It has been two years since the New York Times published Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s explosive investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s sexually predatory behavior. In the months that follow, a national reckoning put powerful men out of jobs and some in jail. Kayla Glaraton writes on the movement and what has come from it.
The Oct. 5, 2017 article revealed how a patriarchal society dominated by obsessions with wealth and fame fostered sexual predators. The knowledge that Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein’s actions for decades was unsettling. Learning that beloved figures like Matt Lauer had also abused their power to sexually harass female colleagues was also shocking.
Harvey Weinstein’s downfall was not the beginning, merely the tipping point for the growing movement to address sexual misconduct. Lady Gaga’s song “Til It Happens To You” from the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground” was nominated for an Academy Award. Outrage grew in 2016 after a Stanford University student was sentenced to only six months in jail after being found guilty of rape.
Much has happened in the two years since the publication of both the New York Times article and Ronan Farrow’s story in the New Yorker. Allegations of sexual misconduct seem to be taken more seriously. There are more conversations regarding what is sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace.
The Me Too movement, as well as the Time’s Up movement, which also focuses on gender inequality, has not solved the global issue of sexual assault. Men and women who live and work in vulnerable places still face harassment, sometimes daily. Two years later, where is our society now in the fight to end sexual misconduct?
Greater Support for Survivors
The single, greatest, most positive effect of the Me Too movement is the increased support for survivors. While there have always been resources, the fear surrounding sexual misconduct kept victims from speaking out. Trust in legal justice was lost because of a lack of action by law enforcement, and often university administration.
Now, there is an army of survivors and supporters willing to listen to and help victims. The stigma that has surrounded reporting a coworker or boss for sexual misconduct is weakening. For example, one change since Oct. 2017 is a new, better reporting process for United States congressional workers.
The hashtag “Me Too” emboldened men and women to tell their stories. Whether the incident was recent or decades old did not matter. The important thing was that they were taking the power away from their abuser or harasser. It told others that they were not alone and that they could understand the intense pain and grief that comes with sexual assault and harassment.
Arguably one of America’s most famous sexual assault cases in the 21st century was the Stanford swimmer case. In Jan. 2015, Brock Turner, a student athlete at Stanford University, raped a 22-year-old woman. The case first made headlines because Turner was a rising swimming star. It later became famous for its extremely lenient sentence of six months in jail, of which Turner only served three.
The case was back in the news last month because of Turner’s victim. In a memoir released Sept. 24, Chanel Miller identifies herself as “Emily Doe”, the name given to her throughout the trial. By telling her story, Miller is changing the narrative of that night and the horrible months after. She is giving an important perspective not just on what being raped does to a person, but also how the invasive processes that follow, both medical and legal, hurt victims.
Overabundance of Rape on Television
The most positive change to come out of the Me Too movement is more conversations about sexual misconduct, consent and harassment. Yet, this has coincided with more shows aimed at teenagers that include graphic rape scenes. Although the shows’ creators may believe showing this is necessary in educating about the importance of consent, the effects could actually be dangerous.
Netflix’s popular series “13 Reasons Why” has removed the infamous suicide scene from season one. The brutal rape scenes in seasons one and two, presumably viewed by thousands of teens, have not been taken down. The backlash for showing Hannah’s suicide as graphically as they did was stronger than any negative responses to the graphic rape scenes.
That should not matter. The show is for a teenage audience and studies show that viewing graphic content, whether it is suicide or rape, is harmful to children. The argument that it is meant to start a conversation is irresponsible. In many cases, it is only meant to increase the show’s shock value, not increase its educational merit.
The Me Too movement has provided the nation an opportunity to change the way sex and consent is discussed. However, television is not the best route to start those conversations between parents and children. Shows like “13 Reasons Why” and HBO’s “Euphoria” are not educational, but entertainment.
Explicit, violent depictions of rape can give a false impression of healthy intimacy. It can make teenagers more afraid or anxious. If they find it upsetting, which they should, hopefully they go to an adult and talk about what they saw. However, as there is no guarantee that teenagers are either not watching the shows or talking about it with an adult, it is dangerous to include them.
The Me Too movement has empowered survivors to speak their truths. It is beginning to change workplaces and legal procedures. It is still going strong two years into its campaign to end sexual misconduct. The nation needs to be mindful, though, that the pendulum does not swing too far to the other side. We also must remember that our president has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 20 women. Yet, Donald Trump is still the president.