When news broke of Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting countless women throughout the years, it warranted a public reaction on par with that of the 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed years of deceit by the U.S. government regarding the Vietnam War.
The #MeToo movement started the conversation; we conversed about how best to have the conversation; the conversation was brilliant and inspired hope of cultural change that would keep the words “me, too,” from being shouted from future generations’ mouths; and just as society was on the brink of what could have been lasting action, the conversation veered.
It comes as no surprise that powerful men have used their wealth and resources to escape punishment. Although Weinstein is still facing criminal charges and is currently in the midst of a trial by jury in New York, he has a tentative $25 million settlement in place with dozens of the women who spoke out against him. The deal would not require Weinstein to admit any wrongdoing, and the money would not come from the mogul himself, rather the insurance companies representing the Weinstein Company, as reported Dec. 11, 2019, by The New York Times. Additionally, the more than 30 women would split the settlement.
Matt Lauer—who was booted from NBC News after The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow published reports of Lauer allegedly raping a co-worker during a 2014 work trip to cover the Sochi Olympics—is reportedly curled up in his home in the Hamptons, having recently vacationed in New Zealand, according to Town & Country Magazine.
The list of those accused, but who have not been convicted continues, and will likely grow.
Woody Allen is still making movies; Louis CK is still doing stand-up; former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has a political podcast and has not ruled out a future run for office; John Lasseter was hired at Skydance Animation just months after being pushed out of Pixar; and President Donald Trump remains in office and up for re-election in 2020.
What did a groundbreaking and awe-inspiring conversation on #MeToo get us? Powerful men in tentative exile in the Hamptons, laying low until their slow return to gold-star status.
Even the reputation of #MeToo in pop-culture realm has grown tiresome and trivialized.
For one, films about and created by powerful, independent women, such as Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” were snubbed by the Oscars, in favor of Hollywood’s age-old go-to—films about white, male rage, such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” Todd Phillips’ “Joker” or Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” all of which received nominations for Best Director, to much controversy.
So, what did women get? On the one hand, nearly half of the men fired from their jobs were replaced by women; several states, such as California, have banned nondisclosure agreements; and some survivors are receiving financial restitution from the accused.
But this is not justice when, at the same time, states are also taking away the right to an abortion; women aren’t estimated to have equal pay for more than 250 years; and in some states, rapists have more rights than victims.
What does Hollywood’s praise of white male directors telling white male stories—or of Harvey Weinstein not even having to open his wallet after allegedly raping numerous women—say to our youngest generation? It says that even if you speak up, even if you face national backlash and are forced to carry this with you from job to job, partner to partner for the rest of your life, the powerful man you spoke out against will always get off easier than you will.
Let’s evolve the conversation. It’s not giving us the results we want. Instead, let’s do something about the conversation, from a cultural level to a legislative one. Support pop culture depicting and created by powerful women; demand equal pay at your workplace; and lobby your representatives for substantial, lasting changes.