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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

An unequal battle

Weinstein’s conviction is a seminal moment for a movement that seeks to mobilise agency, hold power accountable.

By: Editorial | Updated: February 26, 2020 10:04:12 am
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, MeToo movement, sexual assault charges against Weinstein, world news, indian express editorial What the divergent narratives around #MeToo have shown is that, despite its many drawbacks, what the movement has succeeded in doing is that it has mobilised agency.

The conviction of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on two counts of rape and sexual assault by a Manhattan court has come as a watershed moment in the global #MeToo movement, that had begun over two years ago when scores of women came forward with charges of sexual assault against Weinstein. In the time since The New York Times and The New Yorker’s investigation outed the Oscar-winning producer as a sexual predator in 2017, debate about the nature and direction of the #MeToo movement has continued ceaselessly across the world.

The dam burst of voices that came forward to speak of instances of sexual violation at the workplace was unprecedented, the smouldering anger of the survivors often segueing into a call for social-media name-and-shame, an instant kangaroo court of sorts, that dispensed dishonour without the mechanism of the judicial process. When the judicial process was followed, however, it brought into focus the inadequacies of the system — and the movement — to counter the power of the wealthy and the connected. Retrospective justice can be tricky at the best of times, dependent on a lack of physical evidence, memories that waver, witnesses who are no longer certain, especially in the face of relentless scrutiny from the finest legal representation that money can buy. As in Weinstein’s case and that of several other abusers across the world, it casts the onus back on the survivors: Could those who associated willingly with the perpetrators call them out in hindsight?

They can indeed. In many ways, the #MeToo movement has been about holding power accountable — power that is so seeded in the system that you cannot differentiate it from its structure, power that can open doors, power that is attractive, power that is the arbiter, that can turn abusive. Power that should know better. What the divergent narratives around #MeToo have shown is that, despite its many drawbacks, what the movement has succeeded in doing is that it has mobilised agency. Beyond the vigilantism of social media, it has gathered strength for a quiet, dogged persistence. As has been evident from the various #MeToo legal battles being fought across the world, the outcomes are, more often than not, far from satisfactory, the emotional cost too high, but there has been a small but significant cultural shift: Speaking out is no longer lonely. In this unequal battle, that carries tremendous heft.

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