before that, I think women have been feeling very marginalized and oppressed since, you know, this shocking turn of events happened in our country. And when, in Hollywood, it happened in such a affronting way, we had to respond to it.
So, in terms of how it began, it began in so many different ways. But a few of my colleagues, Michelle Kydd Lee, Hylda Queally, Christy Haubeggar, a few of us sat around and basically just made a list of all the women we knew who were as outraged. And one good thing about agents is we can convene easily and so we invited all these folks and dozens of others of incredibly courageous, wonderful women in our industry to sit around a table and start brainstorming about what we could do.
AVA DUVERNAY: I think it's important to know who the "we" is. So you have agents, you hire private lawyers, you have writers, producers, directors, actors, screenwriters, public advocates, the group is pretty large. It is really multifaceted and very robust. Really dynamic when you get in the room with all of these women that touch different parts of the entertainment industry in different categories. Jill, can you talk a little bit about, because I know that you've been, you know, facilitating some of the smaller convenings.
JILL SOLOWAY: Yeah.
AVA DUVERNAY: But how is it to have all of these women in a room together, and these are powerful, powerful woman, OK? How do we manage that?
JILL SOLOWAY: Yeah, I mean Ava, you know. It's like a dream come true, right? What is happening? We've been, we've all been waiting for this moment. And so you get in that room at CAA with these women around this huge table, and you go, OK we're all here, and this is real, and the revolution is alive, and let's do it. And it's just so exciting. And to me the thing that's most exciting is a sense of collaboration, where there isn't that question usually of politics, where it's like, well who's going to do that, and whose job is that. Well, that's not my thing.
We're all just saying yes and, yes and, what you want me to do? I got this. Just people are all, you know, filling in this space with their enthusiasm and joy for revolutionary connectivity and changing the world together. And for me, when I saw the Golden Globes and I was like, holy shit. Like, we took over a thing. We took over an awards show, and it worked. I mean.
AVA DUVERNAY: In a very small amount of time, too.
JILL SOLOWAY: Yes, it's just like insane.
AVA DUVERNAY: It is, it is. It's dynamic. It's beautiful to watch and to feel. Nina, can you talk a little bit about the mission? Just the overall mission. We'll let the lawyer do the legality. Let us know what the mission is.
NINA SHAW: It's very simple, it's equity and safety in the workplace. And that can really, you know we like to say at Time's Up we can do anything, but we can't do everything. So the goal was to set a mission that really related not just to the entertainment industry, and frankly, not just to women. That's really covered the cross section, and everyone relates to it. And I think that one of the wonderful things about coming out the way we did at the Golden Globes, or really in January 1st in the different publications, is that we were focused on not just our industry. We were focused on a group of women who had written to our actress sisters in solidarity, and we were writing back to them.
AVA DUVERNAY: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things that's important when you hear the logline it's equity and safety in the workplace. One of the things that Time's Up is doing is to really make that intersectional. And I was wondering Rashida if you could talk a little bit about that. Not only being focused on women, or even men who are dealing only with sexual harassment, but it's really about an equity and a safety in all its permutations throughout the industry, right?
RASHIDA JONES: Yeah, completely. Well I think one of the things we were forced to look at when we we're asking for something is what do we want for ourselves and how do we make change in our own backyard first. And I think the biggest thing is we want our industry to reflect the world. And the world's changed. And Hollywood has got to change with it.
So, with that in mind, you know, I think everybody here and everybody in the movement kind of acknowledges that there is no change unless you bring every single person along who has spent time being marginalized, harassed, assaulted. Whether that means you're a person of color, or whether that means you're a woman, whether you know whether that means you're a disabled person, like there's so many people who have been ignored as we deal with the long tail of the patriarchy, frankly. So for us, I think, intersectionality is the hub, it is the absolute centerpiece of everything that we do.
AVA DUVERNAY: Tina, can you give us, you know I have to ask you the heavy lifting questions. Can you talk a little bit about the strategy going forward, specifically as it relates to the Legal Defense Fund?
