The verdict against 'Hollywood Mogul' Harvey Weinstein has been a landmark victory for all the 'silence breakers' around the globe. These silence breakers had gathered the courage to speak up against so-called 'powerful men' in society who had been getting away with different forms of inappropriate behavior for decades - whether the indicent act was with their co-workers or with any random men or women.
Harvey was convicted on two charges – a third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act. He faces five to a maximum 25 years in jail.
For #MeToo activists, the verdict is a shift from the culture of impunity for sexual offenders. But one thing that wanes the celebration is that Harvey has been acquitted of the most serious offense – first degree rape – which would have ensured a life sentence that would lead him to rot in jail for the rest of his life.
The verdict against Harvey is certainly a big step, as the disgraced man had been using his might and money to buy lawyers and secret agents to silence his accusers. He would stop whoever tried to raise their voice against him, threatening to damage their career for life.
It is hard to believe that one of the most successful and highest award-winning producer has landed in jail. This was unimaginable even a few years back.
Now, Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar are also in jail. CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves was fired when sexual harassment and assault allegation charges were brought against him. Moreover, two federal judges have also resigned their lifetime posts.
But what was the purpose of #MeToo movement – to take down powerful men or to give people the sense of 'the magnitude of the problem' and stop sexual misconduct?
Alyssa Milano stirred the hashtag MeToo movement in 2017 while reading reports on charges against Harvey. Following the footsteps of Alyssa, more than ninety accusers exposed the dirty face of Harvey on social media. Later, hundreds of victims joined the movement.
The wind of protest swept from the west to the east. Many powerful men around the globe were accused of sexual misconduct and some of them had to step down from their lofty positions from which they perpetrated these crimes. The protests even reached Bangladesh, where a number of women and men brought allegations against men in powerful positions.
#MeToo has certainly created an impact and taken down many powerful men like Harvey. However, two years since the movement began, how far has it been able to bring any change in attitudes towards sexual misconduct?
To understand it, The Economist commissioned a poll which surveyed 1,500 American adults about their attitude towards sexual harassment.
They were asked about their view on 12 different acts – asking her for a drink, winking, commenting on activeness, hand on her lower back, looking at her breasts, wolf-whistling, grinding in a club, sexual jokes, requesting sexual favours, grabbing her bottom, up-skirt photo and flashing.
The survey was conducted twice one in 2017 and another in 2018 to see if there is any change in the views. However, it found the divide between men and women on such behaviour remained unchanged over the year.
According to the survey, men and women agree that asking women out for a drink is mostly okay while flashing is an inappropriate behaviour. However, when it comes to sexual jokes, grinding in a club, and looking at women's breast – the difference between men and women are wide.
The most striking disagreement is on their view on 'looking at a woman's breasts' – it drew a 24-point gap.
These findings, however, should not come as surprise to women who engage with society on an everyday basis. While the #MeToo has claimed some high profile predators, we are a long way away from any change in social attitudes towards women. Until and unless social attitudes change, one Harvey will be replaced by another.