It’s been one year since the New York Times and New Yorker investigation into the sexual misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein unleashed the #MeToo movement and a courageous fury over the ways women are mistreated. We look back at the movement that has completely reshaped the way we think of men, women, sex, and power.
Where were you on Thursday, October 5, 2017, the day it all started? We were at our desks, driving carpools, scrolling through emails on the train. We heard buzz swarming around a New York Times story. We knew it was big. We didn't know how big. In the Times story, reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey converted years of brushed-away rumours into an on-the-record reveal: Mega-influential Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had allegedly been systematically sexually harassing and sexually assaulting women for decades, including many of your favourite actresses. (Weinstein continues to deny the allegations, insisting the encounters were consensual.)
The exposé and the outpouring of stories that followed on Twitter and beyond — now known as the #MeToo movement, inspired by activist Tarana Burke’s coining of the phrase in 2006 — forced a conversation about the intersection of gender and power. When spoken in the booming collective, women's voices became too loud to dismiss. People started talking about their painful experiences with sexual harassment, sexual assault, and everyday, casual sexism. One year on, and we're still listening.
The #MeToo movement has affected public discourse and had tangible repercussions in workplaces in every arena. It has resulted in palpable changes: CEOs ousted, candidates defeated, public figures disgraced. Most recently, we saw a televised, quasi-job interview in which a prospective Supreme Court judge's past alleged incident of sexual misconduct was brought against him. Weinstein’s downfall was the catalyst we needed, but the women’s movement had been gaining momentum earlier in 2017, beginning with the Women’s March and bleeding into the ousting of powerful men. These are the most significant events that mark the radical shift in our cultural outlook regarding sexual misconduct, power dynamics, and the strength of women’s words.
2006: Activist Tarana Burke founds the nonprofit organisation Just Be Inc., which serves survivors of sexual harassment and abuse. Burke calls her nonprofit’s movement “Me Too.” The phrase came to Burke in 1997 after she heard a 13-year-old sexual abuse survivor share her story during a youth camp. “I didn’t have a response or a way to help her in that moment, and I couldn’t even say ‘me too,’” Burke told the New York Times.
January 21, 2017: On the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency, millions of people participate in the Women’s March on Washington to support gender equality and civil rights. While the March is based in Washington, D.C., there are other protests in cities around the world. The Women’s March on Washington is believed to be the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history.
February 19, 2017: Uber employee Susan Fowler publishes a 3,000 word essay about her “very, very strange” year at Uber, in which she describes a toxic workplace culture where sexual harassment and misconduct occurred frequently. The essay leads to the resignation of Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick and the firing of 20 other employees who allegedly contributed to the company culture. Even before the #MeToo movement begins, other Silicon Valley companies see the ousting of CEOs following similar charges.
April 1, 2017: An explosive New York Times article details five women’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. After the article, advertisers begin to drop the O’Reilly Factor. President Donald Trump defends O’Reilly, saying he didn’t think “Bill did anything wrong.” Pressure mounts, and O’Reilly is eventually ousted from his position on April 17. O’Reilly denies the allegations, calling it a “political and financial hit job.”
October 6, 2015: Almost precisely two years before she was quoted in the Times exposé, Ashley Judd writes an essay in Variety detailing being sexually harassed by a then-unnamed media boss in a hotel room, who she now says was Harvey Weinstein.
October 5, 2017: Along with other actresses and former Weinstein Company employees, Ashley Judd accuses Weinstein of sexual harassment — this time, on the record — in Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey's incriminating New York Times story. In the aftermath, Weinstein publishes a public apology, the first of many public apologies the year would hold. The first sentence of Weinstein’s statement attributed his behaviour to growing up in “the ‘60s and ‘70s, when all the rules about workplace and behaviour were different,” and insisted the encounters were consensual. In the ensuing days, over 100 women would could come forward with allegations against Weinstein.
October 10, 2017: In a New Yorker article by Ronan Farrow, 13 more women describe sexual harassment or assault at the hands of Weinstein. Farrow would then follow up his reporting with another New Yorker story published on November 6, in which he detailed how Weinstein allegedly used ex-Mossad agents to spy on women he feared would publicly condemn him for his alleged actions.
