Ashley Judd reflects on #MeToo one year later
Today marks the anniversary of the #MeToo movement — a movement that has not only forced dozens and dozens of high-profile men accused of sexual misconduct to face the consequences of their actions, but has also undoubtedly resulted in the personal reckonings of countless other people all over the world. In light of the publication of the Women's Media Center's new report evaluating the media impact of #MeToo, Ashley Judd — Chair of the WMC Speech Project and one of the instigators of the #MeToo movement — spoke to Women Under Siege's Lauren Wolfe about her role in the movement, what #MeToo has accomplished, and what it will still accomplish in the future.
Why do you think the #MeToo movement particularly has succeeded in shifting our culture’s view of sexual assault itself and who sexual assault survivors are?
While those of us who have experienced various forms of sexual violence articulated our stories one by one, the rate and en masse nature in which our stories are being told is unprecedented. The statistic, which we all know, that one to three of us will be assaulted, is becoming embodied and visceral. It is no longer abstract. What I know cannot be unknown.
How do you think #MeToo has affected our culture beyond our understanding of sexual assault?
The world has permanently changed. We are in a new era. It is messy, imperfect, and urgent.
A friend was telling me that her 80-ish year old mother has started to speak up, after a long marriage of not being to work outside the home, allowed to drive, or to have a mobile phone. 80. And she is finding and using her voice.
What issue do you think should be more closely focused on within the movement?
Ending impunity is essential. Reauthorizing VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) — what a concept. More dialogue with men and boys about healing toxic masculinity and how they can be allies and disruptors. Survivors using their narratives both to heal themselves and empower others. And more. It all works together and is equally important.
Now, at the same time that Cosby has finally been sentenced, there’s disbelief on Capitol Hill of Kavanaugh’s accusers. How do you view these paradoxes in public legal trials related to sexual assault?
I have quite a lawsuit going, too, against Harvey Weinstein, which seeks economic remedy for damage done to my career as a result of my not succumbing to his sexual harassment, and the fact that he retaliated against me, specifically via defamation. The goal is to ensure that all American workers have legal remedies when they experience sexual harassment in the workplace. So I do think things are getting better, even as they are imperfect and not always as robust as we would like. The Cosby sentencing was too light. What is happening with Judge Kavanaugh is unfolding as we speak. Soraya Chemaly’s book is being released at the perfect time, and there is no expiration date on our righteous rage.
What do you think the future holds for sexual assault survivors?
My belief is the future is becoming better and better for survivors of sexual assault. Our sense of community is increasing, as is the sharing of best practices around self care and trauma-informed support. As more people disclose, our extraordinary critical mass is both incontrovertible and irreversible.
How can all of us contribute to this change and keep the #MeToo momentum going.
Every single one of our conversations and examples of resistance — from the small, interpersonal moments, like our lunch time talks with colleagues, reading critical analysis of gender in our society, voting, catching our own internalization of the patriarchy, being humble about our white privilege and unconscious bias — each of these thoughts and acts are crucial.
More articles by Category: Feminism, Media
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Criminal justice, Law, Rape, Sexism, Sexual harassment, Sexualized violence, Women's leadership