# MeToo is one year old, and the battle is just beginning
On life in the aftermath of #MeToo. Plus, the Observer archive
How are you celebrating the anniversary of the fall of Harvey Weinstein? Cake? Crackers? A festive sob in the loos at work? Ten days ago Dr Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me.” Alyssa Milano (the actor who launched the #MeToo campaign) glared at them from the cheap seats as Republican senators waited patiently for the chance, one by one, to apologise to Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee for the supreme court who denies any wrongdoing, for the pain he had suffered. And haunting the room, too, were the ghosts of Rose McGowan and Asia Argento and the millions of people that came out as survivors of sexual assault. A wood-panelled room, coffin-like, to hold the bodies.
Didn’t it feel as though we had been building to this? Building to this, over the past year of stories, this bloody showdown between the sexes, accusers and the accused, the men whose privilege was being poked? A hearing, to follow a year of listening. And (though I write before the final decision is made) didn’t it feel like we knew, even before it began, exactly how it would end? A year since the accusers of Weinstein – who also denies these allegations – came forward (and two since the broadcast of Trump’s “pussy grab”), and while on one hand it feels like we’ve witnessed great liberation in having heard so many swallowed stories of abuse, in the other, we grip a feeling of terrible weariness, the sense that only half the world has been paying attention.
I should have been working, but I was watching the live feed, and then the office emptied around me and I was late to a birthday party because even from 4,000 miles away the hearing had me stuck, pinned down. “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” a woman called Maria Gallagher told Jeff Flake as he stepped into a lift in the Senate office buildings. “Do you stand with these women?” asked another survivor of sexual assault, Ana Maria Archila. Flake stayed silent – his answer came later, when he called for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations. They’d forced him to look into their eyes.
If a woman’s civic duty is to speak up, what is the civic duty of a man? Women have been performing their civic duties across the world over the past year, reporting their trauma, not just simply to bring down a bad man but to kick at the struts of a society that allowed it to happen. And it goes further than sexual abuse, it extends to the way women have spoken out about other experiences that would typically have been forgotten in the dark, from abortions to miscarriages, in order to shed light on the realities of life as a woman. But the obligation that survivors must revisit horrors from their pasts – and, in doing so, open other women’s carefully dressed wounds – is a requirement that feels increasingly empty. Doing so is only worthwhile if it actually changes something. Otherwise, having witnessed so many of these spectacles, where survivors of abuse have been ridiculed and disbelieved, soon these voices will quiet, and women will retreat once again into corners where they whisper warnings about handsy bosses and internet creeps.
The reason Republicans are ushering Kavanaugh through, despite what can kindly be described as a C-grade job interview (one that wouldn’t even get you behind the till at Shoezone, sorry Brett – and imagine a woman behaving like that, with the tears, the shouting?) is because of his hardline views on abortion, which, when normalised, have an impact on all women. It’s not a coincidence that those in power are, at best, choosing to ignore the measured testimony of women in pain. And it illuminates the need for change. Rather than just speaking up, women need seats at the table so they can speak across. There is a bigger job to do; there are bigger jobs to win.
A year since Weinstein, and this much is clear – the effect of #MeToo was not that it changed the world, but that it brought women together in preparation to do so. It was the beginning, not the end, and it taught us that we need more women in power, urgently. This is how we will collapse the house of beer mats, and this is when we’ll know change has happened: when women no longer have to fillet their histories to prove systemic harassment and abuse, stories of the boys at school, men on the train – when women are no longer accountable for men’s behaviour, no longer have to broadcast stories of our abortions in order to protect the right to control our own bodies. The rage so many of us felt watching last week’s hearing should propel us to vote, to stand. We need more women in power so survivors feel safe to come forward, and so that when they do so they are heard. More women must get in the lifts with the people in power, not just as activists but as elected peers, travelling up to the spaces where change happens. ■