At the start of October 2017, Harvey Weinstein was an all-powerful Hollywood mogul wielding unchecked power to make or break the careers of women working in the industry. Now he faces up to 29 years behind bars after being convicted this week of sexual assault and third-degree rape.
Dozens of women who accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, predatory behavior and rape have yet to have their day in court. Still Monday’s verdict serves as a turning point in a scandal that blew the lid off of sexual harassment in US workplaces and propelled the #MeToo movement to a global stage.
#MeToo put on blast predatory gatekeepers in media, sports and entertainment by bypassing traditional streams of reporting sexual misconduct and harassment. It inspired millions of women to share their experiences on social media where they felt power in numbers and solidarity in sisterhood by simply saying “me too”.
And while the movement ignited a conversation around women’s experiences, gender experts say the Weinstein scandal and conviction shows just how much work needs to be done to change cultural norms that have for decades brushed off sexual harassment allegations and the women who voice them.
“I regret that it took so many women to hold one man to account,” Purna Sen, UN-Women’s spokesperson on Addressing Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination, told Al Jazeera.
“This was a case of 90-or-so ‘she said’s to one ‘he said’. Women have had a hell of a journey to go through to be seen as credible as men,” Sen added.
#MeToo by the numbers
Some 38 percent of US women reported experiencing sexual harassment at work, according to a 2019 joint study led by UCSD Center on Gender Equity and Health and Stop Street Harassment.
The same study found that although 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault over their lifetime, only 1.9 percent of men and 0.4 percent of women reported ever being accused of sexually harassing or assaulting someone.
There is evidence that attitudes may be changing however. UCSD Center researchers found that when high-profile men are accused of sexual harassment or assault, 43 percent of women and 40 percent of men believed the allegations to be true.