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.
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In the year that has passed since the first women came forward to tell The New Yorker and the New York Times our stories of harassment, rape, assault, and career derailment at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, the country has begun to change, albeit slowly. For one thing, women are no longer quite as afraid to come forward with our truth. A dam has burst: Women began telling their stories—the first lending momentum to those that came after — and we haven’t stopped, with stories of harassment and assault coming, not just from Hollywood, but from academia, from the art world, from domestic and farm workers. In the past couple of weeks, we have heard, from three separate women so far, deeply upsetting accounts of sexual assault and misconduct allegedly perpetrated by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — including groping and covering a woman’s mouth to prevent her from screaming, exposing himself, and watching a gang rape— and we are immediately taken back to the days of Anita Hill. How could that have been almost 30 years ago, and yet here we are again, in nearly the same place as a culture? Women are angry, so angry — on behalf of ourselves and our sisters — and we simply refuse to suffer in silence anymore.
It’s not like we haven’t seen some progress. In the past year, the entertainment industry, long a bastion of patriarchy, has begun to inch toward greater gender parity. In 2017, women made up only 8% of all directors, 2% of all cinematographers, and 14% of editors in the 100 top-grossing films. Although the numbers from 2018 are not out yet, Deadline Hollywood has reported that 14 of 42 television drama pilots ordered by this spring are directed by women. (Last year, abysmally, there was only one.) Many of my actress colleagues are demanding producer credits. You can sense the hunger for female-driven narratives created by women writers and directors, brought to life by female actors. And bad behavior — from lewd jokes to casting couch antics — is no longer being tolerated on set. These are all positive developments.
I lost some important years, and I’m still working to rebuild my career.
But not all of us are seeing these changes. Some who came forward are still on the sidelines, shunned for having the audacity to be honest. How dare we? The truth is scary to people, even when they pay lip service to change. I am a survivor. So are the other women who came forward. We cannot shake the memories, the fear. I can only turn to therapy and deal with the demons that continue to haunt me. Harvey Weinstein destroyed so many women I know. We are forever linked by that.
Though I was not raped by Weinstein, as some of my sisters allegedly were, I was still assaulted and harassed. When I arrived at the Beverly Hills Hotel to meet him for dinner, and was sent upstairs to pick up a revised version of a script of a film I was supposed to star in, he opened the door wearing a bathrobe. First he put his hand on his neck, saying it was sore and that he needed a massage. I told him I could recommend a good masseuse. Then he grabbed my hand and put it on his neck; I yanked it away. He grabbed it again, and tried to put it on his erect penis. I yanked it away again. He threatened me, told me that I was making “a very big mistake” by rejecting him, named a famous actress and model, and said, “Look what I did for them.” I told him, “I’ll never be that girl.” As Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker, I was also spied on by Weinstein’s team of ex-Mossad agents. I was blackballed and gossiped about in my industry. One very famous director told me, twice, that he wanted to work with me but had been talked out of it. (Recently, when I saw him and asked him to tell that story publicly, he got nervous and flustered, then backtracked and said he didn’t remember saying it.) I lost some important years, and I’m still working to rebuild my career.
But that is the past. This is what I can do now: I will not live in fear anymore. What I can do now is speak most passionately for those without a voice. There are women and children who are still afraid to speak, even in the smallest whisper. Often these are poor women, disenfranchised women, women of color. I want to help them. There are always people waiting to discount survivors, to malign their credibility — just as they are doing now with Dr. Blasey Ford. But women know the truth. It might not set us free — we might still be plagued by the memories of what happened to us, but it emboldens us to speak on behalf of those who cannot risk speaking for themselves. Those of us with power and privilege can still use our voices. We can stamp out the naysayers and the increasingly vociferous backlash. We can make our efforts about others, not about us.
Because this isn’t just about Hollywood. Ask almost any woman — whether a law clerk, a waitress, a housewife, a secretary, or a film star — and she will tell you that where there is power, there is sexual harassment, aggression, assault, and rape. Sexual assault is not about sex; it is about power. Women in all industries have been made to feel powerless.
