Yesterday, the New York Times coined a phrase that I just love to describe the current phase of #MeToo: the “not so fast” era.
Amid concerns that Australia’s defamation laws are slowing down the advent of #MeToo and some in the Australian media are backing away as allegations get “too close”, I really needed to hear that women and the media around the world are keeping up the pressure – long may it last.
The paper noted that disgraced powerful men like celebrity chef Mario Batali and veteran journalist Charlie Rose, both of whom just weeks ago were reportedly plotting their comeback, were not only being met with a no way, no how response, but a fresh wave of allegations.
In the past few days, 60 Minutes and The Times reported new allegations against Batali, with women coming forward to accuse him of drugging them.
Likewise, the Washington Post, which broke the original story about Rose, published a follow up investigation claiming CBS, his employer, had been aware of accusations against him going back thirty years.
As The Times editorial board wrote, “If Mr. Batali and Mr. Rose knew about these allegations, it would point to a stunning audacity to even consider career advancement”. In a very New York turn of phrase, the headline of the editorial remarked on their “chutzpah”. Chutzpah is a word for it. I can think of another one.
The message has indeed been loud and clear: #NotSoFast.
For anyone, particularly men, who hoped this would all blow over and we could return to business as sexual harassment and assault usual, women’s continued willingness to come forward and the media’s (well the American media’s) continued willingness to put resources into reporting these stories has ensured that won’t be the case.
In the last few weeks, I have observed and been heartened by other #NotSoFast moments, particularly at awards ceremonies, which many in the entertainment industry probably hoped would soon return to their usual glitzy, somewhat superficial ways following the high-water mark of the #TimeUp Golden Globes, at which the ladies of Hollywood donned black, invited feminist activists as their dates and Oprah gave THAT speech.
Given we’re now living in a new era in which Meghan Markle and Prince Harry can turn a traditional royal wedding into a not so subtly subversive celebration of Black American culture, complete with a righteous sermon quoting Martin Luther King Jr., those hoping for a return to times of old were, perhaps, a tad optimistic.
I first observed the #NotSoFast awards ceremony trend at the US Daytime Emmys late last month. The host, Mario Lopez, promised the Daytime Emmy ceremony would not be “politically charged”, by which I presume he (and the show’s producers) meant: “ladies, keep your opinions and your desire to call out blatant sexism and harassment to yourselves”.
But as you might expect, veteran women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, who was invited to present an award just days after the guilty verdict in the Bill Cosby rape trial where she represented a number of the accusers, wasn’t having it. She didn’t get Lopez’s “it’s time to move on ladies” memo.
Allred arrived on the red carpet holding a sign reading, “Bill Cosby, Guilty!, Guilty!, Guilty!”. Before announcing the winner of the award on stage, Allred held up the sign and chanted the same. Depending on which media outlet you believe, she was either booed or cheered.
Then last week we had the annual Cannes Film Festival, which was alleged serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s favourite hunting ground. And what a treasure chest of #NotSoFast, or shall we say “politically charged”, moments that turned out to be.
First Cate Blanchett, the head of this year’s female majority jury, linked arms with 82 women in a protest march up the festival’s red carpet, which has traditionally featured scantily clad actresses, not feminist manifestos.
Blanchet and veteran French filmmaker Agnes Varda then read out a statement in English and French. “Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of the industry says otherwise,” said Blanchett.
Then Kirsten Stewart, Hollywood rebel girl and another member of this year’s jury, ditched her heels on the red carpet to protest the festival’s stringent dress code for women, which requires them to wear heals. In 2015, the festival faced a backlash after it was revealed that a group of women were turned away from a screening of the film Carol because they were wearing flats.
And then, brace yourself, there was the ultimate #NotSoFast moment likely to make you cry.
Italian actress Asia Argento, who accused Weinstein of sexual assault, took to the stage at the closing ceremony of the Festival to call out her abuser, other abusers in the audience, and those who protect them.
“I have a few words to say,” began Argento. “In 1997 I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground.”
This is the speech I wrote and spoke out loud tonight at Cannes. For all the brave women who came forward denouncing their predators, and for all the brave women who will come forward in the future. We got the power #metoo pic.twitter.com/ttJN1pNFxR
— Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) May 19, 2018
The anger in her voice palpable, Argento continued: “Even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women.”
And she finished with this statement: “You know who you are, but most importantly, we know who you are, and we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”
If ever there was a #NotSoFast rallying cry, this is it.
Kristine Ziwica tweets @KZiwica