TINA CHEN: Well, I'll tell you, one of the great things about Time's Up, and I think the reason it has spoken to so many people across the country, is that everyone here in the entertainment industry really knew they wanted to reach out beyond this industry, and really reach folks who don't have as much means and privilege. And an ability to speak for themselves without fear of losing their jobs or harming their family. And we have real life examples of that, where people who were speaking out are getting sued, you know, for defamation to silence them. Or low income women who don't, you know, have enough damages that a lawyer will actually take their case. So the folks here, the leaders at Time's Up really said we want to do something. And that's where, so I'm a lawyer, that's my background.
AVA DUVERNAY: That why I ask you legal questions.
TINA CHEN: But we knew the only way to help-- You know, one of the real tangible ways that people need help right now is to get them lawyers. Is to get lawyers across the country and sometimes a lot of the big firms that do pro-bono work, can't do this work because they've got conflicts with big companies. So you've got small lawyers, who can't afford to do this for free. And that's why we have this Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.
So $20 million in a month from 20,000 donors across the country, from $5 to millions of dollars. It's been an amazing outpouring of support. Over 200 lawyers have signed up. But I will tell you, we've had over 1,000 requests for help in a month. You know, so the need is clearly there.
AVA DUVERNAY: I haven't heard that number.
TINA CHEN: From all industries. Farm workers, hotel workers, you know, steel workers. I had this steel worker from Indiana reach out to my office. So we've got folks who we thought that was the case, that there are people hurting right now. And Time's Up has really spoken to them. And it's spoken to men and women across the country who need help. Need help getting safety and equity in the workplace.
NINA SHAW: It really spoke to our need to take action. That we didn't want to be a group of people who got in a room and talked about the changes that we wanted to see made. We wanted to be part of that change. And it was so important for us to come out in our very beginning with an action oriented item. What are we going to do? We're going to set up this fund, we're going to invite people who, all people, not just women, not just men, people who fall within the criteria, and then we are going to do something. And that has been I think the hallmark of us as a group. We don't want to just be talk.
TINA CHEN: So I have to give a nod to our sisters that the National Women's Law Center, which is a 45-year-old women's rights organization in Washington D.C. We kind of dropped this idea on them right around Thanksgiving and said, we want to announce it January 1st. So, like, get used to that idea. And they came on board, and it was a big reach for them. But they've given us the infrastructure, the expertise, you know, to get this stirred up. You know, we wouldn't be able to be answering 1,000 requests right now without their assistance. So NWLC.org, if lawyers want to volunteer. For people who are out there watching, if you're a lawyer and you want to volunteer, go to NWLC.org. And we still need donations, so go to the GoFundMe page for Time's Up. And, you know, spread it around.
AVA DUVERNAY: Say the URL again.
TINA CHEN: So it's NWLC, National Women's Law Center, dot org. NWLC.org. If you need help, there is a button on there for you to fill out a form to request help. If you are a lawyer and are able to volunteer your services, please go on there and fill out the form to volunteer. And anyone who can donate or wants to organize a fundraising drive, the GoFundMe page for Time's Up is still up there and we are still expanding our goal because anybody who knows what it's like to pay legal fees knows $20 million is a lot of money, but not a lot of money. It's not that much.
AVA DUVERNAY: Need more. Yeah. One of the things that I really loved about Time's Up is a quest to, and it's just getting started, but a real desire to be intersectional. And I say that word again because it's just incredibly important if we're talking about inclusively that we not just have a narrow view that applies only to us. So me, as a black woman, I can't get completely tunnel vision on the issues of black people and women. I also have to think of native people, I also have to think of Latino people, I also have to think of trans people. I have to think of other people who are not me who need to be included in this conversation. Sometimes that's a push.
And Melina and I work on, she really leads up our, I love the name of the committee. We have a bunch of different committees in Time's Up, but the hottest sounding committee--
NINA SHAW: And hottest.
AVA DUVERNAY: And hottest, the one that's called WOCC, because it's women of color committee. Get it? So she heads that up and we're just getting, we're just trying to find our legs inside of the organization, but I'm going to honestly talk about just transparently how, you know, the challenges that we're coming into and kind of carving identity within a larger movement, and what the goals are for that committee.
