The Fateful Timing That Sparked #MeToo
When journalists came to me and asked: Which sexual abuser could we expose next? My answer, of course, was Harvey Weinstein.
Investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey released their new book She Said this week, offering us a deeper insight into the story that rocked Hollywood, and then the country, about Harvey Weinstein, his survivors, and his enablers. As the person who first suggested to the New York Times that they look at Weinstein’s history of abuse, I feel it’s important to explain why I did it. I did not make that suggestion lightly; there was a history behind my actions, and I was aware that the investigation would have huge implications for our society.
Since 2012, the organization I co-founded, UltraViolet, has been running high-profile, winning campaigns to hold people and institutions accountable for propping up misogyny: from opposing access to abortion and birth control to sexual assault. Our view was that as long as people in power could act with impunity and undermine women’s ability to thrive, gender equity was out of our grasp. As long as there was no cost to sexism and overt hatred of women — expressed by violence and policies that amount to violence against women — we’d continue to be second-class citizens.
I came to this work as a privileged white woman who really only understood sexism for the first time in my late twenties, while working as a professional political operative. I grew up in a conservative Republican family, sheltered in a wealthy enclave of Los Angeles, and comforted by the refrain that women could be and do anything they wanted. I continued to believe that even when men like Donald Trump (literally) told me what a “fabulous body” I had when I was 15, and even after my sexual assault in college. It took sitting in a room with a member of Congress, whom I was lobbying to support financial sector reform, for me to internalize reality. He responded to my detailed policy analysis by telling me how beautiful I was and how unbecoming activism was on someone like me. At that moment I understood that in the eyes of a lot of men I was a sexual object first, and maybe nothing else at all.
When #MeToo went viral, women of all backgrounds…