How #metoo shaped 2017 from start to finish
The year began with women's marches across the world. A dozen months later, the cultural tide has turned – but we're not done yet
Like an overture, the women's marches last January foreshadowed what would become a landmark year for women – for anyone – who had had enough. I think of those ubiquitous pussyhats now as a pink portent to, if not exactly the dismantling of the patriarchy, at least the first steps in recognizing the uncomfortable, even abusive, conditions so many of us have been forced to cheerfully put up with in our working (and academic and extracurricular) lives.
As of this writing, the target of those millions of marchers – the U.S. grab-them-by-the-pussy President – has not been brought down, certainly not for crimes against women. But the cultural tide has turned, and it has been a beautiful thing to behold. How many of the millions of women who marched last January have their own #metoo story? Here's an educated guess: every single one of them.
It's an annual exercise, and one I enjoy: Globe Arts writers each pitch a Canadian we believe deserves to be declared artist of the year, and write an essay supporting our selection. This year, though, any maker of culture that came to mind for me was overshadowed by the movement that shook the culture itself.
I tried to be clever: I pitched #shetoo (and #hetoo) as my artist of the year. But there was no need to make this fit into a formatted box. This was a year during which advocacy outmuscled and outranked art. Harvey Weinstein's power, Kevin Spacey's talent, Matt Lauer's ratings – finally they were deemed less important than the behaviour of those men behind the scenes.
The cultural takeaway from this year is not the most Oscar-buzzy film or the most binge-worthy TV series, but the courage of Rose McGowan, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong'o – and so many others; the controlled anger of Uma Thurman; the hashtags of Tarana Burke and Alyssa Milano; the A-list disclosure powers of Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. They did it not with their art but with their own voices and stories. The power of artists to effect change has never been so evident. It started with show business, took on steam and blew up into a revolution.
We're not done yet, to be sure. There will be more falls from shallow grace; more heroes to be exposed as creeps. But it is imperative that the fight extends beyond glitzy Hollywood (and the far less glitzy world of media). We must be equally outraged by what goes on in the insurance offices, military bases, assembly lines and hotel kitchens of the world. Oh, and the U.S. Senate.
A moment for Canada's role in this, too: Actor Mia Kirshner has been a force, with heartfelt writing about her own experience and spearheading a symposium on the issue (which was sponsored by The Globe and Mail). Ellen Page shared a horrifying story about comments made about her by director Brett Ratner during a cast-and-crew meet and greet as filming began for X-Men: The Last Stand. In Montreal, Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon resigned after multiple allegations against him arose. Hollywood showrunner and producer Andrew Kreisberg was fired after sexual-harassment allegations; his shows – Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow – are shot in Vancouver.
Certainly, the Jian Ghomeshi scandal helped get the ball rolling.
Also, I recognize my self-interest, but spare some kudos for journalism in all of this. It was the tenacious, careful and brave reporting by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at The New York Times and Ronan Farrow writing for The New Yorker – and the support of their editors and employers – that first exposed Weinstein. And that has without question led to a cultural shift – long overdue.
I remember watching Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. I was in my 20s, early in my broadcasting career, and I got the message loud and clear: Speak out and you will be dragged through the very public muck, have your credibility questioned or worse – while the person you bravely point to as the source of your misery will be elevated to hero status. Many women of my generation watched the same hearings and got the same message. Thomas is still a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is so encouraging to think of the twentysomething (and younger and older) women watching now; to think of the message they are receiving by the world's response – as icons and kingpins are toppled and victims and whistle-blowers are believed, finally. This is not okay. Speak up. We have your back.