- Anisha Menath ’21
#MeToo is a movement against sexual assult, violence against women, and domestic abuse, has become a prevelent topic of discussion in the media in the past couple years. The movement started gaining popularity in 2017 with the allegations from Hollywood actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose Mcgowan against Harvey Weinstein. It seems that in 2020 we have been brought back to the situation that sparked this whole movement. Weinstein is currently awaiting his second trial and has been found guilty of rape as well as sexual harrasment. While he was also found guilty for preditory behavior and third degree rape, both of these do not make him appplicable for a life sentence, even though people have seen, and lived with, the horrors of the crimes he has committed. The testimonies of the women who stood against Weinstein show the progress of the #MeToo movement and the power of a woman’s voice.
The issue at hand raises another question about Hollywood. How will Hollywood move forward with this trial, and how will they make sure that women are treated equally and fairly? In Hollywood, it seems that social media has been the biggest platform for discussing issues of the #MeToo movement, originatingon Twitter where it gained a lot of support from women across the world. Actresses in Hollywood who have a large following and platform have been using it to advocate for their rights as well as share information and support. Many people have seen Harvey Weinstien’s trial as “the beginning of justice” (tweet from Mira Sorvino). Although this might be the start of justice, there is a lot more work that needs to be done to eradicate violence against women, as well as sexism in general, in Hollywood.
In the entertainment industry, women are constantly held to different standards than their male counterparts. They are asked to be “perfect” in every aspect. When women speak out about sexual harassment or rape, they are constantly asked what they were wearing or how they were acting. These are questions that men rarely get asked. This trial hopefully helps validate the experiences of women and finally shine the light on the issues that they face. This trial has been seen as a turning point, but it is also important to realize that there is much more to come.
Although this trial has been highly covered by the media, there are many cases that do not happen on this level. In this trial, both sides were able to get the legal resources they needed in order to move forward with the trial, and there was a lot of evidence supporting the women who came forward. This is not the case for all trials which makes it significantly harder to move forward with an accusation.
For example, women who are socio-economically disadvantaged are not provided with the resources to respond to sexual harassment. According to the Downtown Women’s Center (based in Los Angeles), 91% of women who are homeless experience physical or sexual violence in their life. This statistic cannot be ignored. Since there are very few organizations that do outreach in homeless communities specifically for women, there is little access to pro bono work or mental health resources for women who have suffered trauma. In addition, according to the Center for Public Integrity (a non profit news organization), Native American women across the country experience sexual assault and almost always their assailants are those who are outside the Native American community.
This is an alarming statistic because no one seems to be discussing this and it shows that women who are in vulnerable positions are more likely to be assaulted multiple times in their lives. Also according to the Center for Public Integrity, these crimes are “racially motivated” due to the fact that most of the perpetrators live beyond the community and are not held to the laws on the reservations. In order to fix this, there needs more resources for legal aid to help women seek justice, places for help to deal with the trauma, and organziations to help prevent sexual assault from happening.
In order to move forward, society first and foremost needs to believe women when they speak out. Secondly, there needs to be more access to free mental health care specifically for sexual assault and trauma. Data and statistics on sexual assault and violence have been increasing over the past couple years, and it is important that people continue to gather information so that the general public can be aware of how widespread this problem is. Lastly, there needs to be more access to legal aid. According to the UN, less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help in any way. This means that they either do not have access to it or do not feel comfortable speaking out. In order to move forward, we need to have more resources available to women for both mental health and legal aid.
In addition, as a society, we need to be trained to notice sexism and sexual assault in our everyday lives. This means that institutions such as schools, colleges, and organizations need to work together to reduce the statistics and to bring awareness to this topic. Overall, this issue has plagued society and continues to so in order to move forward everyone needs to actively be working to create a safer and more equitable world.