When #MeToo exploded in the fall of 2017, its most optimistic promise was that it would become more than a hashtag, more than a brief interruption in America’s regularly scheduled sexism, more than a reckoning for famous men who had abused wealthy, white women.
There were front-page headlines, explosions of long-stifled rage and examinations of collective complicity. There was hope those two small words signaled the beginning of meaningful change and, eventually, healing – a belief the silence was finally broken.
Has #MeToo delivered?
“People are paying more attention, but I’m not convinced that we’re able or ready to behave differently about it as a nation,” said Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
#MeToo’s progress paints a murky picture.
Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, ascended to the Supreme Court. President Donald Trump, who has been accused by 19 women of sexual misconduct, was recently accused of rape by prominent writer E. Jean Carroll, and public reaction was muted. While Congress has overhauled the process for handling sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill, it has not passed any legislation in the past two years to address sexual harassment in America’s workplaces. Thousands of migrant children who crossed the southern border into the U.S. have reported they were sexually assaulted while in government custody.
But Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually assaulted hundreds of girls and young women throughout his career, was given prison sentences in 2017 and 2018 that ensure he will die behind bars, and more than a hundred of his victims were permitted to address him directly in court. Bill Cosby, who for years dodged allegations that he had preyed on women since the 1960s, was incarcerated last year for sexual assault. After decades of the music industry turning a blind eye to allegations R. Kelly physically and sexually abused scores of girls and women, the singer and songwriter has been charged with federal sex crimes.