MELINA MATSOUKAS: Well like you said, we believe in intersectionality, and there's certain things that affect us that don't affect everybody, and we have to embrace our individualness, you know? And so, woke, stay woke. It's all about making sure all the initiatives with Time's Up include people of color and don't just speak to women's rights, but, you know, people of color we're the most marginalized group of people, historically. And we really want to dismantle systematic racism within our industry, you know? And educate people on bias and prejudice. And, you know, when you talk about safety, there's also racial safety. When you step onto a set and you're the only woman of color on set, like, you're in an unsafe environment. You know, and it's unfair. We're really all joining together to dismantle that power structure. And I think it really starts with the power structure. Who's in the room? Who's making the decisions? And we're trying to change that.
AVA DUVERNAY: Yeah. Absolutely. One thing that I think is so powerful about Time's Up, and I really think, I mean, I know that we would not have had the goodwill and the attention from the press and from the public that we've had if it wasn't for our actress sisters, truly. They are the face, and they put their faces and their careers on the line in a way that a lot of us who work behind the scenes, you know. We can kind of move in and more stealthily, and so I just want to salute our actress sisters, and one of our big leaders in that space is Natalie.
I was going to ask you, it's been a month. I mean, this is crazy. And the reason why this has been able to have such velocity is because of the high profile nature. I just want to let people know, these actresses are, they are warriors. I want to talk a little bit about that contingent because I want to make sure people know it's not just the face of a bunch of people working behind the scenes. Like, you all are real true leaders and architects of this. So just to talk a little bit about how the artists and the actors are fitting into the overall strategy and what those meetings are like.
NATALIE PORTMAN: Well, thank you, that's very kind. And it's been really incredible to gather actresses, because I think something that we realized was that we're usually the only woman at work. And so like many other industries, we walk onto a nearly all-male set and we're usually alone and we rarely get to interact with each other. I've never had, I think Rashida is my only close actress friend until now.
AVA DUVERNAY: We think you all just hang out together.
NATALIE PORTMAN: Yeah.
RASHIDA JONES: Now we do.
NATALIE PORTMAN: Now we do. And so the power of just all being in the room together and sharing our experiences and realizing how much we've been endangered by being isolated, by being the only woman in the work environment. How that extends to other industries too, where if you're the only woman in the room, that endangers you, it isolates you, it prevents you from sharing stories. So if there are predators, you don't talk to each other. So there's this kind of secondary thing about, you know, being the only woman at the table or whatever that is very isolating and endangering. And how empowering it is to be in a room, to be on the same team, to say we refuse to be pitted against each other. There's not only one spot. We're going to make room for all of us.
It's really, really powerful. And it's been really incredible. And we have all these new friends. And it's really great. I also have to, I'm kind of distracted right now, because I see, is there some Baltimore in the house? I love you. I'm freaking out, your movie. Did you guys see Step? If you're in this room, you have to see Step if you haven't seen it. You people are inspiring and incredible. I'm distracted, sorry.
AVA DUVERNAY: Fantastic
TINA CHEN: Called out by Natalie Portman.
AVA DUVERNAY: I want to talk a little bit about, how we're doing on time? Oh yep, there it is. Everybody is very organized here except me. There we go. I wanted to talk a little bit about these big events and how we are essentially just hijacking events. Janelle at the Grammys and you know everyone at the Globes, and we're constantly thinking about ways to take these large cultural moments, shift the conversation when everyone is there. But I want to back up because the Globes was such a, it was a cultural phenomenon in the moment that it happened. That permeated way outside of the room. That signaled a coming together of two, I won't say campaigns, but two different ideas about how to achieve equality, Me Too and Time's Up. And who can talk a little bit about the beautiful kind of intertwining and integration of those two, not in a co-opting of one or the other, but I thought it was a very beautiful side by side, harmonius proclamation of what the two mean. Can anyone give definition to what one is and what the other is and talk about that moment?
JILL SOLOWAY: I mean, I think about it as simply, me too, so time's up. It's all of us, so no more. They just kind of connect.
