Moving beyond the #MeToo Movement

Joseph Langan

The #MeToo Movement pressed pause on the patriarchy, empowered millions of women and opened a narrow, spellbinding window into the closed-door politics of Hollywood’s inner circles. The movement shed light on the rampant sexual assault and rape allegations against household names, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Bryan Singer and even former president George H.W. Bush.

This is not about downplaying the courage of the countless women who have come forward. This is about how to expand beyond the brave voices who have spoken truth to power and to work toward articulating tangible solutions for our global epidemic of misogyny and unchecked power. As At a conference I recently attended in Tampa, Florida, a female Lebanese-American poet said to the crowd: “Criticism is an act of love,” and I consider this piece in the same vein. Let’s get some things straight.

First: Unaccountable power corrupts. We’ve glimpsed how sexual coercion functions as part of the economic system, when powerful producers can silence their victims with blacklisting and bribery.

While the #MeToo Movement has raised direly needed awareness of this predatory model, boundless wealth still liberates these jackals in seven thousand dollar suits from having to pay for their crimes. Right now, despite overwhelming evidence, money is trying to wash the sins clean from Weinstein’s hands. Without the wealth, power and influence that Weinstein and his ilk wield, they would not have been able to avoid arrest for this long.

Second: This is the tip of the iceberg. The abusers highlighted by this movement are a mere microcosm of an institutional problem that systematically runs on terror and the marginalization of dissenters. The casting couch is very real in Hollywood and we should be talking more about it.

Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski drugged and raped 13-year-old Samantha Gailey at Jack Nicholson’s house and fled the United States, where he remains a fugitive. Despite his deplorable actions, countless celebrities have come to his defense, including Meryl Streep and Martin Scorsese. This reveals an insular circle, one whose members have each other’s backs, and who betray their feminist activism when it means defending their convicted rapist friends.

Third: Too much of #MeToo’s progress is symbolic or inconsequential. McDonald’s flipping their arch upside-down to make a “W” for women, stars wearing black on the red carpet and media buzz fawning over a few female directors leading a couple of major movies is not enough. We need an overhaul of the entire entertainment industry to account for its legacy of abuse.

This is not to say that these actions aren’t a step in the right direction. They are, and they work to build solidarity and raise awareness. However, media exposure has been saturated with #MeToo headlines since last fall. We built a great hashtag, but now it’s time to solidify that dialogue into concrete action.

Are all female workers from makeup artists to film directors getting equal pay for equal work? What overhead systems have been implemented to hold executives accountable when allegations rise against them? When can we stop capitalizing on this scandal and enact real justice?

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].