Why #MeToo Still Has a Long Way to Go
By now, we are all (hopefully) aware of the #MeToo movement and its ground-breaking significance; not just in its exposure of the deep corruption and power abuses taking place within the entertainment industry, but in starting a conversation. More and more women are having their voices heard when opening up about their experiences of sexual assault. Indeed, although the #MeToo began with influential women with particular presence in entertainment and the media, an increasing number of ‘every day’ women have found the strength to speak openly and publicly about their own experiences of sexual assault. The Independent found that a third of brits are now more likely to challenge inappropriate behaviour and over half of 18-24 year olds are more likely to call out sexual harassment following #MeToo’s precedent. For the first time, men are being publicly held to account for their actions and female voices are being heard.
However, this increased prominence of discourse surrounding sexual assault has not yet equated to what truly matters within #MeToo: justice for its victims and protection of women from the threat of violation. We must remember this movement, despite its reflection of society’s wider progress, is still fundamentally occurring within the patriarchal system of power. Harvey Weinstein, the man who the emergence of #MeToo can be accounted to, was first scandalised in September 2017. Now, with at least 11 legal accusations under his belt and more than 80 individuals claiming Weinstein has behaved inappropriately towards them, Weinstein remains free after three court cases and being granted $1 million bail. Although Weinstein faces a potential 25 years of prison time, it would be naïve to assume this would ever be the eventual verdict. No doubt Weinstein will serve a few years in a very comfortable institution, subsequently be released into the world and slowly reintegrate into his entertainment enterprise away from the public eye (which he still owns 22% of, if you were wondering). Mr Weinstein might have been stripped from his prestige in the celebrity world, but his power in wealth, which enabled him to buy off the countless women he violated, will inevitably enable him to either retain his judicial or economic freedom. Despite being ostracised by the entertainment industry, Weinstein’s voice still remains potent and validated by the media; recent headlines regarding Weinstein’s case describe his discussions of his ‘nightmare’ experiences with his friends. Weinstein’s experience of his scandal should not be relevant. As long as Weinstein is given a platform to effectively talk his way out of his crimes, the culture of doubting the female narrative and victim shaming remains. With this, Weinstein effectively exemplifies how the modern women's voice, no matter how wronged or convincing, will never counteract the voice of wealth and public image. Even after the extent of atrocities that has been revealed within #MeToo, society remains more willing to listen to the male experience than the female.
However, this is a particularly pessimistic approach to the Weinstein scandal; it is hard to deny that #MeToo has effectively ruined Weinstein and his professional reputation despite the uncertainty surrounding the judicial repercussions. That being said, this has not been the case for all of the names dragged through the mud during the #MeToo movement. Johnny Depp still lands blockbuster roles, despite his ex-girlfriend publicly and extensively documenting her experiences of domestic abuse; Cristiano Ronaldo still plays professional football and earns an extortionate wage despite publicly admitting to paying-off $375,000 to a woman accusing him of rape; Brett Kavanaugh effectively secured a position in the Supreme Court, despite Christine Blasey Ford’s contest of sexual assault. If anything, the ability for these public figures to retain wealth, careers and influence proves that the trauma that sexual assault brings to a woman’s existence remains of secondary importance to the reputation and potential of men.
Although #MeToo effectively, and necessarily, instigated a conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault in all social spheres, it has thus far only realistically opened the doors for a much greater challenge. Currently, the climate of #MeToo and the extent of scandals revealed has quickly morphed into a wider public debate: whether the accusations of women are legitimate and genuine experiences or an opportunity for money grabbing, whether she was asking for it or she wasn’t, whether the reputation, history and potential of the accused should pardon his actions or not. The trauma confessed within #MeToo should not be a public debate. The experience of sexual assault should not be doubted. #MeToo has exposed the problem of sexual assault, now the instigators of violation need to be held to account within the justice system. Men need to stop fearing the potential of being accused of sexual assault and understand the meaning of consent. We need to stop questioning the motivations behind women’s claims of assault and empathise with the trauma which comes with being on the receiving end of such violation. Those who have committed rape, sexual assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour should not receive public attention and sympathies, they should be ostracised from society. #MeToo has started the conversation, now it is time to continue fighting for real change.