What Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction Means to Women in Today’s Society

Harvey Weinstein is no longer an accused rapist, rather he is a convicted rapist by virtue of all the brave women who stepped forward and risked everything to speak up against sexual misdemeanors. Two years ago, the once successful American film producer, Harvey Weinstein, fell into the spotlight for something more serious than his movies - Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct due to his position of social power. After the first accusation became public, hundreds of women bravely stood up and said “Me Too,” creating one of the most unified and courageous movements of the 21st century. By saying “Me Too,” women were saying “No More” to sexual exploitation by those in power. 

It has been a long and emotional road, but Weinstein was finally convicted in his New York trial. Weinstein used his power in the industry to target young women and the disreputable movie producer finally faces a punishment. He was found guilty of a felony sex crime and third-degree rape, facing up to 29 years in prison. In addition to this case, Weinstein still faces criminal allegations in California from two other women. The decision to convict Weinstein, a white man that had wealth, power and prestige, is an amazing victory for women, but is it truly the watershed that the popular media initially made it out to be? 

Not only was this conviction a decree of his guilt, it is a large victory for the #MeToo movement. The conviction showed that our voices are finally starting to be heard, even when our voices defame a powerful and rich societal figure. It truly was a big day for the courageous women that spoke up. It took years of women screaming at the top of their lungs, countless tears and undeterred persistence to push the justice system to finally listen to our stories, but we did it and now there is no going back. Annabella Sciorra, one of the women that spoke up about Weinstein, said it best during an interview after the conviction, “We can never regret breaking the silence.” Hopefully this case has begun to destigmitize speaking up about sexual misconduct.  women fists raised in air Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media  Historically, women have been ignored and were said to be seeking ulterior motives such as attention or wealth when accusing a powerful societal figure. This case truly set a precedent in the way that the justice system responds to sexual violence. The outcome of this case is the first step in tearing down the legal and social barriers that have long denied justice for victims of sexual violence. 

That being said, almost 100 women spoke up against Weinstein, yet he was only convicted of two charges. What about any form of justice for the 98 other women that spoke up? Why do only two women deserve justice? In addition, Weinstein was acquitted of predatory sexual assault, a conviction that many survivors believed that he deserved. A predatory sexual assault conviction would have entailed a life sentence in prison. 

While we applaud all the women and supporters that spent years fighting for their voices to be heard, we need to take a second to consider why it took so much time and effort for one person to finally be (partially) convicted. Hundreds of people spoke up for one man to finally be held accountable. What about the 11.2% of college students that are victims of sexual assault or rape each year? Their assaulters will probably not be publicly prominent as Weinstein. How much longer will it take for those voices to be heard?

feminism Photo by Elyssa Fahndrich on Unsplash

Yes, there was somewhat a punishment given to this sexual assault case, and that truly is a step in the right direction, but this case did not technically change anything about the way future sexual cases are handled. It may have, at most, set a precedent, but precedents are not ingrained laws and can be changed at any moment. But while this case may not have been the end-all solution to our defective justice system, it is a sign of hope and a reason to continue fighting. The sheer number of people who spoke up in the #MeToo movement is a sign of hope. While there has not been any formal change in the legal system, there truly has been a change in society where now we are supporting rather than demeaning women who speak out about sexual misconduct. Change is a slow and tedious process but once the first sparks of change fully ignites, there is no going back. 

We still have ways to go and powerful, white men obviously still hold a position of power, but with continued efforts and strong persistence, we can one day be heard and those who are guilty of misdemeanors against us will one day actually face punishments. This case will unfortunately not be the last of this kind, but moving forward, as long as we continue to speak up and support others there is no stopping our ability to demand justice.