By Claire Alongi
On Oct. 5 Harvey Weinstein’s life as he knew it came to an end. The former Miramax producer and (now also former) board member of the Weinstein Company was hit with a New York Times article detailing decades of sexual assault allegations settled and shoved under a metaphorical rug. From there: the snowball only grew. The accusers kept on coming, the articles kept getting published and Weinstein was systemically kicked out of everything from his own company to the Oscar’s committee. Weinstein’s swift and brutal takedown has sparked a broad conversation about how we as Americans —and people of the world— address sexual assault in a conversation that’s spanning social media and crossing continents.
Sexual assault accusations and harassment have plagued Hollywood as long as the industry has been around (see within the last several decades, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Casey Affleck) but this time Weinstein’s immensely appalling behavior might not just act as a catalyst for a shift in Tinseltown. Finally, there is a possibility for actual change in how our culture addresses sexual assault and harassment.house is destroyed.
What separates Weinstein’s case from other celebrities that have been accused or settled is that his lewd conduct reaches so far and pervasively that exposing it has been like clearing a termite infestation only to find that the entire foundation of the house is destroyed. And now a critical precedent has been set for the treatment of people who sexually abuse or harass: they lose everything.
Weinstein lost his livelihood, his wife, his reputation. All it takes is one. Now people, famous or otherwise can point to Weinstein and say “Look at him! It’s been done before, so let’s do it again!”
A rally cry has been sparked by actress Alyssa Milano who began the Twitter hashtag #metoo, a slogan which was started by black activist Tarana Burke ten years ago, as a way for people to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment in the wake of Weinstein’s eviction.
Social media has become the fire that will not go out as tweet after tweet, post after post, reveals another heartbreaking #metoo. According to Facebook data more than 45 percent of users were friends with someone who posted #metoo, and that was only a few days after Milano’s original tweet. The number is likely larger now. While older generations may harp on social media, it is a powerful voice of today and has the power to jumpstart real world actions.
In response to France’s own version of #metoo, #BalanceTonPorc (expose your pig), a new anti-street harassment law has been proposed by the French minister of gender equality which would fine people for acts such as catcalling. This new law builds off the steam of #metoo, off of Weinstein. Whether or not it comes to fruition this represents how quickly people have sprung into action in the wake of Weinstein’s exposure, not just on social media but in the real world as a way to enact lasting change.
Cynics have said that the outrage created by Weinstein won’t last, or have simply dismissed the #metoo movement as a way to garner attention. But this isn’t the whining of a few people. What started with women in Hollywood speaking up has turned into a bonafide movement that is sweeping not only the United States but other parts of the world as well. Likely change won’t come as swiftly as Weinstein’s takedown, but change will come. The conversation has been started, and it’s not likely to end anytime soon.