A brief background on current events regarding sexual assault in Hollywood: Harvey Weinstein was exposed for rampant, repeated sexual predation that had been allowed for decades because of his money and influence — color me shocked. After an initial exposé published by the New York Times, other actresses have come out and revealed their own experiences with sexual predation by Weinstein, or with dozens of other men who got away with this behavior not-so-secretly. Op-eds about sexual harassment and assault in film have been written (or dredged up from the last time an incident like this became newsworthy) and the fury has trickled down to social media.
The #MeToo campaign began on Twitter, but has since expanded to include Facebook posts using the same hashtag. Alyssa Milano, an actress and activist, spurred the momentum by tweeting, “If all 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.” Milano's intention was to galvanize the social media community, prompting action through education about how often sexual harassment, like that perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, really occurs.
I do not have a problem with the posts themselves — I support going public as a way for women to remove the stigma of being a victim of sexual harassment and assault, and I think owning that experience through public statements can be empowering. However, women should not have to expose themselves to the voyeurism of social media and perform the emotional labor of publicly owning and explaining their past trauma in order to show men the “magnitude of the problem.” The magnitude should be clear by now. It has been happening for LITERALLY ever. This is a problem. Most women who have had any experience as women are not shocked by the Weinstein accusations because they have seen and/or lived this all multiple times before.
This is far from the first time this has happened. Countless famous men in the film industry (or in tech, or in the Fortune 500, or in the White House) have been exposed for sexual harassment or assault, causing an uproar about gender discrimination and a seeming downturn in apathy only to return to previous levels after the news cycle has moved on. Casey Affleck won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his performance in "Manchester by the Sea" despite a concurrent social media-based push to hold him accountable for accusations of sexual harassment. Woody Allen continues to produce hit films despite similar claims made about him (he also commented on the Harvey Weinstein case, denying knowledge of the assaults despite years of working together, and expressing pity for Weinstein's life being “so messed up”). Sexual harassment is not only prolific, but it also tends to be seen as a disappointing but not disqualifying behavior of otherwise successful men. Because our society does not view such blatant disrespect for women as career-ruining, we allow men like Weinstein, Affleck, and Allen to believe that their sexually predatory actions are acceptable.
What is unique about the Weinstein case is that he is actually facing repercussions for his actions. He has been fired from the company he founded and has had his membership to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revoked. The question of whether he will face criminal charges is still up in the air. This is new, for in the past, similar accusations against prominent figures have made only a minor dent in the accused's fame and success. Roman Polanski, criminally charged with raping a minor, has won an Oscar and a lifetime achievement award in the decades since he escaped to Europe to avoid incarceration, to name just one example.
Weinstein’s charges represent a positive step towards justice for the women who have been demeaned through sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. However, the scarcity of other examples like this one indicates a glaring need for reforms in the justice system and in the society that has, up until now, allowed these perpetrators to evade consequences.
Various measures have attempted to further this goal, including online educational campaigns. These operations spring up whenever sexual assault again becomes newsworthy. In 2012, #EverydaySexism trended as a way to document widespread, daily discrimination. Two years later, #YesAllWomen popped up after a mass shooter cited his hatred of women as a reason for his attack. The #MeToo hashtag of present is the obvious contemporary example. These examples are plentiful, but somehow people still aren’t convinced that this is a problem.
A person who hasn’t already been convinced that sexual assault and harassment are real and widely prevalent will not change their mind after seeing another viral social media campaign. The facts are out there, and the stories continue streaming in. While #MeToo has its merits as a method of personal empowerment, it is not going to be the campaign that finally convinces the world that women deserve respect in the workplace. Harvey Weinstein is just another in a long list of powerful men who have taken advantage of women. After repeated attempts to convince nonbelievers of the prevalence of sexual harassment, continued effort is a waste of time and energy. Those who still refuse to acknowledge the obvious truth need to be abandoned in favor of direct political action. Stronger legal options and protections for the women who have been victimized, as well as the establishment of more empowered women’s groups in the vein of consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s, would do more to push forward in combating men like Harvey Weinstein.
Madeleine Marr is a freshman from Newtown Square, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.