The #MeToo Anniversary: After One Year, Has Anything Changed?

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published the first story on Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times on October 5, 2017. Their story gave much-needed momentum to the #MeToo movement launched by Tarana Burke more than a decade earlier, which brought to light African American women’s experiences of abuse. The Weinstein accusations started a public outpouring of abuse stories from women, and some men, around the globe and exposed the pervasiveness of this problem. Kantor and Twohey note that it has become clear over the past year that nothing is going to change for women unless we keep speaking out. They state that a reckoning “wide and deep” was reignited one year ago and is likely to continue. In fact, the voicing of sexual assault experiences needs to continue if there is any hope of societal change.

The recent Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation process added new fuel to the #MeToo fire by revealing that not much has changed. Women witnessed the demeaning mockery and dismissal of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford by the president and several GOP senators after her public testimony about her assault experience. Kantor and Twohey note that we must continue to tell our stories, in public and in private, because honest sharing of previously hidden traumatic experiences causes subtle adjustments in our collective understanding of the line between right and wrong. They explain, “Progress requires a correct accounting of what women have really faced.”

But is anything different after a year of #MeToo? While societal attitudes do not seem to have changed much yet, Zoe Greenberg of the New York Times writes that some laws have changed at the state level and some industry practices are changing as well. For example, since October 2017

  • Some states have passed laws banning or limiting nondisclosure or other confidentiality agreements as a condition of employment.
  • A few states expanded sexual harassment protections to apply to more workers.
  • Certain private companies, including Microsoft, Uber, and Lyft, eliminated forced arbitration agreements when settling sexual harassment claims.
  • Some private companies are including “morality clauses” or “Weinstein clauses” in merger deals or book contracts requiring full disclosure of accusations of sexual harassment.
  • The Screen Actors Guild has published a code of conduct that calls for an end to auditions and professional meetings in homes and hotel rooms.
  • Several women, including Christiane Amanpour, Jennifer Salke, Hoda Kotb, Jennifer Lee, and Tina Smith, have been elevated to replace powerful men like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer who were forced out by multiple sexual harassment accusations.

In another New York Times article, several prominent authors offer warnings and suggestions about what lies ahead:

  • Sarah Polley urges us to notice “how quickly we went from looking openly at the challenges women face to how the conversation about misogyny affects men.” She urges us to stay focused on unearthing women’s experiences.
  • Catharine A. MacKinnon, a legal scholar, notes that the norms of rape culture still permeate the law. She points out that the burden of proof for sexual assault in criminal law are difficult for survivors to meet and statutes of limitation are too short to allow victims of sexual violation to get past their trauma enough to report the event.
  • Stephen Marche writes that men are largely absent from the conversation. He notes that “the only way out of the intractable problems of gender — harassment, the pay gap — will involve robust male participation.”
  • Shanita Hubbard states that race and class have always been the deciding factors in whose pain is prioritized. She explains that “research indicates that African-American women experience higher rates of rape and sexual assault than white, Asian and Latina women. At the same time, their reports of sexual violence are less likely to be recognized by the legal system.”
  • Katie J. M. Baker writes that it is unrealistic to think that men accused of sexual misconduct won’t try to reappear as though nothing happened. She points out that there is a big difference between shunning and effective gatekeeping. The industry gatekeepers must facilitate these comebacks responsibly and with public accountability.

In conclusion, MacKinnon notes, “#MeToo may be the first change toward women achieving human status since the vote.” Our rage and our stories are moving us forward, and we must not be silenced again.

Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’

Originally published at www.annelitwin.com on November 5, 2018.

Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together', OD Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Workshop Trainer