Time’s Up U.K. Preps Microaggression App for Women in the Workplace (EXCLUSIVE)

Manori Ravindran
·4 min read

As the industry looks ahead to a post-lockdown future, Time’s Up U.K. is commissioning key research to improve the experiences of women in the workplace, while realigning its priorities in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Time’s Up U.K. chair Heather Rabbatts tells Variety that as the industry resets after the worst of the pandemic, it can’t revert to old norms, and nor must the movement. “We want to build it in a way that speaks to our values and aspirations.”

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A new strategy involves greater scrutiny of intersectionality across the Time’s Up U.K. campaigns, as well as an industry survey on microaggression — a term used to describe daily undermining behaviours and comments directed towards marginalized groups — that will inform a dedicated app to help women in film and television, as well as other industries.

“We’ve done research and have been talking to different sectors, like finance, and this issue has come up significantly,” notes Rabbatts, who says a wide-ranging plan is in the works.

“If you have a culture where microaggression is apparent, then that contributes to a culture of silence and being complicit when there is harassment and bullying going on. If you don’t tackle microaggression, then you can’t tackle harassment and bullying.”

The app will serve as a guide explaining what microaggressions are and how they manifest, and will also provide resources for support. While the focus is for the film and TV industries, the app will apply to a range of sectors.

Borne from the Harvey Weinstein revelations in 2017 that eventually put the disgraced producer behind bars last year, the #MeToo movement continues to be a lightning rod for public debate, largely around its effectiveness in lobbying for women’s rights and protections.

As recently as Wednesday, a #MeToo-focused episode of BBC Radio 4 program “Woman’s Hour” marking the one-year anniversary of the Weinstein rape charge trial featured “We Need to Talk About Kevin” author Lionel Shriver, who declared she “broadly supported” #MeToo in the Weinstein criminal case, but that the campaign has “lost all sense of proportion.”

Shriver went so far as to compare the renewed Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 to #MeToo. “[The Black Lives Matter] movement went off the deep end and so did #MeToo. A majority of Britons think BLM has made race relations worse,” she continued, citing a November poll that found 55% of U.K. adults thought the protests had led to more tensions.

Said Shriver: “You can probably say the same about #MeToo. It may have, on a larger level, made relations between men and women more difficult.”

The writer’s inflammatory comments received the expected blowback from critics, but Rabbatts diplomatically hones in on the crucial intersectionality between the two movements. “For us in the U.K., as the Black Lives Matter issues increasingly showed themselves, we had to look at ourselves and how much our work had race woven into its fabric,” she explains.

Time’s Up U.K. needed to do more. And it was essential to think practically about the types of interventions that can “amplify a key message that needs to change in practice,” says Rabbatts, who herself is of a mixed-race African-Caribbean background.

One initiative attempting to correct the balance involves lobbying U.K production companies, broadcasters and streamers for more inclusive writers’ rooms. The issue was laid bare last summer when — to name just one example — an image of a “Killing Eve” writers’ room went viral, depicting no writers of color, despite Sandra Oh, who is of Korean descent, fronting the BBC America drama.

The industry has been responsive to the agenda, says the executive, who hopes for “real progress and commitment to shifting the balance away from writing being dominated by white male writers.”

Elsewhere, Time’s Up U.K. is also working closely with its U.S. counterpart and a group of intimacy coordinators on a piece of safety work around vulnerability in auditions — an initiative that will be launched in the near future.

As the organization plans for 2021 amid the U.K.’s third national lockdown in just under a year, Rabbatts hopes Times Up U.K. can roll out its renewed push in time for International Women’s Day (March 8), followed by a potential in-person event at a high-profile film festival like Cannes later in the year.

“It’s about asking how we really raise our voices in a way that speaks to the changes COVID has brought about,” says Rabbatts. “How do we tell that story — that narrative of where we’ve been and where we’re going?”

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