AVA DUVERNAY: But they are two distinct groups. One of them, you know, founded Me Too, founded years before this current moment, by Tarana Burke, right? And that needs to be acknowledged. Woman of color, alone, does this hashtag, is putting a lot of velocity and attention and grassroots organizing around this, that meets with our moment as Hollywood industry people who saw an opportunity to galvanize.
And I was just, I have to admit, in early meetings where they were like, Me Too activists are coming and they're going to link up with actresses on the red carpet, I was like, that disaster. I was like, don't do that, don't do that. It's not going to work. And it was harmony, and it was beautiful, and just felt so good. And it really signals what we want to be doing, which is holding hands. I'm a conspiracy theorist, I think everything is going to go wrong, so I was like, this is bad. But it was beautiful. Can you talk a little about that?
RASHIDA JONES: I think we feel that way too. I think we sort of saw the worst case scenario, we tried to work backwards from that because what was important is that everybody's acknowledged, right? From Tarana to all of the whistleblowers, it was really important for us with knowledge the brave people that got us to a point where we could have a conversation about how to move forward so this never, ever happens again. And it takes all those steps to get there. And I feel like when you look in hindsight at anything that's happening, it all looks really linear, but when it's happening it feels very stop and start, and kind of fragmented all over the place.
But I think for us, to acknowledge women who have been working in this space for so long, is part of, is moving forward. Because you look at the people who have been here for so long and working on this stuff for so long, you want to say, hey what you have done has got us to this point. So you need to come with us. We need to celebrate you, and in doing that we can all work together to move forward. Because we all want the same things. And that's the truth. And I think it's been really painful for people who do speak up and who have, you know, carried the burden of this work for a really long time to do it on their own. So our job, more than anything, is to bolster that work.
TINA CHEN: I have to say, sort of, having spent eight years in the other White House,
NATALIE PORTMAN: The good one.
TINA CHEN: You know, one of the things that I saw was, you were too fragmented as a women's movement. You know, we've been fragmented for years. And we work in our silos, but women don't live their lives in silos, right? They are doing all these things. They're struggling with their health care, and they're struggling with their childcare, and they're struggling with sexual harassment or all of these things at once. And what's great about Time's Up, as Rashida just said, is bringing everything together.
I've been working on the United State of Women, as lots of folks know, and Dylan knows because we announced the United States of Women two years ago here at Makers. And we're going to keep that going, too. And do it again and bring it to Los Angeles. So watch out for that news. But this is all about bringing everything together. And again, I have to give a lot of credit to the women of Hollywood, who really brought this together, gave voice to it. When people said to me, why did this take off? And I say, it's because people relate to Natalie Portman. And they're sitting in their kitchen table, and it's like, if it is happening to her, and then it's, I can give voice to what's happening to me. And then we can protect them, which is why we have them work that we're doing.
MAHA DAKHIL: And I think the reason that it really worked so beautifully and wasn't the disaster that I knew you were afraid it was going to be, is that it was so authentic and so heartfelt by our actresses. And on their behalf, I can say, I think people project, it must be so amazing, it's such an elitist life. But we've been sitting in these rooms and we're not meeting as actresses, agents, managers, producers, storytellers. We're meeting as women who are just using our resources to shine light on the inequality for women, for people of color, intersectional, as we say that is the forefront and DNA of Time's Up. But I think why it works so beautifully is it was authentic. And it wasn't a stunt and the desire was to profile the activists, not the actresses.
NATALIE PORTMAN: And Monica, who started the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, who reached out to us and really got--
AVA DUVERNAY: That broke it open in such a incredible way.
NATALIE PORTMAN: And she said something that was really moving, which was, she was like, we're silenced, and I'm paraphrasing, she said it much more beautifully, but we're as silenced by the shadows as we are by the limelight. That the women, the farm workers, are told no one cares about you, you're in the shadows. You can't, your voice doesn't matter. And the women in the spotlight are told, you're the elite, no one cares about you, stop whining, stay silent. And the uniformity is just like, shut up, no one cares. And all of our voices matter. Like, our voices don't matter more, our voices don't matter less, we all have stories to tell and need to stop being silent about injustice.
