What the Dr. Ford- Judge Kavanaugh showdown tells us about #MeToo.
#MeToo enters the courtroom as it claims another victory.
The #MeToo movement was initiated a year ago and at that time no one could have predicted the juggernaut it would become. Women have been suffering sexual harassment in the workplace for centuries but its only in the 21st Century that women are speaking out. But as sordid details emerge, it still takes a lot to bring down the powerful man in question. What is emerging is not just the gender inequality in the workplace but a much deeper insight into power, abuse and how the powerful prey on the weaker sex.
Murmurs of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior had been whispered in Hollywood’s circles for decades before allegations actually came to light in 2017. The ‘casting couch’ certainly wasn’t a myth in his case, as early as 1998, Gywneth Paltrow, a top actress, alluded to his acts on the Late Show with David Letterman that Weistein ‘will coerce you to do a thing or two’.
In 2005, Courtney Love implied the same and in 2010, in an article named ‘Harvey’s girls’ for Pajiba, it was claimed that ‘Every few years, Harvey picks a new girl as his pet’.
So then, the question begs, why wasn’t something done earlier even as an increasingly dark image was emerging of abuse, rape and the power exploitation in the glamour industry?
Harvey Weinstein was finally exposed in October 5th 2017 as the New York Times reported three decades of abuse and eight hush settlements. Five days later, there were fresh allegations that Harvey had not only offered sex for roles but had raped three women.
Ultimately, it took 80 women to bring Harvey Weinstein down as top actresses such as Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd came forward with stories that painted Harvey not as a respectable producer but as a sexual predator. As women came forward and the charges piled it became painfully obvious that men like Harvey or before him Jimmy Saville were not exceptions.
The question was not if the abuse was rampant; the question was how rampant?
When the story broke, the hashtag #MeToo was born. Social media is the most powerful tool in modern communication and #MeToo was encouraged by celebrities such as Alyssa Milano. It set a powerful movement in motion that saw greats such as Morgan Freeman apologise for behavior that they saw as ‘playful’ but in reality was harassment. It became clear that the culture had to be changed; thoughts had to be reprogrammed. Whereas women were fearful or embarrassed knowing that they would be blamed or called ‘attention seekers’ or ‘gold diggers’ they now finally had a sympathetic platform that would force men to listen; women stood up and voiced their fears because now they had a voice.
The downfall of Bill Cosby, once dubbed America’s favourite father, was another huge step. Cosby was found guilty of rape and assault and sentenced to jail. There were over 60 cases against him; many of which had passed the statute of limitations.
But my question is, why did it take sixty women to convince a judge that this man was a predator? Why isn’t one woman enough? Why do the victims have to pile up before a powerful man can be bought to justice?
Jimmy Saville unleashed an era of abuse that lasted decades and was only uncovered after his death despite his bosses having knowledge of his actions. Rumours circulated for decades about Harvey yet were dismissed or seen as acceptable in that industry testing how ‘far a girl would go’ when surely the real issue should be is of ‘why does she have to’.
The question here is not of talent but of power and abuse. These men take advantage because they know they can.
That one woman may prove to be Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who after risking her life, family and career has come forward to accuse a sitting judge of sexual abuse which happened nearly 30 years ago. This case not only has implications for the #MeToo movement but also for American culture as a whole.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh was due to be voted on the Supreme court; a move that has now been stopped pending an FBI investigation. There is no proof; all we have is the testimony from both parties. Ford, definitely the calmer of the two, made her points and won support from senators and the public at large.
Kavanaugh was the more emotional and raised his voice several times, may have committed perjury but like their own President, may see little stoppage to the progress in his career. At several points he evaded the question especially those pertaining to a possible FBI investigation and in response to a question by Senator Amy Klobuchar if he had ever had blackouts after beer, he said ‘Have you?’.
The whole ‘lad’ culture which demeans women making them nothing more than playthings during a night out was on full display as he spoke of his love of beer and played down debauchery. Whether or not the allegations made by Dr Ford will be proved is still to be seen but the Judge certainly opened the door to questions to his own suitability. He cried, bought up his family, yelled and postured- behaviour that would be dubbed unsuitable if displayed by a woman. But he has the full support of the Republican party and Donald Trump so perhaps testimony from one woman still isn’t enough. The outcome of this case will be very interesting for Womens’ Rights in general. How far have we really come? The jury is out and we will get our answer soon.
The #MeToo movement was needed. It must be heard. It gives women a voice. It puts people like Larry Nassar in jail. It makes men apologise but its not enough. The thought and culture must also change and it will only do so when we all work together. Women are not playthings to be preyed upon by men in power because they feel that they can. They may be the weaker sex but with a voice combined they can stand up and say that NO MORE!!!