A survey taken by professionals in the film and television industry finds that employees still face harassment five years after the #MeToo Movement. The movement was a watershed moment in pop culture spurred on by two New York Times reporters, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who helped expose producer Harvey Weinstein of the decades of sexual and psychological abuse he perpetrated against women in the industry. Ultimately this led to Weinstein’s indictment on 11 sexual assault charges and a 23-year prison sentence.
The #MeToo movement encouraged women and men to come forward with allegations against others in the industry who have sexually harassed or abused them. Often the abusers were powerful enough to be protected by studios willing to sweep their behavior under the rug, settle with victims out of court, or were enabled by other systems of complicity surrounding them, using assistants and other employees to help minimize or hide their actions. Many high-profile people have been called out in the wake of the movement, like Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Armie Hammer, and Bryan Singer. However, #MeToo was not exclusive to the film industry, with allegations against authors, musicians, politicians, news anchors, athletes, and the President of the United States. The movement has also created an unfortunate backlash, with embattled celebrities like Johnny Depp deriding the rise of “cancel culture” and claiming that anyone can be accused, despite the validity of the accusations.
A new survey by the advocacy group Women in Film was conducted to see how and if harassment has changed in the industry five years since #MeToo. According to THR, the survey found that 70 percent of respondents found the culture around abuse, harassment, and misconduct has “improved somewhat.” Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported personally experiencing abuse or misconduct in the last five years, and 30.9 percent said misconduct or abuse happened to someone they know. The survey was conducted among current and former industry employees, and the responses were predominantly from women. 29 percent of respondents identified as people of color, and 55 percent said they experienced misconduct or abuse in the last five years.
Despite Little Change, #MeToo Is Still Critical
While #MeToo diminished the career of Kevin Spacey and a few other abusers, there are areas where harassment is still rampant, female composers citing that the movement barely made a dent on their part of the industry. This doesn’t lessen the impact that #MeToo had and continues to have. It opened the door for victims of abuse to be able to step forward and lent credence to their words and power to their voices. In many cases, it was a significant stepping stone to shifting outdated ideas and ending decades of silence. But #MeToo was only a beginning, not an end. Women in the industry are still being warned by their unions that reporting misconduct could damage their careers.
It’s essential that culturally the actions and words of sexual abusers and bullies continue to be called out, whether in Hollywood or any other industry. Making films like She Said or Barbarian to continue bringing attention to the issue could be a vital component. Actual change can’t happen overnight, and it has to be continually worked at, shifting incrementally until systems that continue to protect abusers changes on fundamental levels. Whether or not the abusers face accountability is another matter, as often their punishments are superficial at best, but the #MeToo movement has made it a goal worth striving for.