What next for #MeToo?


We’ve been here before. Revelations emerge about a famous figure’s misdeeds and public condemnation and discussion about our misogynistic society grows, building up hopes that things will finally change. And maybe for a while it does. But soon the furore fades away and the status quo returns. Next month, Harvey Weinstein will be forgotten, only to be raised in end-of-year round-ups and when the Oscars roll around again.

I suspect there’s a man behind this excoriation of Weinstein. The producer’s projects have not had the same impact in recent years as before. His last Best Picture Oscar was in 2012 for The Artist. His crown was slipping. And some man hoping to grab it for himself decided to bury Weinstein in all those tales of rape and abuse known try everyone in the industry.

The complaints of a handful of women were publicised first, with the glorious Rose McGowan being perhaps the most active on social media. But the accusations had to be banded together to gain credence. McGowan’s account of how she was punished by the industry for speaking out led to a few other abuse perpetrators being outed. More and more of the big female names began to tell their experiences too. They knew it was now safe as they no longer had to fear the same reprisals McGowan did.

The stories started to spread outside the movie industry, as women across the workforce instantly recognised the scenario and matched it up with their own memories and realities. A hashtag was born. But are men listening any more or has the sheer number of corroborating accounts forced them back on the defensive? Are women by now just talking to themselves again, if out loud instead of sotte voce this time? Will everyone else who comes forward be accused of jumping on a bandwagon?

Of course I can say #metoo. I can say I know how a company lets its senior males stick their hands and tongue wherever they want, while the women are expected to learn ways to avoid him. I know how long-term staff watch to see whether the new intern will fall into the sleazebag’s trap. I’ve argued with other women that they don’t need to put up with behaviour like that, or on whether it’s really necessary to have so many rape scenes in our movies and our TV programmes. Most of which are written, created and produced by the same men that are abusing women like Rose McGowan.

I don’t expect things to change much. We are not on the cusp of the Age of Equality. The White House is occupied by a man who boasted of the exact same behaviours as Weinstein. Advertising firms will still use female bodies to sell everything under the sun. And women will continue to dodge the perverts. As for equal pay, equal opportunities, or just not having to see your work passed on to your male colleagues to sign off on, don’t hold your breath.