AVA DUVERNAY: Absolutely, well So, I wanted to talk a little bit about the Olympics and, talking about things to hijack, we'll just talk about it. No, no, but when we're thinking about what the next kind of national conversation is going to be, in a couple of weeks, I guess it's a week or something, everyone's going to be talking about that. When we have sisters who have come out and talked about the abuse that they've experienced at the hands of their own coaches, with the US gymnastics team. And just wondering as we move that idea 0 Time's Up and elongate that in other industries and realms, how do you think Time's Up will A. Support that, but also what can women in that industry do? This is an example of how the outreach can permeate different industries. If we use that as an example, how can Time's Up affect them and how can their plight affect what we were thinking about? Have we thought about the gymnasts?
MAHA DAKHIL: I mean, I think that since we have started and launched, it has become a worldwide reaction and phenomenon in a way we weren't expecting. And we know we can't answer it for everybody, but we're hoping that the work that we're doing will amplify and encourage other people in industries to convene as well. It's already beginning, where women in tech, women in advertising, women in New York are meeting tonight across industries. Women in London are meeting.
And we, the words Time's Up, which are our sister Katie McGrath and Rashida coauthored, in one of our very first meetings where we spent so much time just naming it, because we knew it was so important to find a name that was gender neutral, that was a response to the moment, and you can't believe how many names we went through. I'm going to embarrass Natalie, the spirit of Time's Up really began with the next generation. Right there in the room, she brought her daughter Amalia to the meeting and only her baby, only in true Natalie Portman elegance and strength, breastfeeding on the hand, planning the Golden Globes on the other. It really was--
NATALIE PORTMAN: I can't do it here.
MAHA DAKHIL: She almost didn't come because of child care issues, and we were like, no, this is the room. I think we are proof of concept. If you convene women in a room and you brainstorm, look what happened in a matter of weeks. Every other industry can do this, and we want to be there to support, amplify it for everyone that we can. We have no staff, but for one person. We hope to grow the infrastructure here and to project in and be hopefully, the Avengers you think that we are.
TINA CHEN: It's about sustainable change. I think what attracted me in the very first time I heard about it was that this wasn't about just getting stuck in the moment. It was about, how do we actually change our workplaces, and what can we do to actually make sustainable, lasting change. And that's, I think, for the Olympics. What can they do to help change and protect those athletes? What can we do in all of these industries? People deserve to go to work and be safe. Be able to make a living and support their families, you know? And how do we change that so everybody can do that safely and succeed in their jobs and their careers.
AVA DUVERNAY: I think one of the things that I love really love and value about Time's Up is what Nina said, is that the immediate kind of institute, the immediate triggering of the Defense Fund was actionable. It wasn't just us talking up here saying, we should do something and things need to change. That was a way that it will change. But I asked the Olympics question because, I put that to women out here who are in all kinds of different industries, or different cities that might not be a major market. People who were watching the Livestream to point out that some of the infrastructure and some of the ideas that we're working with in Time's Up are there to be duplicated.
And we're also there to learn from and to listen from folks that are doing it way better and way longer than we are, right? And so it's that exchange, but you know, we, like you said, can't touch everyone. But there's an example here, that there's a lot of information on the website. There's a lot of information in different panels that everyone's doing. Just to say this can be duplicated in smaller pods, in different categories, different industries. You don't have to have all the star power or the corporate muscle to meet together and just get in the room and start setting some committees and figuring out how to get things done.
NINA SHAW: Everyone can do something. I think there isn't a day that goes by that I, and I'm sure everyone here, doesn't get a call that says, what can I do to help Time's Up? And I always say, in your place, let's think about what you can do. When someone says something offensive, find a way to connect to them and say, listen, if you pull them aside, if you genuinely believe, listen I think you're a great person. I think you're good at heart, but let me tell you why what you just said probably made half the people in that room uncomfortable. And I want to be the person to tell you that. You can do that in your workplace, among your friends, in your social circles.
