A Year On: Harvey Weinstein
On October 5th 2017 the New York Times published a story which would eventually reach all corners of the world; bringing an already fragile social landscape one step closer to its breaking point. The story contained decades of allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, which shortly after, ignited the spark for the #MeToo movement.
As a year has passed, we decided to provide an overview of the impact the Weinstein scandal has had. Whether they be direct or indirect, the allegations have ultimately prompted an increased awareness of sexual harassment and assault across a variety of spheres.
First, let’s look at the timeline of events in the case of Harvey Weinstein.
It is significant to note we have not included individual accusations and other incidents related to or indirectly influenced by the Weinstein scandal. This timeline only highlights the key developments in the cases against Weinstein and the process of his prosecution. We wanted to illustrate that despite the scandal happening a year ago, we have yet to see a concrete verdict, with Weinstein seeking to dismiss criminal cases even when allegations continue to arise.
While the progress of the Weinstein scandal itself may seem limited, the indirect influence of the scandal has been limitless.
Impact in Entertainment
With the rise in the #MeToo and Times Up movements, it seems that Harvey Weinstein’s downfall opened the floodgates, in a very biblical way, exposing sexual predators. Due to the bravery of the women who spoke out against the media mogul and the journalists who broke this story, 2018 has seen a rise in people exposing their attackers and sharing their stories.
Rightfully, the reporters who broke the Weinstein story, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times and Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, were awarded the Pulitzer Prize this year for Public Service in the Journalism Category. The official statement on the Pulitzer Prize website states that the trio was awarded the prize ‘for explosive, impactful journalism that exposed powerful and wealthy sexual predators, including allegations against one of Hollywood’s most influential producers.’
A year ago, when the aforementioned stories broke it seemed surreal. How could this kind of abuse be ignored? And how was Weinstein’s power in the entertainment industry allowed to grow? But now, a year on, we are not asking questions but demanding change; this kind of abuse needs to stop, time is up. But we’re not just demanding change in regards to how we treat sexual-misconduct in Hollywood, no. The scandal has catapulted the need for greater gender equality in all areas of the entertainment industry. Rebel Park Productions viral sketch ‘LadyParts’ perfectly encapsulated this.
Nonetheless, Ashley Judd was the first actress to go on record to the New York Times and along with Rose McGowan came forward to share their sexual assault experiences. The actresses shed a light on Weinstein’s years of sexual harassment and assault- provoking others to shine a light on misconduct, starting a brave trend not only in the entertainment industry but also in our own everyday lives and up until recently, the Me Too movement helped remove some of the stigmas of stepping forward.
Even a year after the article broke, floods of sexual assault stories are coming out. With the #WhyIDidntReport trending on Twitter, many women and men have spoken out against their attackers. Earlier last week Busy Phillips (Freaks and Geeks) posted on Instagram, in support of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Philipps shared a photograph of herself, age 14 with the caption ‘#tbt This is me at 14. The age I was raped. It’s taken me 25 years to say those words.’
Philipps like so many other victims of sexual assault was ‘scared’ and remained ‘silent’ for years after. But if the last year has taught us anything, it is to believe survivors. Solidarity can give us the courage to speak out against injustice and, hopefully, make a lasting change so that in future generations predators like Weinstein’s are not allowed into powerful positions and sexual assault occurrences are a rarity instead of a 1/5 statistic.
The iMPACT IN SPORTS
As previously mentioned, the Weinstein scandal has influenced all industries; the world of sport is no different.
Whilst investigations regarding the sexual abuse of female athletes at USA Gymnastics preceded the Weinstein scandal, with the first public statements surfacing in September 2016, the case has been ongoing and no doubt influenced by the wider #MeToo movement. 2018 has seen further accusations against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics national team osteopathic physician, including 2012 and 2016 Olympians Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian coming forward as victims in August. Accusations against Nassar included the viral idiom “Little girl’s don’t stay little forever”.
Following concerns about the safety of athletes in light of such allegations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a specific effort to protect athletes this year at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics with four sexual violence counselling centres set up for those competing in South Korea. This is the first time that direct action against sexual assault has taken place at an Olympics.
