-Arsha Mech Vikraman, I Year B.A. English
Unless you have been living under a rock for quite a while, you would most probably have seen the hashtag #MeToo everywhere on Facebook and other social media platforms. This viral trend has been spreading the word about men and women who, at some point in their lives, have been victims of any kind of sexual harassment/abuse.
It all started with the great tycoon of the Hollywood film industry, Harvey Weinstein. Thanks to articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker, the world came to know about what seemed to be decades worth of abuse swept under the rug, thanks to his power and influence in the industry. Several actresses such as Lena Headey, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan have come out with their stories of how Weinstein had sexually harassed them multiple times. Weinstein’s team is still on the lookout for those speaking out against him and are reaching financial settlements. In fact, some women, by merely speaking out, have violated the terms of many Non-Disclosure Agreements signed between them. Ever since Weinstein, however, there has been a domino effect created in the Hollywood film industry as several high profile actors, moguls, etc. are being called out.
Kevin Spacey is one of the more recent high profile personalities who has been accused of sexual abuse by Anthony Rapp, who was abused when he was just 14. Now, even crew members of the Netflix series ‘House of Cards’ have come out with their accusations, including employees of the Old Vic Theatre in England where Spacey was the Artistic Director for a long time.
Since then, there have been several findings in these cases in the media. Not just in the film industry, but in almost every entertainment industry. The fashion industry just faced one recently. Terry Richardson (for those who don’t who he is, he’s the director of the Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ video), a very famous fashion photographer, was recently plagued with several accusations claiming that he had been sexually assaulting the models who worked for him. Vogue Magazine has banned him from working with them. Supermodels like Cameron Russell and Edie Campbell took to Instagram where they posted numerous anonymous confessions from models about what happens in the industry. The music industry has also been plagued with such scandals for several years.
The emergence of this trend does make you question something. What is the criteria taken into consideration when someone crosses a line? Can we just classify a mistaken touch as a basis for sexual assault? No, but all over the world we see cases where, despite the men or women having crossed a line, the victim is unable to stop them. Asia Argento confessed that initially Weinstein did force himself on her, but later, she did have a consensual relationship with him only because she was afraid he would ruin her career. All these accusations may have cost Weinstein, Spacey and the others many important positions. Weinstein has been fired from his own company and Spacey who was due to receive an honorary Emmy award, will not receive it now and has been fired from a Ridley Scott movie that is due for release next month. These consequences may seem dire in their cases but does it really make a difference?
Roman Polanski, a convicted child molester, who has been accused several times of raping underage girls has never denied it and openly says that they wanted to sleep with him and that everything that occurred was consensual. The same Roman Polanski is still regarded worldwide for his work (Rosemary’s Baby), and was recently honoured in France for one of his recent films. Woody Allen, who was accused by his own adopted daughter of sexual assault (and in a bizarre turn of events, married his other step-daughter), still continues to put out movies and is admired in the industry. A more recent example would be Casey Affleck – a man who was accused of sexual assault by a woman who was working on the same set as him, but went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. I must admit, his performance was great, but it brought forth this question – did the Oscars overlook a person’s wrongdoings against others just because he was doing a great job in his/her respective field?
Whether you have joined the cause simply to support the thousands of women and men who finally have the courage to come forward, or because you wanted in on the hype, we must accept that the old order is crumbling. Many people have also come forward and said that they knew about these people, but why didn’t they say anything then and help prevent what has happened to many women and men across the world? Why do we dismiss our own experiences as a figment of our imagination? You do have the power, all you have to do is use it. Don’t hide it, don’t keep it bottled up only for it to affect many who come after you. Speak up.