When men ask, and men ask all the time, how can we help you? How about in those rooms where you are and we are not, you be our defenders. When someone says something that you know that they would never say in a mixed group of people, you don't have to, you can just say, listen, guy, you know. Let's not go there. Because when we go there, we diminish all these women who we say we love. Or these trans people who we say we support. Or these activists who we say we believe in their causes. So there's something that everyone in this room can do in some way, and in that way we are all part of Time's Up.
AVA DUVERNAY: We have just a couple of minutes left. This is the speed round. Everybody OK? We got real glass in here? Dang, Makers. Really nice. Three rounds, going around to every warrior woman here and ask if there's one thing, logline, that you want people to know about Time's Up and you want to people to take out of this session, what would it be Jill Soloway?
JILL SOLOWAY: 50-50 by 2020. It's an initiative of Time's Up. And we can be found at 5050by2020.com. And what we're doing is going to our own leaders and demanding that we go on 50-50 leadership by 2020. Women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, and other otherized people in positions of power.
AVA DUVERNAY: Good. Rashida Jones?
RASHIDA JONES: I think that every industry deserve to be a reflection of the world the way it is now. 39 percent of this country are people of color. That number will change drastically over time, but every person, whether it's woman, person of color, queer person, disabled person, deserves to be equal. And the way for us to do it is just to encourage in our own industries, however we can, to push this message forward. However we can, we're all doing the same thing.
AVA DUVERNAY: Amen Nina Shaw.
NINA SHAW: Don't be on the outside looking in. Stand up, open that door, come through. I know it's-- And listen, as a woman of color, I really understand that a lot of times you're like, oh those white women they're just doing, don't do that. Come on, seriously. We know that happens. Don't do that. Because we don't want to be in the back when the train pulls out of the station. OK?
AVA DUVERNAY: Amen. Maha Dakhil.
MAHA DAKHIL: I am so excited. I think this is a complete cultural revolution that we're in, that we are so lucky to be alive right now in these crazy times because it is upon us as soldiers, as sisters, and with our brothers to change the world. It's happening now. It's happening overnight. Time's Up is a small reflection of that. It applies to every single person out there. And, as Nina said, you can participate just by changing your own behavior, changing your own outlook. Look at the businesses you support. Are women at the center? Are people of color at the center? Are trans? Ask those questions and there will be ripple effects for years to come.
AVA DUVERNAY: Melina Matsuokas.
MELINA MATSOUKAS: I think, speak up, educate, and fight with us to dismantle white male patriarchy.
AVA DUVERNAY: Simply put, and powerfully put. Natalie Portman.
NATALIE PORTMAN: Gather. Get together with the other women or whatever group you identify with in your workplace to discuss what you can do to change and be radical, be extreme. Be the Che Guevara you are in your dreams.
AVA DUVERNAY: And Tina Chen.
TINA CHEN: Don't be afraid. Part of why this has gone on for so long is the fear that has been imposed upon us. And the silencing that's been imposed upon us. And break through that, don't be afraid. That's why we're all together. We're all in this together. We are, you know, warriors together. That's why we have a Legal Defense Fund for people who need it. For justifiable fear for what they're going through. And that's what we've got to break through. Don't be afraid.
AVA DUVERNAY: Amen. Hashtag raise your voice. Thank you very much for having us. Appreciate you. Have a great conference.
- One of the things I did learn from my parents was you should be involved in your community, you should care about what's going on around you, in the world, and, if you see something that troubles you, you should get involved in it.
- My parents were Chinese immigrants. They came as young, recent college graduates from China in 1949. My dad didn't have any sons, but he poured all of the ambition and all of his hopes and dreams into his two daughters. And, my sister and I, I think, grew up really wanting to meet those aspirations. My mother was trained as a chemist, but became a stay at home mom, as so many moms did in the '50 and '60s. When they had kids, she got really involved in trying to make the community that we lived in a better place. And, I think, watching her do that made me want to do the same. It's a value that, I think, is pretty deeply embedded in me.