October 16, 2017: The #MeToo hashtag movement is born on Twitter after Alyssa Milano encourages people to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse in order to illustrate the near universality of the problem. #MeToo quickly becomes an international phenomenon, with women different countries translating the hashtag or creating their own. In France, “#BalanceTonPorc”, meaning “rat out your pig,” goes viral; in the Arab world, “#Ana_kaman,” translating to “me too,” is used millions of times.
October 19, 2017: Repercussions of the #MeToo movement begin to affect many industries. On October 19, Lockhart Steele, Vox Media’s editorial director, is fired for sexual harassment. Within this week alone, sexual misconduct allegations are raised against restaurateur John Besh, director James Toback, fashion photographer Terry Richardson, Artforum publisher Knight Landesman, and journalist Mark Halperin. The list continues to grow: According to an in-depth infographic by Vox, over 200 celebrities, CEOs, and politicians have been accused of sexual misconduct.
October 29, 2017: Anthony Rapp tells BuzzFeed News that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance at him when he was 14. In response to Rapp’s story about underage advances, Spacey announces he is gay, and claims he does not remember his encounter with Rapp. “But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey writes. In the ensuing days and months, many more men would come forward with allegations. As of July 2018, there are six open sexual assault cases against Spacey in the U.K. Spacey is currently in rehab for sex addiction.
November 8, 2017: A month before All the Money in the World is set to premiere, director Ridley Scott reshoots all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer, erasing Spacey (who played J.P. Getty) from the film. Plummer racks up a third Best Supporting Actor nomination as a result. It later emerges that Michelle Williams was paid for $1,000 for reshoots, while her co-star Mark Wahlberg walked away with $1.5 million, spurring another conversation about equal pay and gender parity.
November 9, 2017: Comedian Louis C.K. is accused by five women of sexual misconduct. The next day, C.K. confirms the reports. The movie I Love You, Daddy, which C.K. directed, was scheduled to premiere on November 17, but instead is dropped by the distribution company. C.K. buys the film's rights back.
December 13, 2017: Roy Moore is defeated by democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama special election. The #MeToo movement was credited for giving women a safe space to come forward and influence the election. This is the first time an Alabama Democrat won a seat in the Senate in 25 years.
January 1, 2018: Time's Up, an initiative spearheaded by 300 women working film, TV, and theatre, is announced with an open letter in the New York Times and in the Spanish language newspaper La Opinion. The Time's Up Legal Defence Fund is aimed at supporting the sexual assault and harassment cases of less-privileged individuals.
January 7, 2018: The #MeToo and Time's Up movements are present at the Golden Globe awards. Actors and actresses participate in a red carpet "blackout" by wearing black gowns and Time's Up pins. The event’s proceedings are heavily coloured by the atmosphere in Hollywood. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, Oprah Winfrey praises the women who came forward with their stories. "For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up," Winfrey said. Awards go to works that depict strong women, like Big Little Lies and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
January 10, 2018: Writer Moira Donegan comes forward as the creator of the Shitty Media Men list, an anonymous Google spreadsheet dating back to October that allowed people to collate rumors and incidents of sexual misconduct regarding men in media, after Donegan learns Harper’s Magazine planned to dox her identity in an article. About 70 men were accused in total. The Harper’s article runs in the March 2018 issue, and indeed names Donegan as the list’s creator.
January 11, 2018: Five women accuse James Franco of inappropriate behavior in an article in the L.A. Times. The first allegation comes days before on the evening of the Golden Globes, when actress Violet Paley tweets her experiences with Franco. James Franco responds to allegations on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing and I support it,” Franco says. Franco wins a Golden Globe for his role in The Disaster Artist, but is ignored by the Academy Awards.
January 14, 2018: In an article on Babe.net, a photographer who went by the alias “Grace” recalls a murky sexual experience with comedian Aziz Ansari, spurring a conversation about the role of consent in typical, quotidien sexual encounters. The next day, Ansari responds that he took Way’s “words to heart” and that he “continues to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
February 3, 2018: In a New York Times article, Uma Thurman recalls the time Harvey Weinstein allegedly forced himself on her in a London hotel room. Thurman also recounts a harrowing near-death experience on the set of Kill Bill, claiming that director Quentin Tarantino coerced her to do a dangerous stunt. In an interview with Deadline, Tarantino called the crash “one of the biggest regrets” of his life.
