They had often gotten away with it for years, and for those they harassed, it seemed as if the perpetrators would never pay any consequences. Then came the report that detailed Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults and harassment, and his fall from Hollywood’s heights.
A year later, even as the #MeToo movement meets a crackling backlash, it’s possible to take some stock of how the Weinstein case has changed the corridors of power. A New York Times analysis has found that, since the publishing of the exposé (followed days later by a New Yorker investigation), at least 200 prominent men have lost their jobs after public allegations of sexual harassment. A few, including Mr. Weinstein, face criminal charges. At least 920 people came forward to say that one of these men subjected them to sexual misconduct. And nearly half of the men who have been replaced were succeeded by women.
In the year preceding the Weinstein report, by contrast, fewer than 30 high-profile people made the news for resigning or being fired after public accusations of sexual misconduct. The downfall of the Fox host Bill O’Reilly in April 2017 turned out to have been just a foreshock of the changes to come.
“We’ve never seen something like this before,” said Joan Williams, a law professor who studies gender at the University of California, Hastings. “Women have always been seen as risky, because they might do something like have a baby. But men are now being seen as more risky hires.”
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Sexual harassment has hardly been erased in the workplace. Federal law still does not fully protect huge groups of women, including those who work freelance or at companies with fewer than 15 employees. New workplace policies have little effect without deeper cultural change. And as the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh showed, Americans disagree on how people accused of sexual misconduct should be held accountable and what the standard of evidence should be.
But the analysis shows that the #MeToo movement shook, and is still shaking, power structures in society’s most visible sectors. The Times gathered cases of prominent people who lost their main jobs, significant leadership positions or major contracts, and whose ousters were publicly covered in news reports.
Forty-three percent of their replacements were women. Of those, one-third are in news media, one-quarter in government, and one-fifth in entertainment and the arts. For example, Robin Wright replaced Kevin Spacey as lead actor on “House of Cards,” Emily Nemens replaced Lorin Stein as editor of “The Paris Review,” and Tina Smith replaced Al Franken as a senator from Minnesota.