- I became an officer in the National Organization for Women. We organized marches, we were doing phone banking. I really learned how to do political organizing. I liked being a litigator. I loved being able to help people with their problems. Probably liked it because I like to argue. One of the things I was lucky enough to do throughout my career was what I used to call extracurriculars. I was always involved in women's politics, and a lot of not for profit organizations, which, along the way, I happened to meet a guy who was an up and coming organizer, and his name was Barack Obama.
- Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
- So help you God?
- So help me God.
- Congratulations, Mr. President.
- First of all, if the President of the United States asks you to come serve, you go serve, because it doesn't happen very often, and it is a really rare opportunity to come to Washington and do things on a scale that will affect the entire country. And, really be part of history. So, I was thrilled to be able to do it. We created a council that involved all of the federal agencies to really make sure that, not only are we addressing the issues that affect women and girls in a central way, on key issues, like violence against women, and women's economic security, and STEM education for girls, but that each individual agency always bears in mind that whatever they do may affect women and girls, and to pay special attention to that.
- To be able to promote the First Lady's agenda, and really bring some national awareness to caring for our kids has been an amazing opportunity to bring a lot of my personal history to bear to the passion I've had for women's issues throughout my career. I think that women are able to see all sides, and we're able to bring those perspectives to a decision-making process in a way that, I think, is collaborative and creative.
LENA WAITHE: When you're an artist and you're making whatever it is you're making, I think the mission is to walk to it as vulnerable as possible, so that somebody will be able to connect to it.
LENA WAITHE: I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I was in a house full of women. It was my mother, my grandmother, my older sister, my aunt come by a lot. There was a similar thing that they all had, which was a lot of strength, a lot of pride, a lot of integrity, and a nice amount of sass and swag, too. I know a lot of kids watch television, but I really felt like I was immersed in it. I watched, like, "A Different World," "The Cosby Show," "Saved By the Bell," "The Fresh Prince." Even though they were multicam sitcom characters, they still felt very honest and real. And I just kind of got lost in all of those different kind of worlds.
LENA WAITHE: Getting a chance to work for all these talented black women, who were just sort of playing hacky sack with me for a couple years, just being the most excited person on set, and having a really great attitude and there being nothing that I would say no to doing, it was really the beginning of my life in scripted television.
LENA WAITHE: I went to New York to talk story ideas with Allen and Aziz and some of the other writers. And in the midst of just having a conversation, Alan asked how I came out. And I proceeded to tell them not thinking it was that interesting. And I got back to my hotel, and they both called me and said, we want to do an episode about that. And Aziz was like, you have to help write it, because it's so specific. And it's your story, and I can't write that by myself.
DENISE: I'm gay.
- You what?
DENISE: I'm gay. I've always been gay, but I'm still the same person. I'm still your daughter.
LENA WAITHE: Telling the coming out story, I had to step in my mother's shoes as well. And I think it actually gave me a greater understanding of what it's like to be come out to. It was about telling an honest story about two people who are trying to figure something out. And I think that's what most coming out stories are. I really wanted people to see the love more than the fear or confusion, and I think they really got it.
LENA WAITHE: My LGBQTIA family, I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it. I do think the things that make me different are my superpowers, because there is no "Thanksgiving" episode if I wasn't born black, gay, and female.
LENA WAITHE: "The Chi" is about being black and human on the south side of Chicago. It's not about drugs. Nobody's singing or rapping. I was more interested in the middle class, the working class community, because that's what I'm from. When you're a working class person with a dream, it's like a pressure cooker, because every day is a choice to fight the good fight, to chase the dream. I know we're not perfect, but we're not all bad either. There's always these demons that we're wrestling with, and I wanted to show that in a real way. So that way people start to care about these communities and these people that make them up.
I think there's a lot of storytellers that don't look like the storytellers of yesteryear. A lot of young, black, queer, different people that have never been a part of the culture in a mainstream way. That's the way I want to change the business is by helping to usher in new voices. There's still a lot of others who haven't been included yet. And so until everyone is in the room, I think we still have work to do.
AI-JEN POO: When it comes to human dignity, there is no such thing as an unlikely ally.
