The Impact of the Me Too Movement
The life of the entertainment industry has always seemed glamorous and perfect on the outside. People look up to celebrities like they do gods, inspiring and influencing their every move. But at what cost do some of them, especially women, have to pay to get to that level, and how many of them charge that high price? The phrase “me too” was coined far before the movement began in 2006 by a survivor of sexual assault, Tarana Burke. This led to a surge of women coming forward about their experiences. The Me Too movement has influenced a new norm that refuses the excuse of “boys will be boys” and forces men to take responsibility for their actions in the entertainment industry as well as politics.
The first to come forward in the film industry was an actress named Ashley Judd. In 2017, she spoke out about how Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood executive, had sexually assaulted her, holding her career as a bargaining chip. She first described his behavior in a New York Times article: “‘I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,’ Ms. Judd said. ‘It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining’” (Kantor, Twohey). The article also described the industry: “‘From the outside, it seemed golden — the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact,’ said Mark Gill, former president of Miramax Los Angeles when the company was owned by Disney. ‘But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and this was the biggest mess of all,’ he added, referring to Mr. Weinstein’s treatment of women” (Kantor, Twohey). Sexual assault had been an unspoken issue of the film industry for decades, so when Judd decided to speak out, it was impactful and encouraged others to come forward as well, lifting the fear of power and allowing them to force the abuser to take responsibility. In an impactful article in the New Yorker, another of Weinstein’s victims and former assistant disclosed how she had hoped for someone to speak out: “‘I think a lot of us had thought—and hoped—over the years that it would come out sooner… But I think now is the right time, in this current climate, for the truth’” (Farrow). Ashley Judd allowed his victims to step forward and let justice be served. She was the first to speak out in the film industry and be backed by so many, that it encouraged other women to step forward as well and bring to light how other powerful people took advantage of them. Despite the movement starting in 2017 with the accusations against Weinstein, he was only convicted for his actions in 2020.
The Me Too movement spread to the music industry not long after. However, in some situations, the power dynamic had shifted where women in power would be taken advantage of. For example, in 2013, Taylor Swift was assaulted by radio host David Mueller. She came forward about it in 2015, which led to Meuller being fired. He then filed a defamation lawsuit against Swift which she countersued for $1. Many criticized her for not speaking out right after and instead claiming it happened two years later. Her mother, Andrea Swift, said the reason to not publicize when it first happened was that she “did not want her to have to live through the endless memes and gifs that tabloid media and internet trolls decided to come up with - doctoring the pictures… and making her relive this awful moment over and over again”. The standard for women when it came to sexual assault before and even currently in 2020 is that they could be lying or that it was their fault. For female celebrities, everything they do, from what they wear to their political beliefs, is published and talked about, so it’s justified that Swift and her mother would want to keep it out as to not tarnish her image or reputation. However, in 2015, when Mueller sued her, she made a statement by proving that her countersuing was not about the money. Swift had solid evidence for her case. In the documentary Miss Americana, she says, “This is with 7 witnesses and a photo, what happens when you get raped and there are no witnesses?” (Swift). This is the reality for many women; it’s her word against his, and he usually ends up with no consequences. Swift gave reasoning for her low countersue: “She did not want to bankrupt Mr. Mueller, but saw the award as symbolically ‘immeasurable to all women,’ proving that they could report an assault without fear of facing a lawsuit from the attacker” (Bryson). What Swift did is a big step towards believing women and helping them feel valid. Many women constantly feel the way Swift did, no matter how much evidence. This provided support towards denormalizing sexual assault in the music industry.
There have been many disputes during Donald Trump’s presidency. However, when he appointed Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, two women came forward and accused him of sexual misconduct: Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. When she was new at Yale, Ramirez went to a party where Kavanaugh was as well. There, while drunk, Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her, causing her to instinctively try to swat it away. To him, it was a joke. To her, it was something much more. She said, “‘I had gone through high school, I’m the good girl, and now, in one evening, it was all ripped away,’ … she added, Mr. Kavanaugh and his friends ‘make it clear I’m not smart’” (Pogrebin, Kelly). While this could have seemed like a simple joke to Kavanaugh, Ramirez was traumatized and humiliated. The issue does not lie with her not understanding a joke, but with the fact that he thought it was funny to do it. Kavanaugh also assaulted Dr. Blasey Ford in a high school party. She testified in excruciating detail what had happened, determined to not let someone who was capable of doing that to her in power. According to a Time Magazine article, “45% of respondents thought Ford was telling the truth, compared to 33% who believed Kavanaugh. That’s a marked shift from 1991, when Americans sided with then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment” (Edwards). Despite not succeeding in the end and Kavanaugh being appointed, this is still a step in believing women and having sexual harassment allegations be an issue. Dr. Blasey Ford showed how important it is to have women speak out, not only for themselves and to hold the abuser accountable, but to allow other women the chance to speak out.
In 2020, the Me Too movement is still ongoing. Though there are still many issues regarding sexual misconduct, having repercussions it denormalizes such crimes and encourages women to step forward. No longer will a victim be afraid to say anything because they wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously. This is thanks to the many who did step forward when it was necessary. All of the them, from Ashley Judd to Taylor Swift to Christine Blasey Ford, used this opportunity to change the way people view sexual assault and help make changes so the next generation would be safe and have the confidence to speak out.
Bryson, Donna. “Taylor Swift Was Groped by Radio Host, Jury Finds.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/14/arts/music/taylor-swift-trial-jury-verdict.html.
Chicago Tribune. “#MeToo: A Timeline of Events.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 11 Mar. 2020, www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-me-too-timeline-20171208-htmlstory.html.
Edwards, Haley Sweetland. “How Christine Blasey Ford's Testimony Changed America.” Time, Time, 4 Oct. 2018, time.com/5415027/christine-blasey-ford-testimony/.
Farrow, Ronan. “From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein's Accusers Tell Their Stories.” The New Yorker, 10 Oct. 2017, www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/from-aggressive-overtures-to-sexual-assault-harvey-weinsteins-accusers-tell-their-stories.
Kantor, Jodi, and Megan Twohey. “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html.
Pogrebin, Robin, and Kate Kelly. “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/09/14/sunday-review/brett-kavanaugh-deborah-ramirez-yale.html.
“Taylor Swift Sexual Assault Case: Why Is It Significant?” BBC News, BBC, 15 Aug. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40937429.
Wilson, Lana, director. Miss Americana. Netflix, 23 Jan. 2020, www.netflix.com/title/81028336.