2018: A year of developments for the #MeToo movement

Illustration+of+Christine+Blasey-Ford+testifying+before+Congress%2C+by+Zella+Lezak%2C+Staff+Writer
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2018: A year of developments for the #MeToo movement

Illustration of Christine Blasey-Ford testifying before Congress, by Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

Illustration of Christine Blasey-Ford testifying before Congress, by Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

Zella Lezak

Illustration of Christine Blasey-Ford testifying before Congress, by Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

Zella Lezak

Zella Lezak

Illustration of Christine Blasey-Ford testifying before Congress, by Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

Zella Lezak, Staff Writer

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“[The #MeToo movement] started a conversation,” said Shafia Zaloom, Urban Health Teacher. “I think that it is a great example of how social media can be used in constructive and productive ways to create a sense of solidarity amongst people who before may have been silenced.” 2018 was filled with many key events for the #MeToo Movement, from the arrest of Bill Cosby—the first celebrity to be sentenced to prison during the #MeToo movement on charges of sexual assault—to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after sexual misconduct allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Where is the movement headed nationally and at Urban? How far have we really come in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault?

In 2016, the New York Times asked 48 state legislative chambers if they had discussed sexual harassment laws and policies in training, and only 28 chambers said “Yes.” According to The Guardian, 94 percent of women in Hollywood have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment. According to Belle Davis ‘19, these two areas—Hollywood and politics—have clear parallels between them. “The #MeToo movement, for me, is the surface manifestation of the most [visible] parts of sexual abuse that permeates the most [visible] parts of our society, like politics and the entertainment industry,” Davis said.

Bill Cosby is the first celebrity of the #MeToo era who has been convicted of sexual assault; he was sentenced to three to ten years in prison. While Cosby’s arrest was a defining development in the #MeToo movement, not all are convinced that it was such a development.

“For what that man did, for all of the people he assaulted, he should be in there for multiple life sentences,” Davis said.

Cosby is not the only celebrity to be imprisoned because of sexual misconduct in 2018. Harvey Weinstein was also arrested with a case against him that was further magnified because of the #MeToo movement. More than 80 women spoke out against Harvey Weinstein. 11th and 12th Grade Dean and Urban History Teacher Charisse Wu described why she thought that the case of survivors of sexual misconduct perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein received a lot of sympathy.

“There’s greater sympathy that came about in the particular case of survivors of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein. I think the fact that [there were] multiple voices speaking out together… That [Weinstein’s perpetrations were] not individual cases that are being privately mishandled behind human resources department. That it’s collective. That it was public,” Wu said. Wu’s logic is that it can be easier to have sympathy for a case of sexual misconduct if that case consists of multiple voices banded together.

When the President of the United States has been accused of sexual misconduct, it is difficult not to discuss the #MeToo Movement in politics. President Trump’s handling of his comments about committing acts of sexual violence against women has created a tactic for accused men when it comes to dismissing allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Wu described how she saw a connection between President Trump’s behavior and the behavior of Brett Kavanaugh, while on the stand before he was nominated as a supreme court justice. “I thought that the way that he handled himself during that trial, I found to be out of the Trump era playbook. To show blatant disregard for the person challenging you and unfiltered emotional outrage is actually a tactic that has proven effective in the media spotlight. It introduced doubt or perhaps blame on Dr. Blasey Ford,” Wu said.

After the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, Urban’s Students for Women’s Equality and Rights affinity space (SWEAR) had a meeting to discuss and debrief the emotions that the testimony brought about. Renée Theodore ‘19, a co-leader of SWEAR discussed her personal reactions to the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford.

“I think that what happened with Kavanaugh was a very public and widespread way of the government and men in America saying that they don’t care. I think that that was the hardest part for me, watching this well-composed, intelligent, hard-working woman with this impassioned well-thought-out speech. To know that she could be taken down by some over-emotional man who can just yell—and that’s enough,” Theodore said.

Developments in the fight to prevent sexual misconduct include a new law that is being ratified in the state of New York. According to NPR, all existing employees in New York must undergo sexual harassment training before Oct. 9, 2019. On the national level, The House Ethics Committee called for a resolution to change the system for reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Yet, there are clear gaps in the laws being pushed forward and the reality of sexual misconduct. This is evident by the fact that even after the impassioned speech from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh was still confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

For Crosby Tatham ‘19, another co-leader of SWEAR, the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, while painful for her, inspired her to have a conversation with her conservative grandmother.

“It actually opened this whole conversation up with me and my grandma about her life and experiences with sexual assault and violence,” Tatham said. “Born out of the news surrounding Dr. Blasey Ford and the #MeToo movement, we were able to connect deeply and intimately about experiences that I had never known about and experiences that we shared. These conversations that I had in my family, community, and in SWEAR are never going away.”

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