There are 2 and 1/2 million women who work as domestic workers in other people's homes every day. They're nannies, they're housekeepers, they're caregivers for the elderly. They do the work that makes all other work possible. And my alliance advocates for their rights and tries to bring respect and dignity to that work, because we do believe it's dignified work, and that all work is dignified work.
I remember spending time with both my mother and my grandmother growing up, and I remember both of them taking care of a lot of different people. My mother had two kids, she went to school, she worked, and she one day decided she wanted to be a doctor. And so she went to medical school with two kids, and English was her second language, and she just did it. And I just grew up with this notion that I could do anything that I wanted to do.
When I was volunteering at the New York Asian Women's Center, which is a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in the Asian community, one of the things that I saw was how difficult it was for women to break cycles of violence if they didn't have economic opportunity. And there was this organization in the Asian community that was just starting a project to empower women who are working in low-wage service jobs.
We started out with organizing Filipino domestic workers, and that opened up into organizing Domestic Workers United, which is an organization for all domestic workers here in New York City. That led to the formation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which now organizes domestic workers in 19 cities and 11 states around the country.
We often call the domestic work industry the wild west, because there's no guidelines. Domestic workers are explicitly excluded from almost every major labor law. And so, you have a situation where workers are isolated and they just never know what they're going to get in any given situation.
They might have a wonderful employer who wants to do the right thing and pay the living wage, or you might have the other end of the spectrum. I've worked on a case where a woman wasn't paid for 15 years. There's just nothing mediating that relationship, which is why things like the domestic workers' bill of rights are so important.
When we were organizing to try to win the first state law to protect the rights of domestic workers-- called the domestic workers' bill of rights-- we must have done dozens of marches and advocacy days in Albany. And they just completely moved a legislature over the course of six years to being willing to take the risk to be the first state in the country to pass this law.
And a pivotal moment for me was this march that we did called the Children and Families March, and it was led by children of domestic workers and the children that they take care of.
I do feel like because this organizing is relatively new, and a lot of what we do is just innovate and create out of very little, that it feels like we're making history every day. And that feels great.
- Everything I've ever done, I was like, I want to be the best at. If I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna put everything into it. I grew up in Texas. I actually like to call myself a Texican because I am Mexican American. I grew up in a large family of powerful women. I never had to look far for role models. Every single woman in my family was educated, independent. I grew up the youngest of four girls, and I was considered the black sheep of the family. People used to come up to my mom and go, "Your daughters are so beautiful. "And who's this?" I remember actually entering a beauty pageant in college and telling my mom, "Mom, I'm gonna enter this pageant." And she goes, "Oh, honey, "are you sure you want to put yourself through that? "Like, you're not gonna win." They said, read this script, we may make this into a pilot, and it was Desperate Housewives. And I read it, and I was like, oh my god, that's cool and it'll never get picked up. And I remember sitting down at the first table read and going, "This is special, this is magical. "I wonder if anybody else feels this." And everybody did. Carlos, you son of a bitch. I am pregnant, and it's all your fault. I don't think I could have done it without Marcia and Felicity because it was this runaway train that we were all on. I was always turning to Felicity and Marcia, who just took me under their wings and was like, we're gonna stick together. We're gonna do this together. I always loved the business side of entertainment, and I used Desperate Housewives and being on set for nearly 10 years as my film school. When I decided to direct, I was actually terrified. Nina Lederman, who was a president of Lifetime at the time, she goes, "You're gonna direct an episode," and I go, "Okay, yes." And then, I go home and I go, ah. What I found helped ease my nerves was preparation. So, I just prepped the shit out of my episodes. Now, I just encourage so many other women to just do it. My goal with my foundation was how do we arm Latinas with the ability to have economic mobility in life. How do they get ahead? How do they become independent? And education is key to economic mobility for women. I gotta tell you, I have been on a lot of stages in my life, but none as important as this one. If you look at the fastest growing demographic of the United States, it's Latinos. It's the women in that community that are leading the way. We know the barriers. I want to know what's working, what's successful, and let's replicate it.