By Javier Romualdo and Guillermo Azabal
Los Angeles, Oct 10 (EFE).- Five years ago, hundreds of women began making public what for decades had been an open secret in the entertainment industry: the culture of sexual harassment. Far from petering out, the #MeToo movement is now gathering strength with a new wave of trials including a second one involving disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Convicted of sexual crimes in 2020 by a New York court and sentenced to 23 years in prison in the highest-profile #MeToo case, on Monday Weinstein is facing a new trial in Los Angeles on 11 counts of rape and sexual abuse by five different women.
Just when the #MeToo movement is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the charges which led to the downfall of one of the most important Hollywood figures, Weinstein’s second trial is renewed proof of the power of the movement and that’s it’s more than just a flash-in-the-pan, said Aya Gruber, a law professor at the University of Colorado.
The author of “The Feminist War on Crime” told EFE that the most important achievements of the #MeToo movement have been to raise awareness about how the rich and powerful use their positions of influence to sexually abuse women and to create a public attitude of shaming the abusers rather than the past attitude of shaming the accusers.
During the coming weeks, a number of other entertainment figures will also be going to court – including actors Danny Masterson and Kevin Spacey, along with director Paul Haggis. All of them are facing charges of sexual harassment and abuse that follow the same pattern of intimidation and abuse of power.
One day after Weinstein’s trial kicks off in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, oral arguments begin in the same building in the trial of Masterson, the star of “That 70s Show” who was arrested in 2020 on three counts of alleged rape at his Hollywood Hills home.
The actor, who lost a multimillion dollar contract with Netflix when the accusations came to light, has always denied his guilt and claims that it’s all a campaign organized by the Church of Scientology to take revenge on him for suddenly leaving that religious organization.
The #MeToo movement has accelerated the downfalls of anyone accused of sexual harassment or abuse. For instance, Kevin Spacey left his starring role in the TV series “House of Cards” as soon as the first charges were levied against him and, in addition, he will have to pay $31 million to the production company for failing to fulfill his contract.
The movement created an environment in which many women broke their silence and spoke up about the abuse they suffered, and the result has been that many people started to become aware of the reality in the entertainment industry, something that they didn’t want to confront, according to Jennifer Becker, the senior attorney and legal director for Legal Momentum, the oldest legal defense group for women in the US.
Spacey, the winner of two Academy Awards, will testify this month in a New York trial regarding a complaint by a US actor not linked with the trial against him that’s under way in the United Kingdom. His case shows that the #MeToo movement has also tainted the LGTBQ community and reaches well beyond the entertainment world.
Because of the all-pervasiveness of the Internet and the stories involving figures who were famous not only in the US but around the world, #MeToo has become a “truly international” movement, said Gruber, who added that in virtually every country we are now hearing women speak out about the abuse and harassment they suffered but had kept quiet about out of fear that they themselves would be blamed by society for their dilemmas.
The fall of politicians like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen, businessmen like Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin and Intel chief Brian Krzanich, and even sports stars like US gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser are just a few examples of the scandals that have rocked these sectors.
Meanwhile, accusations continue to pile up and trials continue to be scheduled, with gender experts agreeing that the next step for the #MeToo movement will be to move into the legislative halls. So far, the US Congress has approved a bill regulating the procedure whereby companies respond to harassment and abuse cases.
If women continue to be “underrepresented” and excluded from positions of power, situations of abuse or harassment will continue to occur and the campaign toward thorough gender equality will not be able to make headway, Becker said.