Friday’s cloture vote on Judge Kavanaugh falls one year to the day after allegations against Harvey Weinstein were reported in the New York Times and the New Yorker. Scores of women – and some men – were inspired to share their sexual misconduct experiences as part of the #MeToo movement. Twelve months later, how far has it come? Judy Woodruff talks with Kelly Dittmar of Rutgers University.
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But first, today's Senate action to move Judge Kavanaugh closer to the Supreme Court falls one year to the day after allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first reported in The New York Times.
Those reports launched a global conversation about sexual misconduct and prompted scores of women and some men to share their experiences of harassment and abuse publicly.
Twelve months later, how far have we come with the MeToo movement, and how has it intersected with Kavanaugh fight?
Kelly Dittmar of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University joins me now.
Kelly Dittmar, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Setting aside Kavanaugh and today, as of a short while ago, if you can do this, where did the MeToo movement stand? How far had it come since those revelations of a year ago?
I think we have seen a lot of successes in terms of progress in holding individual people accountable this year, as well as starting a national dialogue about this issue of sexual assault, sexual harassment, but, even more broadly, the imbalance of power between men and women across our institutions, political, corporate, media, educational, and religious institutions.
So, in that way, there's been a lot of progress in having that conversation. But that doesn't mean that the conversation isn't highly contentious, and hasn't led to a lot of questions about how we actually start to change these institutions in ways that not only prevent the abuse in the first place, but also figure out ways to adjudicate and hold folks accountable for that abuse that both upholds due process, as well as ensuring the safety, as well as the health of those who are coming forward, who are often at a power differential from those who are accused.
So I think we see some movement, but we also see all of the challenges that are coming along with really the reckoning that has been the MeToo movement.
And I should just add that the work that's been done this year isn't just this year alone. It's really building on decades of work that women have done in coming forward and taking the risk to bring this issue to the forefront, from Anita Hill, to Tarana Burke, to the women who are coming forward today.
You're describing it as a work in progress. In many ways, a lot of progress has been made, but still more to go.
So, having said that, how do you see this fight, this brawl that we have witnessed over the last few weeks over Judge Brett Kavanaugh? How has that intersected with the MeToo movement, do you think?
I think, on the one hand, you saw the energy of the MeToo movement stand behind somebody like Dr. Ford and other women who came forward with allegations against Judge Kavanaugh to say that this person needs to be taken seriously, her story needs to be taken seriously.
But, on the other hand, what you saw is the fact that our institutions, in this case the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee, are still pretty ill-equipped to deal with these types of accusations.
So not having a full investigation, the politics that were really surrounding this issue demonstrate the weaknesses of our institutions to really look at the nuance of issues of gender power differentials, as well as these types of particularly traumatic events that are around sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual assault.
I mean, you could even say, of course, there's been a backlash. There was a backlash to what she did, because the pushback not only from Judge Kavanaugh, but the people around him.
Do you think it added up to, frankly, a moment that weakens the MeToo movement?
I don't think it weakens the movement.
I think, in many ways, this just energizes those who are already fighting to make their voices heard. I think, once this started, and you saw women coming together in solidarity behind it, it's going to be hard to slow it down.
So, even though there was this, this week, you saw Bill Cosby going to jail just a couple of weeks ago, which I think also energizes those who are going to continue fighting. At the same point, we have to recognize that this has become a highly politicized issue. And, unfortunately, it's become a partisan issue.
So, if you look at recent poll from Huffington Post and YouGov, which showed, for example, that, among Trump supporters, the majority feel like the MeToo movement moment has gone too far. And you also see differences along party lines in perceptions of false allegations being a greater problem, for example, than actual instances of sexual assault or sexual harassment.
So, unfortunately, the politicization of the movement, I think, doesn't mean that the movement itself is struggling, but that there are partisan sort of pushback, and people are going into partisan camps in terms of their support for some of the work of the movement, which is changing our institutions, changing public policy, and holding individuals accountable.
So, Kelly Dittmar, to wrap up, where do you see the movement going from here? I mean, you describe it's become politicized. It's become partisan. How does it — how does it go forward?
I think part of it is trying to continue to push for a real true, nuanced dialogue about what we mean when we talk about imbalances of power and what the implications are for women and for victims.
And so trying to find the spaces that are not highly politicized to have those conversations is important. I also think making sure that we have more women in positions of power is key. We saw in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the majority, no women.
And so you need to have women who can understand some of these experiences, unfortunately, in a much more innate way, to be involved in these dialogues.
We wrote a book recently where we interviewed women in Congress. And Senator Gillibrand talked about this, about how she comes to this issue knowing what it's like to be disbelieved or to be victimized in these types of situations.
We need people at the table who understand these issues and can help in terms of moving forward with a solution across party lines.
Kelly Dittmar with the Rutgers Center for American Women in Politics, thank you very much.