The #MeToo movement gave a voice to millions of women but it’s now “time to shout louder”, MPs say, one year on from the campaign sweeping the globe.
Following a slew of sexual misconduct allegations against the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein emerging in September last year, the hashtag #MeToo went viral and the scale of sex assault and harassment women suffer, both in public and in the workplace, was laid bare.
It also exposed the Westminster sex harassment scandal, in which several staffers came forward with allegations against MPs, shone a light on the shady and now-defunct Presidents Club dinner, renewed focus on the gender pay gap and triggered a global moment of introspection about how western societies view women.
But 12 months on, British MPs have expressed frustration and disappointment that the movement has not had more impact.
Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, cited Donald Trump’s derision for Professor Christine Blasey Ford as evidence that little had changed. The research psychologist from northern California alleges Brett Kavanaugh, the President’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexually assaulting her.
Creasy told HuffPost UK: “One year on Harvey Weinstein isn’t in jail, the Presidents Club organisers have been let off and the President of America is mocking victims of sexual assault.
“The #MeToo tag started a powerful conversation that sent shockwaves around the world and rightly so – now we need action to show those voices are being heard and not silenced or ignored.”
She added: “Whether ending violence against women, the gender pay gap or ensuring equal access to reproductive and healthcare rights it’s time to shout louder, fight harder and resist more the backlash against equality around the world – I stand in solidarity and ready to act with all those who say not just ‘me too’, but ‘we will’ to securing change.”
Tory MP Maria Miller chairs Parliament’s women and equalities select committee, which is probing street harassment, sex harassment in the workplace and the gender pay gap across different sectors.
She believes that while there has been an explosion of awareness of sex harassment, the targeting of women persists.
Better regulation is part of the answer, she said, adding: ”#MeToo has made it acceptable to call out sexual harassment at work yet victims continue to face a backlash.
“Whilst attitudes might be shifting behaviour is not. In the last year, four in 10 women have been sexually harassed at work.
“Some attitudes have changed but overwhelmingly behaviour has not and that’s why there needs to be a clear legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work – tackling sexual harassment at work needs to be as important to employers as data protection and money laundering regulations.”
Others are more optimistic about the level of change Me Too has ushered in.
Research by the gender equality charity the Fawcett Society published this week found that 28% of men and 34% of women have had a conversation with someone of the same sex about sex harassment.
The figure was higher among younger men, with 54% aged 18-34 having talked about the issue compared to just 16% of men aged over 55.
And those who were aware of Me Too were one a half times more likely to say that the boundaries of acceptable behaviour has changed, the charity found.
Sam Smethers, chief executive, said: “Our research shows the power of #MeToo, the power of disruption and the power of women. Now those in power need to respond, so that we can change the law and transform the culture.”