Five years ago, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey probably did not expect the upheaval they were going to create, and that all over the world. This morning in October 2017, the newspaper that employs them, the New York Timespublishes the investigation that they have long and meticulously carried out for months, managing to convince the actresses to break the silence by confiding in them.
Their investigation reveals in full light what many knew in the middle of the cinema: the true nature of Harvey Weinstein, that of a sexual predator. For years, this producer with multiple Oscars and awards that reigns over all of Hollywood has offered to help the careers of actresses in exchange for sexual favors. After attempting to massage several of them in hotel rooms, he forces them to stare at him naked, and uses his power to silence them.
Our work as journalists helped trigger an unprecedented rupture.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
“After the revelations of accusations of harassment and sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein, (…) we watched, amazed, as a dike burst. Millions of women around the world are betting to testify (…) Our work as journalists contributed to triggering an unprecedented rupture.”, write the two journalists in their book #MeToo, the investigation that started it all (Charleston Editions).
The end of silence
Faced with the scale of the scandal, the company that bears his name is only waiting a few days to kick Harvey Weinstein out.
Apologizing “sincerely”he will try to justify himself by explaining that he grew up and matured in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when “the rules of behavior in the workplace were different”. His lawyers seek to minimize the facts, without succeeding. The movement is launched, and the fall of this man, yesterday still all-powerful, who organized fundraisers for Democrats like Hillary Clinton, is dizzying.
On October 10, journalist Ronan Farrow publishes another article, in the magazine New Yorker . He too spent several months investigating. Italian actress Asia Argento and two other women claim to have been raped there by the co-founder of the Miramax studio.
As the days go by, tongues loosen. One by one, leading actresses bring their testimony or their support to the victims.
#MeToo: global viral hashtag
Then on October 15, a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano ended up lighting the fuse on social networks. She too read the avalanche of articles that followed the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. “If you have been harassed or sexually assaulted, write ‘me too’ (me too, editor’s note) in response to this tweet”, writes the star of the American series “Charmed”.
There followed a deluge of testimonies from all walks of life, or almost. Many say they are sharing their experience in public for the first time.
The hashtag crosses borders and is available around the world: #quellavoltache (this time when) in Italy, #EnaZeda (me too) in Tunisia, #AnaKaman in Egypt.
Tarana Burke, eleven years earlier
If Alyssa Milano, and her notoriety, helped to explode the movement, we must give back to Caesar, in this case to Tarana Burke, the origin of the rallying hashtag #MeToo. It was she who, well before the Weinstein affair, eleven years earlier, invented it. This African-American activist had begun to use this expression of “empathy” as a way for victims of sexual violence, especially in marginalized communities, to establish a connection between them and to say it out loud to the world.
I felt terrified, because something that was part of my life’s work was going to be taken away from me and used for purposes I had not intended.
Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo movement
“At first I panickedrecognized Tarana Burke when she saw her slogan taken up on the networks. I felt terror, because something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken away from me and used for purposes I hadn’t originally envisioned.”.
Alyssa Milano, reportedly unaware of the genesis of the phrase, quickly gave the activist back what was hers. “What the MeToo campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has enabled all of us to do, is put the focus back on the victims”she said in an interview for the show Good Morning America.
As early as 2017, Tarana Burke predicted: “It’s just the beginning. It’s not a moment, it’s a movement.”
In 2020, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault and rape.
Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow have all won the highly prestigious Pulitzer Prize.
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#MeToo, 5 years old: global slogan against sexual violence