March 4, 2018: The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements come to the Oscars. During a dedicated segment, Annabella Sciorra, Ashley Judd, and Salma Hayek, three of Weinstein’s many accusers, spoke of the movements and the changes they hope to see take place in Hollywood and beyond. “We salute those unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through the bias perception against their gender, race, and ethnicity to tell their stories,”Hayek says. After winning Best Actress for her work in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand ends the Oscars with an incendiary call-to-arms masquerading as an acceptance speech. “Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight; invite us into your office in a couple days — or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best — and we’ll tell you all about them,” McDormand says. She also introduces the world to inclusion riders.
April 30, 2018: R. Kelly’s Chicago concert is cancelled. Other shows, including one in New York, are cancelled. Despite a July 2017 Buzzfeed article that exposed R. Kelly’s “sex cult,” Kelly’s career had remained relatively unaffected by allegations until 2018. The women’s movement allowed the #MuteRKelly movement, started by Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, to gain traction. “We're calling for a complete and total mute. We don't want to hear him on the radio. We do not want him on streaming services. We do not want him booked at concerts. We want the collective society to erase him from our consciousness. So that he can no longer be insulated from the consequences of his crime,” explained movement founder Odeleye to NPR. On May 10, the music streaming service Spotify removes Kelly from its playlist and algorithmic recommendations as part of its Hate and Hateful Conduct policy, but reverses the policy in June.
May 4, 2018: Writer Zinzi Clemmons claims that writer Junot Díaz forcibly kissed her at a workshop. Other women writers follow suit, accusing Díaz of verbal assault and misogyny. The month prior, Díaz had come forward with his own experiences of childhood sexual assault in a New Yorker essay. Díaz denies the allegations.
June 25, 2018: A study by New York-based crisis consulting firm Temin & Co demonstrates the breadth of the #MeToo movement’s impact. The study finds at least 417 high-profile executives and employees were outed by the movement over the course of the past 18 months. The accusations spiked after the Weinstein exposé. The statistics were telling: All but seven of the 417 were men, and only 8 were in a consensual relationships with their accusers. The report says 193 have resigned or been fired, 122 suspended, and 69 haven’t been impacted.
August 6, 2018: Ronan Farrow releases yet another bombshell piece in The New Yorker, this time detailing six allegations of sexual misconduct against CBS CEO Les Moonves. On September 9, Moonves stepped down as CEO. after six more women levelled allegations against him. Moonves claims he will donte $20 million to organizations that support #MeToo.
August 19, 2018: Asia Argento, one of the first women to come forward against Harvey Weinstein, is accused of sexually assaulting and then paying off her former co-star Jimmy Bennett. The altercation allegedly took place in 2013, when Argento was 37 and Bennett was 17. "Sexual violence is about power and privilege. That doesn't change if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender,” tweeted Tarana Burke of the incident.
August 28, 2018: Louis C.K. comes back to public life with his a surprise stand-up set at the Comedy Cellar. The audience had a mixed reaction — some applauded, others left the theater. The reaction on the internet was similarly muddled, with some comedians like Michael Che and Michael Ian Black commending his return and others, like Aparna Nancherla, expressing dismay. Following the controversy, the Cellar instituted the following disclaimer on tickets: “If an unannounced appearance is not your cup of tea, you are free to leave (unobtrusively please) no questions asked, your check on the house.”
Sept. 16, 2018: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is revealed as the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school in Bethesda, MD. Allegedly, Kavanaugh held Ford down on a bed, smothered her screams with his hand, and attempted to force himself on her. Ford was able to escape. Ford is the first of at least three women to come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, including Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.
September 25, 2018: Bill Cosby is sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault. Cosby’s is the first celebrity conviction since the #MeToo movement began. Comedian Hannibal Buress first mentioned Cosby’s alleged actions during a 2014 comedy set, prompting the public to reconsider the once-beloved comic’s treatment of women — and giving Cosby’s accusers space to come forward before the #MeToo movement.
September 27, 2018: The country is captivated watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate. More than 20 million people tune into the hearing. The Senate vote that will determine whether Kavanaugh will become a Supreme Court Justice is set to occur after the one-week FBI background investigation takes place.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).