On the 5th October 2017, the New York Times published a story detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. In little over a year since the story broke over 70 women have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct or assault, the accusations sparked the beginning of the Time’s Up movement and 142 other prominent figures have been accused of sexual assault.
On the 25th May this year, several months after he was first accused, Weinstein handed himself in for sexual misconduct. He was subsequently charged with rape and several other counts of sexual assault. He was later released on a bail of $1 million and agreed to surrender his passport and wear a GPS tracker.
He was fired from the company that he founded with his brother, The Weinstein Company, before it declared bankruptcy. The BAFTAS, the Oscars and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences all dropped him and have suspended his memberships. His wife even left him as she needed to put her kids first.
The movie mogul’s fall from grace has been well documented over the past year and stories have dominated headlines. Sexual abuse may not be new to Hollywood but the sheer volume of accusations against a man in a position of power in the industry has had a massive impact. Weinstein isn’t the first prominent figure to abuse his power, nor will he be the last; but his fall from grace sparked the Time’s Up movement and brought the social media campaign, #MeToo, an enormous amount of attention.
The #MeToo campaign had been going 13 years prior to the Weinstein allegations, but it went viral after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
The social media campaign has simply given people a voice and it has led to conversations about a taboo topic that until recently had been kept quiet. There have been protests around the world under the #MeToo banner and it has prompted people to speak out against their alleged attackers.
On January 1st a number of A-list celebrities, including Meryl Streep, America Ferrera and Amy Schumer, created the Time’s Up movement. They began meeting with activists and industry leaders to combat sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. They also set up the Legal Defense Fund for the movement; more than 780 attorneys signed up, they are working on over 50 cases and have raised $22 million.
Harvey Weinstein’s arrest was a symbolic victory for #MeToo, but is that all it is? Over a year since the first allegations broke, he has been in and out of court, but he has not been prosecuted. On the 11th of October, one of the six felony charges he faces was dropped after a letter from the DA’s office suggested that the act may have been consensual.
This leads us to the question: has anything really changed?
On the 7th October 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as Supreme Court Judge after winning a Senate vote of 50-48, the ceremony was met with protests. People were protesting him being sworn in after allegations broke that he had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. President Trump supported his Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and the hearing was made very public.
Someone accused of sexual assault was put in a position of power, despite the allegations against him, and with the support of the President - another man accused of sexual harassment and misconduct who was also elected into his position. Kavanaugh faced no real consequences for his actions and probably never will.
People may be talking more and more about sexual abuse and attitudes may be slowly changing but it certainly seems as though there is still a long way to go. When people accused of sexual assault still end up being given even more power it is obvious that society has not changed enough.
As for Weinstein, although the movie mogul has been permanently disgraced he might never see the inside of a jail. He has lost his reputation, his company, and, his family, but not his freedom as of yet.