More than two years since the allegations against him accumulated public force, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty on Feb. 24 for two of the five sexual misconduct-related charges against him in New York. According to an article by NPR, the most serious charges against him were dropped; yet he will likely be sentenced to prison time at his hearing on March 11.
In October 2017, multiple news outlets including the New York Times and The New Yorker ran stories about women making allegations of misconduct and assault by Weinstein. As women began to speak up about his actions, more came forward and explained their story. Actresses, entertainment executives, assistants and so many others explained how they were silenced for so long.
This open communication became the start of the #MeToo movement. Globally, people stood up to show how sexual harassment and assault impacts everyone. Since that October, the #MeToo movement has grown and molded our modern society.
How has #MeToo affected us?
One of the biggest realizations of #MeToo was the universality of the movement. From movie stars and Wall Street executives, to hotel employees and service workers, no sector has remained silent.
This also helped people realize they were not alone. It is not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to feel isolated and alone, but the #MeToo movement shut this down. The message was clear: there are people around you who understand and hear you.
Not only were victims heard, they were believed. It is not uncommon for sexual assault cases or allegations to be dismissed due to lack of evidence. Oftentimes, the victims are harassed with questions and procedures to verify their story. When Taylor Swift countersued a radio host for groping her in 2017, she had photographic evidence of the assault and multiple people in the room during the occurrence. Yet, she was still berated with demoralizing questions in the courtroom and online. The #MeToo movement created open spaces where individuals who felt silenced from their experiences and lack of evidence could be heard and believed.
There have also been some legal changes following the start of the movement. According to an article by the New York Times, some states have added laws that protect victims from nondisclosure agreements if they choose to speak out. Systemic silencing of victims is one of the many factors that often allow misconduct to continue for extended periods of time, like in Weinstein’s case.
How has #MeToo changed since it started?
In its two year lifetime, #MeToo has begun to dismantle the systems that have protected successful men. Companies are begun to realize they are not exempt from this long standing epidemic. In 2018, Nike conducted a survey to see if their female employees experienced sexual harassment at work, which eventually lead to executive committee members resigning.
Human Resources staff members in most companies have an open door policy where workers can go in and talk without repercussions. Some even have anonymous online tip boxes where people can report wrongdoing without having their name attached if they fear retribution of any kind.
The initial movement has grown past Weinstein, allowing for other offenders to be publicly recognized and sometimes legally prosecuted. One of the other most infamous cases was the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who groomed and molested hundreds of girls who were trying to join the USA Olympic gymnastics team. The brave women who spoke up about him led to a jail sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
#MeToo didn’t stop at sexual violation either, it paved the way for other issues to be brought into the spotlight. The #TimesUp movement addressed the gender wage gap, pushing for equal pay for equal work. Other topics like pregnancy discrimination and inclusion riders were brought to the table. The Miss America Organization has seen drastic changes, with multiple board members resigning and the removal of the swimsuit portion of the competition.
The #MeToo movement has evolved in a multitude of ways since its origin in 2017, allowing for victims and issues to be heard and understood. This has changed the way we discuss and understand rape culture in our society. Although we still have a ways to go for equality and justice, this movement has certainly created the spark for the fire we need to get there.
At Penn State, you can report wrongdoing to the Office of Student Affairs, campus police, or any member of the staff you feel comfortable talking to, and CAPS offers emotional support if you want to discuss your experience. UHS also offers medical screenings with staff that are trained and sensitive to all situations. For more information, click here.