What’s changed almost a year after sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein went viral?
This Friday marks one year since the New York Times first published allegations that Harvey Weinstein was guilty of repeated sexual misconduct for decades, which has galvanized the current phase of the #MeToo movement and brought down powerful men such as CBS CEO Les Moonves, Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Bill Cosby, who were accused of abusing their power.
Since then, Weinstein has been indicted on six felony charges, including rape and predatory sexual assault, and faces life in prison. Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes led 300 Hollywood women in creating the Time’s Up legal defense fund to help workplace sexual harassment victims seek justice. And survivors of sexual assault and harassment have called out their abusers in a reckoning that has rocked industries from restaurants to USA Gymnastics, and delayed the Supreme Court confirmation vote for Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, pending an FBI investigation. Veteran news anchors such as Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose lost their spots following allegations of sexual misconduct. And a report 18 months into the current #MeToo movement found that at least 414 high-up executives and employees across multiple industries have been accused of sexual misconduct; 190 were fired or left their employer; and another 122 were suspended.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Moneyish will be featuring articles this week that explore how this seismic shift has changed our work culture, affected our health and shaped the stories being told in books, movies and on TV.
“We have had a huge cultural reset. I see it manifesting in all sorts of things,” activist and actress Rose McGowan told Moneyish. She and Ashley Judd were featured in the initial Times’ report against Weinstein, and her recent memoir “Brave” recounts her encounter with Weinstein, and how she believes that she and other women have been exploited by the entertainment industry.
“Conde Nast released guidelines going into great detail about how to behave on set,” she said, including banning alcohol and getting models’ permission to do nude, lingerie or swimsuit shoots in advance. “I have heard it from other actresses saying, ‘I feel a lot safer on set now.’ People that work in writers rooms in Hollywood, women saying, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been listened to.’ There is definitely change afoot.”
And it’s only just getting started. “I think we’re still in the very, very early stages of #MeToo,” Soraya Chemaly, author of “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger” told Moneyish. “I don’t think a year is remotely close to what we need. I see #MeToo as part of a continuum … the result of years of trying to shift public awareness.”
Rachel Einwohner, a Purdue University sociology professor who studies social movements, agreed. “MeToo didn’t start with retweeting and reusing that hashtag that first started with Tarana Burke a decade ago — but it struck a chord, because this problem has existed since the beginning of time,” she told Moneyish.
President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 also spurred many women into action. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the #MeToo movement became viral in the months after Donald Trump was elected after a presidential campaign where allegations of sexual assault and harassment seemed to make no difference,” Emily Martin, the vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, told Moneyish. “And I believe that one reason we saw the power of the women’s march, that we saw the power of #MeToo, has been the collective response saying, ’No, this is unacceptable, and a change is necessary.’”
So she’s not worried about #MeToo losing its momentum if Kavanaugh is confirmed without a full investigation into the allegations against him, or of victims being discouraged from speaking up like Dr. Blasey Ford because they don’t think anyone will believe them.
“Looking back in 1991, when Anita Hill came forward and testified against (then-Supreme Court nominee) Clarence Thomas, she was savaged and dragged through the mud, and he was confirmed anyway. A lot of people sitting where I am sitting said, ‘Oh my God, no one is ever going to come forward to share their experience of sexual harassment going forward,” said Martin. “But in fact, the number of complaints of harassment to the EEOC went up. And the ‘Year of the Woman’ followed in 1992 as a pretty direct result of what happened in that hearing, with women elected to Congress in record-breaking numbers. This movement is bigger than any one fight, and any one Supreme Court justice.”
But as #MeToo has grown stronger, so has the backlash. There are reports of women having an even harder time finding mentors or breaking into the boys’ clubs at their jobs. The president of the Society for Human Resource Management told the Chicago Tribune that “several major companies have told us they are now limiting travel between the genders.” And 60% of women were worried about lost professional opportunities in light of #MeToo, according to a Vox/Morning Consult survey earlier this year. Pew also found 21% of women said the increased focus on sexual harassment would lead to decreased opportunities for women in the workplace.
Plus, Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, and among the #MeToo movement’s most prominent leaders, has been accused of sexual assault; Argento has denied the claims. And critics of the movement have questioned why alleged victims such as Dr. Blasey Ford have waited until now — sometimes decades after their assaults — to come forward. That’s despite the fact that research, trauma experts and victims have found that there are many reasons to stay silent, such as fear of being blamed or disbelieved, or concerns of retaliation from the perpetrator.
“That’s the basic dynamic of any movement: that when one side gains strength, that encourages, inspires and sometimes empowers their opponent to either dig in or to fight back harder,” said Einwohner.
And Einwohner said that #MeToo fatigue from the public, and burnout from supporters, is to be expected. “But overall, I imagine as people drop out, new people will be coming in,” she said. “This Kavanaugh hearing alone probably triggered some people so much that they’re thinking, ‘I can’t hear this anymore; I need to take a step back.’ But then other people watching are going, ‘Wow, Blasey Ford is so brave and so poised — I’m ready to do whatever it is to further this cause.’”
So the next year of #MeToo needs to keep making institutional changes to keep that momentum going. “You need power to get stuff done,” said Einwohner. “If this is going to change, we need to be in the room where the decisions are made. We need power to be able to set the policies and make the decisions that will solve the problem, whether in the context of small workplaces or a whole nation.”
Chemaly agreed that it’s important to institutionalize change. “MeToo needs to strategize who the inside players are, and how are we going to push organizations, while at the same time understanding that we need to work within organizations,” she said. “So we need to be able to build very strong networks of support and allies who understand why it’s important, and who will do that work.”
McGowan added that the idea that we’re living in a “post-#MeToo world” is “a media fabrication” because we’re still very much in the thick of it. But that’s changing.
“We’re seeing things through different lenses. And the thing is, you can’t go back backwards in society … Understand that we need to move forward, that we are moving forward, and people that are vocal now are not going to go backwards. It’s not going to happen. It can’t happen,” she said. “The stuff that’s happening behind closed doors, that needs to end. And I fervently believe that it will.”
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