This zero-tolerance policy towards sexual assault within various sports has been established not only at a national level but also within regional and lower tiers, as illustrated by the firing of Rich Rodriguez, head football coach at the University of Arizona, following allegations.
We can remain hopeful that international sport will continue to pave the way for change, as it has done recently with political issues such as the inclusion of refugee competitors at Rio 2016 and the historical unified team of North and South Korean athletes in 2018.
The Weinstein scandal propelled the issue of sexual assault into mainstream media and consequently highlighted the sheer number of individuals in a multiplicity of industries, ranging from film to sport, who have experienced such atrocities; a shared platform has been created for people to bravely tell their stories.
THE GLOBAL IMPACT
In recent years, Hollywood and politics have become increasingly intertwined, however, the impact of this scandal is unprecedented. From European Parliaments convening sessions directly in response to the Me Too Campaign to members of the British Cabinet resigning following sexual abuse allegations.
However, the influence of the Weinstein scandal has not just been confined to the West.
China, a country infamous for its serious internet censorship has managed to perpetuate the #MeToo Movement against all odds. As the hashtag was often censored from its social media confines and in order “To thwart the censors, social media users have made creative use of hashtags such as #RiceBunny — a phrase which in China is pronounced “me too.” That’s not to say that the movement in China is without its limits, but the fact that it managed to initially thwart online censorship is indicative of not only the momentum of the movement but also its extraordinary resonance with individual all around the world.
The use of the hashtag spread quickly in India, a country that’s made the Western News with horrific rape and murder cases, like that of 8-year-old Asifa Bano. In recent years, demonstrations and protests against horrific incidents like the aforementioned have become increasingly prominent, using hashtags like “Not in My Name”. And although India is a country in which there has been a significant conservative backlash to feminism and movements like Me Too, the consistent protests both pre and post-Weinstein are indicative of the fact the movement in India has a life of its own, and despite the uphill battle it faces, it's slowly succeeding. In April 2018, India reformed its rape laws, increasing the penalties and punishments for said crime, these reforms include increased minimum sentences and the death penalty for assaults on minors.
Despite Nordic Countries ranking the highest in the world (according to the World Economic Forum) for gender equality, a far-reaching social media campaign was launched to raise awareness about widespread sexual misconduct. Additionally, Sweden took another step forward - as the Swedish parliament "proposed legislation that would go into effect on 1 July 2018, [changing] its rape law so that people would have to get explicit consent before sexual contact.” This bill also produced two other offences: “negligent rape” and “negligent sexual abuse”, with a maximum four-year prison sentence. This demonstrates that there is always work to be done, even in what is considered to be one of the highest-ranking countries for gender equality. Addressing victims of sexual abuse, Prime Minister Löfven said: “Society is standing by your side” and that’s exactly what the Me Too movement is trying to achieve, a space in which we support and stand rather than silence survivors.
Ultimately, It's a year on from the initial allegations against Harvey Weinstein were publicly reported and it feels like a decade has passed. The societal landscape has been redrawn as one half of the population woke up to the reality faced by the other half on a daily basis: that harassment and abuse are not only commonplace but normalised modes of interaction. Nothing can demonstrate this more clearly than the sheer number of industries which have exploded as a result of the Weinstein effect. In the news media, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes (since deceased) – two of the biggest names in Fox News – saw themselves being held accountable for their actions. In politics, big names such as Al Franken, Damian Green and Michael Fallon resigned their positions before investigators got too close, and Roy Moore lost a Republican safe seat to a Democrat amidst testimony from constituents regarding child molestation. Whilst it would be insulting to the survivors of assault to suggest that sexual misconduct is solely a right-wing phenomenon, it’s not a stretch to see that the face of respectability upheld by conservatism has started to crack, and claims of the movement as one grounded in misogyny are proving less far-fetched as the accusations continue to pour in.
A special thank you to Katie Bevan, Luke Dyer, Shola Lee, Connor Ovington, Raquel Pinto and A. Tamura for their contributions to this article.