The #MeToo movement was started by Tarana Burke. Many women around the world are able to come together with their stories of sexual harassment. Photo Credit: surdumihail

By Cameron Dalton

The #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment experienced a major symbolic victory last month with the sentencing of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, owner of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company. On March 11, 2020, Weinstein, 67, was sentenced to 23 years in a New York state prison for rape and assault charges. His sentencing is also a victory for his victims.

Tarana Burke is the woman who started the #MeToo Movement. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement as a way to give survivors of sexual abuse a platform and to let them know that they were not alone. Weinstein’s case breathed life into the movement. Dozens of women, many of them celebrities, accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, sexual favors, violence, and rape.

The initial reports of the Weinstein case happened back in October 2017. Actresses from Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento, Lucia Stoller, Romola Garai, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie came forward to express similar experiences with Weinstein. Each actress recounted a history of assault and harassment regarding their time with Weinstein. With a string of allegations, Weinstein issued an apology to those he hurt. Later, he was forced out of his company.

According to Daniel Arkin, Adam Reiss, Erica Byfield and Daniella Silva from NBC News, “The flood of allegations against Weinstein, first reported in October 2017 by investigative journalists at The New York Times and The New Yorker, fueled the global reckoning over sexual misconduct by powerful men in entertainment, the news media, finance, and other high-profile industries.”

An article from BBC.com states, “Among the accusations are that he forced women to massage him and watch him naked. He also promised to help advance their careers in return for sexual favors.” Weinstein was charged with using his position to take advantage of up-and-coming actresses.

Harvey Weinstein. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Weinstein’s career took the plunge. He became persona non grata in Hollywood. Many awards given to him were stripped away or redacted. According to BBC.Com (2020), the British Film Institute (BFI) decided to withdraw a fellowship Weinstein had been award in 2002. Weinstein was blacklisted by the Producers Guild of America. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts no longer wanted to work with him, and The Weinstein Company went bankrupt.

The consequences were massive. New York prosecutors filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein Company for its inability to protect victims from Weinstein’s abuse. Weinstein’s legal team tried to mitigate the situation. His lawyer conceded that Weinstein’s behavior was ”not without fault’ but claimed there was ”no criminality.” Weinstein denied having done anything criminal and that the accusations were false. Daniel Arkin et al. of NBC News write, “Weinstein was sentenced to 20 years for a criminal sexual act in the first degree and three years for rape in the third degree to be served consecutively for assaulting two women in New York. He was also sentenced to 10 years of post-release supervision for both charges.”

Speaking before his sentencing, as reported by NBC’s Arkin et al., Weinstein said that he had “no great power” in the film industry and couldn’t “blackball anyone.” Arkin et al. report, “He said he believed he had legitimate relationships with his accusers. He added that he had not seen his children since the first article was published about the allegations against him, which he described as ‘hell on earth’.” It has been reported that he had suffered a heart attack before going to prison.

2018 Women’s March in Seattle, Washington. Photo Credit: Cindy Shebley

Weinstein is a great example of a new concept called “cancel culture” and the effects it can have on one’s life and career. Logan Mahan from Insidehook.com states, “Cancel Culture is a form of a boycott in which someone, typically a celeb, has shared a questionable opinion, or again, has had problematic behavior called out on social media. That person is then ‘canceled’, which essentially means they’re boycotted by a large number of people, sometimes leading to massive declines in the person’s fanbase and career.” Canceling someone could be perceived as a good thing or a bad thing: good because it allows people to be held accountable for their actions when they do something damaging to others. It could be bad because people might exploit the concept to ruin the lives of people who do not deserve such treatment.

However, in this case, a New York jury decided that Weinstein should not get away with exploiting others because of his position. Weinstein was a man that had a history of using his power to hurt others. Hopefully, his victims will now be able to rest easy, knowing that justice was achieved.

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