The short answer is no.
I’ve refrained from writing about #MeToo and Time’s Up on this blog for a couple of reasons. The first – there’s not much I can add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said by others who have already written some incredible pieces on the movement. Secondly – I think it’s important that survivors are granted a voice in this movement over those of us who write about it. Finally – I’ve been working in the film and tv industry for the last 5 years and I’ve been a witness to the pervasive toxic culture which allows these sort of things to happen. I consider myself lucky to have worked for companies which have, by all accounts, been supportive and safe environments for women to work in. However, I have seen many things that have disturbed me – senior-level women being forced out of roles in favour of younger inexperienced men being just one of these.
After the #MeToo movement became popularised in November last year (let’s not forget it was started twelve years ago by Tarana Burke as an activist group for victims of sexual violence) I found myself having multiple conversations with my female colleagues – often in the office kitchen – about times in their careers where they had been put in uncomfortable positions, and far worse. It opened up a dialogue between us that had not been there before, women talking to other women who are relative strangers sharing only a desk, about deeply personal moments in their lives.
I felt some unity at that point. I also felt slightly hopeful: if we can steer this conversation into these spaces – on sets, in production offices, at awards ceremonies – then perhaps the culture will begin to change. Perpetrators will realise that this behaviour will not be tolerated and comes with consequences, and those working their way up into a hard (and sometimes brutal) industry will know that they do not have to put up with whatever is thrown at them. It’s not just ‘how it is’.
But then the backlash started. ‘Has #MeToo gone too far?’ Phrases like witch-hunt were thrown around. ‘I can’t even smile at a woman the office anymore?’ Tides of journalists wrote articles expressing how they were upset that their innocent flirtations were being tarred with the same brush as sexual abusers. Those commenting on the Westminster situation argued that a hand on the knee was so far from any sort of ‘serious’ sexual assault that it was insulting to ‘real victims’. Thank goodness we had Jo Brand – hero and saviour – to step in and explain that it’s not just one hand on one knee. It’s a constant barrage of objectification and unwanted attention that never ends. It’s a culture not an individual. For me, that’s what #MeToo proved above all else. There is a culture of sexual violence, abuse and harassment that is prevalent no matter what industry you work in or what country you in live in.
In what way has #MeToo gone too far? As far as I’m aware, none of the named abusers are facing prison time for what they’ve done. The only person who has lost their job is Harvey Weinstein, and it seemed this was inevitable anyway with the state of the Weinstein Company’s finances (the company has recently declared bankruptcy). You can call it a trial by social media if you want, but generally a trial indicates someone has been convicted. Woody Allen is still making movies. Roman Polanski is still making movies. Even Johnny Depp – someone who is seen on video being violent towards his ex-wife Amber Heard – is still being cast in mainstream movies. Not one person accused has been punished for their alleged crimes, so how exactly has the #MeToo movement gone too far?
Allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual violence very rarely impede on the career of the accused. Even those that go to trial suffer very little consequence – sometimes whether they are found guilty or not. You only have to look at the Ched Evans case to see that rape allegations do not ruin a man’s career. Or perhaps a better example is the sitting president of the United States. Someone who has confessed that he just takes what he wants, grabs women how he wants, is still running one of the most powerful countries in the world. So let’s not pretend for one second that an accusation on twitter is going to do anything to damage careers.
This movement has allowed the voices of women, (women who have been silenced by the media, by lawyers, by corporations) to speak out for once. Maybe for the first time ever. If you truly believe that women using their voices to speak about their own experiences is ‘going too far’, then the problem may be with your attitude to women in general, and you should probably address that.
Also – huge shout-out to Bojack Horseman for always being so on the ball before the ball has even happened…..