It’s important to note that because abuse stems from a power differential, it is not always men who abuse women. It runs the other way as well. And abuse often begets abuse. While the vast majority of those who have suffered abuse never go on to abuse anyone, many do. Young people who are sexually abused are five times more likely to commit crimes. We know that those who do not heal their trauma will often make unhealthy choices, engaging in drug and alcohol use and unsafe sexual behavior. Many are truly broken inside, and act out in ways that are destructive to themselves and others. I have seen this firsthand with people close to me in my life. Damaged people often inflict damage. The line between victim and perpetrator is often murky and precariously fine.
There is rage — outrage, really —simmering just beneath the surface among all the women I know.
What I want to ask is that we step back as a society and have compassion for all victims who have suffered abuse. As Elizabeth Bruening wrote in The Washington Post in August, “[T]aking a wide, historical view of sexual abuse in society helps make sense of these morally confusing situations, in which an abuser is or may also be abused. The point is that these crimes appear to beget one another over time, and to sometimes inspire cultures of tolerance and protection in which they can be replicated.” I ask that we take this wide historical view. According to the National Center for the Victims of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys have been a victim of sexual abuse, and roughly 20% of adult women and 5 to 10% of adult men self-report childhood sexual assault or abuse. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped during their lifetime. Someone in America is assaulted every 98 seconds. This is an epidemic of vast proportions, and while sexual abuse and assault happens far, far more often to women, it also happens to boys and men.
My hope is that we can start to come from a place of compassion. Not to condone horrible behavior — not at all — but to understand where it often comes from, how it happens, how it festers. We must come to a more nuanced view. I think about Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis CK, and I wonder: What happened in their lives that we ended up here? While certainly some of the alleged behavior, like Kavanaugh’s, stems from a culture of toxic masculinity, in which young men are encouraged to drink heavily, mistreat women, and brag to other men about their sexual adventures, I also know that many of the men we have read about have suffered abuse. What happened to them as children? What kind of abuse did they suffer that has made them abuse women? They deserve to be punished for their actions, but we must also understand where those actions come from. This is how we begin to break the cycle of abuse that is bigger than all of us, the ramifications of which are so unbelievably destructive.
This is not a witch hunt, as some people say — as has become quite popular to say right now, as the waves of backlash start to swell. The Me Too Movement, first started by Tarana Burke and carried on by so many women who spoke up last fall, is the uncovering of years of people protecting sick individuals who truly have destroyed souls. We’re also not talking about some idiot pinching an ass or saying they want to fuck you in the ‘8os. I have no interest in calling out an 80-year-old out who behaved in keeping with the times, not knowing any better. This is about rape, assault, abuse, and serious and systematic harassment. Some of the men (and most are men) are our artistic heroes. We can’t believe they would do this, and so society has defended them. But their actions will no longer remain hidden in the dark. Behind the suits (and sometimes, too, the skirts) of power, in our industry and beyond, there is truly abusive behavior.
Now it’s all coming to the surface. Now we are witnessing a paradigm shift. This is not a bunch of women screaming rape, as some have characterized it. Women have been raped and abused and harassed and locked in sorrow and trauma and punished for it for years. They have been called crazy. But we won’t be called crazy anymore. There is rage — outrage, really —simmering just beneath the surface among all the women I know.
What needs to happen now? We will continue to voice our collective rage at a society that is changing, but only incrementally, in fits and starts. We don’t need to hear excuses from a bunch of defensive men. Where are the men with integrity and class and strength and grace? Step up. Come forward. Say, “This isn’t okay, and we stand with you to change our very damaged culture.” Be strong enough to stand with women. Because this isn’t going away. You can’t beat us. Not anymore. You’d better join us. In a sense, the Me Too Movement — this beautiful outpouring of female stories, women telling their truth and opening the way for subsequent women to tell theirs — has transcended the realm of the individual, the lone victim, the many solo women speaking alongside each other to become a collective chorus of men and women alike. Perhaps in the future we can say, to borrow a term from my friend Dr. Astrid Heger, who works with victims of sexual violence and abuse, “We Too.” We too.
Rosanna Arquette is a BAFTA winner, Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress, film producer and film director. Iconic film roles include, After Hours, Desperately Seeking Susan, Pulp Fiction, and Crash. She can now be seen in the YouTube Originals series, Sideswiped, and starring in the upcoming motion pictures The Etruscan Smile with Brian Cox and Puppy Love.
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).