When the New York Times published an article entitled “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades” on October 5, 2017, published, she could not have guessed that she would trigger a worldwide media phenomenon. In the article, journalists Jodi Kantor and Mega Twohey alleged that studio mogul Harvey Weinstein, producer of countless Oscar and Hollywood hits, had been sexually abusing and harassing women for decades. Women are now demonstrating against sexualized violence all over the world, and feminists in the West are calling for the system to be restructured.
The #MeToo movement arose from reporting on Harvey Weinstein: Following the US actress’ call, women shared their experiences with sexualized violence on social networks under the hashtag “Me too”. The hashtag was used 200,000 times on Twitter on the first day. The next day there were already more than half a million. #MeToo trended in more than 85 countries and spawned offshoots in many other languages. The human rights activist Tarana Burke had already shaped him in 2006 in the social network “My Space” in dealing with young victims of sexualised violence.
What happened next?
Five years later, Harvey Weinstein is in prison for rape, sentenced to 23 years in prison. Other celebrities were sentenced to prison terms, for example the American actor Bill Cosby. The French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault was also jailed for raping a woman – a circumstance that got the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature every year and of which his wife was a member, into such trouble that they Price suspended for a year.
Jodi Kantor and Mega Twohey, along with journalist Ronan Farrow, won the prestigious US Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s crimes.
Her research has even already been filmed by a Hollywood studio under the lead of the German director Maria Schrader under the title “She Said” (German: “That’s what she said”).
The right to abortion is now also a concern in the debate initiated by #MeToo. In Germany, paragraph 219a, the so-called advertising ban for abortions, was relaxed in 2022, making it impossible for doctors to even provide information about the procedure on their websites. In 2022 alone, #MeToo demonstrations for women’s rights took place in Paris, Amsterdam and Kathmandu.
Successes, but also setbacks
Parallel to the success of the movement, a “backlash” can be observed. The word describes a simple phenomenon: Whenever a social movement draws attention to itself, even causes changes – layoffs, court decisions, even changes to the law – there is a backlash. In the United States, lawyer Brett Kavanaugh was appointed by former President Donald Trump as a judge on the Supreme Court in 2018 – despite serious allegations of sexual assault.
In 2022, the US Supreme Court reversed a 1973 court ruling (known as “Roe vs Wade” after the names of the plaintiff and the prosecutor) that had for decades enshrined federal abortion rights in the United States. Hungary also tightened abortion legislation. And in the same year, the trial of Amber Heard and her ex-husband Johnny Depp made it clear to a world public that women who dare to go public with violent experiences are still met with malice and contempt.
Amber Heard (centre) at the verdict in the trial of her ex-husband Johnny Depp: she was sentenced to $15 million in damages
actions instead of words
While women in Afghanistan and Iran are risking their lives for their human rights five years after #MeToo, British feminist Laura Bates calls on the West to now walk the talk: In her book “Fix the Women, Not the System” (German: “Change the system, not the women”), she warns of the urgent need for reform in the judiciary, the police, politics, education and the media.
The #MeToo movement has revealed that sexualised violence against women is a global systemic problem. Laura Bates, who founded the “Everyday Sexism Project”, calls for the consequences to be drawn from this: “Nothing will change,” she writes in the fifth year after the start of the #MeToo movement, “until we recognize that the problem is in the system and not with the women.”