By Dharaa Rathi
When Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo in October of last year, Hollywood had no idea what it was in for. Harvey Weinstein, a famed and formerly respected film producer, had been exposed by The New Yorker as a sexual harasser. Dozens of women spoke out about their experiences of Weinstein’s abuse, and according to The Economist, over 15 million women have since used social media to show solidarity through one hashtag: #MeToo. It’s been a year since, and the world has seen hundreds of powerful men in business, politics, and entertainment accused of sexual assault. But has #MeToo made a difference?
The news is littered with stories of powerful men resigning due to sexual assault allegations, from Les Moonves of CBS to Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts. However, whether company cultures will change at the same rate remains unknown. According to the American Psychological Association, just less than a third of Americans surveyed said their employer had done anything new to address sexual harassment in the workplace since the beginning of #MeToo. In February, Emily Chang’s Brotopia revealed Silicon Valley “networking” parties filled with stories of sexual harassment and abuses of power by male venture capitalists, so it’s doubtful that this culture has changed. And just recently, it was discovered that Alphabet had kept sexual assault allegations against three of its employees hidden from the public. These men didn’t face repercussions, and neither did employees of other companies with lax sexual harassment policies.
One year later, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford rocked the political realm with allegations that Judge Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school. Public outcry and Democratic denunciation of Judge Kavanaugh prompted Dr. Ford, a research psychologist at Stanford University, to testify publicly in front of the Senate’s Judiciary committee. This was not a criminal investigation, nor a pause in the proceedings to confirm Judge Kavanaugh; it was simply a witness at a job interview for the Supreme Court that had no legal ramifications for the judge.
At this point, the gory details of the hearings have been well publicized. From Dr. Ford’s anxious, heartbroken testimony of assault at 16 years old, to Judge Kavanaugh’s impassioned defense of his credibility, integrity, and love for beer, the ups and downs of this trial were astonishing. The Supreme Court will never be viewed the same after the narrowest confirmation (51-48) of a Justice since its inception. That said, Justice Kavanaugh is now a sitting member of the Supreme Court, and will be for the rest of his life, even after the chaos that he argues has shattered his reputation. So, what does this mean moving forward?
The fact is, even if Justice Kavanaugh was falsely accused (according to a study by the FBI conducted in 2017, only 5% of rape allegations were “false or baseless”), most Republican members of Congress did not want to dedicate time to pursuing the truth, automatically defending Kavanaugh’s innocence throughout the trial without questioning him about the incident at all. They unflinchingly continued to support Kavanaugh and didn’t push for a larger federal criminal investigation aside from the bare minimum of a 1-week inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the end, there were no further delays in confirming Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
An article from The Economist asserts that although efforts towards greater equality for women in business have been made, “until the barriers that stop women from having an equal stab at reaching the top are cleared away, #MeToo will struggle to succeed.” Quite frankly, Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to one of the highest seats of power both in business and government sends the unequivocal message that women in America still have many barriers to overcome, that #MeToo may not be as powerful as we think. No matter how many women come forward (three, in the case of Kavanaugh), if a man’s reputation or access to power is at stake, the protection and trust in women will always be undermined. The decades of cover-ups for Harvey Weinstein, and the blind eye Alphabet turned to their employees add to this theory, and continue to keep women from fearful to protect themselves. The barriers women face when gaining equal rights and equal power in business continue to exist regardless of #MeToo. History has shown that men can abuse their own power and their female counterparts without facing true consequences, and the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh and simultaneous defamation of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford proves it.