A critical look at the #MeToo movement and its limitations by student staff member, Sydney.
Trigger Warning: This blog deals with Harvey Weinstein, Dr. Luke, and sexual violence/harassment; please practice self-care.
Harvey Weinstein. He’s a huge name in Hollywood but up until a few months ago, myself, and many others did not know who he was or what he did. Today though, he has become a household name… and not for good reasons. It’s been hard NOT to hear about the allegations coming to light about the producer but if you are not familiar with the specific details of Harvey Weinstein’s case I suggest you check them out.
Long, and I mean decades-long, story short, Harvey Weinstein is a Hollywood predator whose committed countless acts of sexual violence and harassment which are now being brought to light by HUNDREDS of actresses. As a woman and one that works closely with sexual violence and survivors, I could talk about Harvey for days, weeks even. I could discuss the coverup, the male “allies”, the tone deaf reactions, but others have been doing this since it all came to light and so I’ll leave that to them.
What I did want to touch on was the huge difference I’ve been seeing between Hollywood’s reaction to the “Harvey Weinstein Scandal” and how the music industry handled Kesha’s lawsuit with Dr. Luke.
I don’t watch awards shows, but I do keep up with the live social media blogging and aftermath, so post-Golden Globes, when I felt empowered by the blackout and Oprah’s rousing speech, I was excited to see what was going to happen at the Grammys.
If you watched the Grammys or saw any of the coverage after the fact, you probably heard about Kesha’s performance. Kesha took the stage with other women to sing a heartbreaking rendition of her song “Praying”. I thought this might be an empowering moment of a survivor standing strong, but watching Kesha’s voice crack left me feeling sad and lost.
Throughout the performance, I was wondering why I felt this way and then I realized: Kesha was blacklisted from the music industry for her accusations against Dr. Luke, she didn’t make music or attend shows during or after her case, and she definitely wasn’t believed.
There was no #MeToo movement around Kesha (although there was a #freekesha movement spearheaded by her fans) and even at the Grammys this year, there was no planned Blackout nor was Kesha even acknowledged or awarded for her efforts. Not only was the awards show itself lacking sensitivity, Sony–the company that Dr. Luke worked under and who refused to let Kesha out of her contract or acknowledge the abuse–tweeted their “support” (the tweet was later deleted due to backlash).
Kesha isn’t the first woman, actress, or musician to not be believed, and her experiences point to why Harvey Weinstein (and so many others) went unchecked for so many years. BUT in a day where #MeToo and #TimesUp are taking over Hollywood, social media, and beyond, I can’t help but ask why has no one apologized to Kesha? Dr. Luke still has a career even after attacking Kesha, her mother, and even Lady Gaga. Her fans have been there for her since the court case gained traction, but the music industry was not and they still are only interested in using her for their gain (see Praying performance above).
Kesha wasn’t believed because she is a woman. She also wasn’t believed because she made fun party pop music that was often about drinking and sex, and she was never afraid to discuss her sexuality outside of her music, as well. Kesha was not one of the pure, mega-stars that are accusing Harvey Weinstein, and her public character led people to doubt her.
Just like the doubt, Kesha faced due to her open sexuality and carefree attitude, not all women are facing belief in the light of their accusations of Harvey Weinstein. While sexuality played a role for Kesha, race is definitely playing a role for many others.
Weinstein has remained silent about the accusations he faces–except for a few cases and there’s one thing all of these women have in common- they’re all women of color. When Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek spoke out, Weinstein lashed out in response. He took credit for Salma gaining her role in Frida (despite her role as a producer of the film), noted that he had had a close relationship with her boyfriend at the time, and that the events Hayek spoke of were remembered differently by others. Similarly, when Lupita Nyong’o wrote about her experience with Weinstein in the New York Times discussing how he had made advances on her and threatened her career, he spoke out again. Weinstein again stated that he had a “different recollection of events.”
By addressing only the accusations from women of color, Weinstein attempts to negate their experiences (by publicly gaslighting them) and perpetuates the belief that they cannot be assaulted because of their race. This also relates back to the “perfect victim” (i.e. one who is a pure, white, superstar). Perfect victims like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman lead to people actually caring about an issue like MeToo or TimesUp. Anyone who is not pure, not white, or not a big enough star, is just not believable or important enough.
Sexual assault and harassment are feminist issues, they are also sexual and racial issues. If we do not acknowledge how intersectionality plays a part in who is and isn’t believed, then we are discounting the many stories of sexual violence and abuse–and we’re also not getting any better as a society. When we find reasons to not believe and support survivors, more people stay silent, more people are blacklisted for speaking out, more people lose court cases, more people feel ashamed, and more and more people feel alone.
You are not alone. We See You. We Believe You. You Matter.