The #MeToo movement took off in October 2017, blown open by the explosive New York Times article on Harvey Weinstein, and propelled forward by the brave people who shared their own stories of assault, harassment, and injustice in its wake. From a viral hashtag to a nationwide movement, #MeToo spread a message that we hoped would change everything — but has it? Two years later, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o, Julianne Moore, and many, many more have weighed in.
In 2019, there’s no denying that conversations about sexual harassment and assault, power imbalances, and gender inequality have taken center stage like never before, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry — but the conversation hasn’t equaled real change. Recently, there’s been rising criticism that the movement has gone “too far.” Others, of course, still feel we haven’t gone far enough.
While Hollywood stars like Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan led the October 2017 charge in sharing their #MeToo moments, other celebs have since shared what they think the movement has accomplished — and how far we still have to go.
For McGowan, one of the first to publicly accuse Weinstein of rape, the lasting effects of #MeToo are bittersweet. “I miss performing. But my career was stolen,” she told The Guardian in July. Referencing others on the front lines of #MeToo like Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Mira Sorvino, she added. “We all got stolen. And we were all very good at our jobs. That’s the other crime in all this.”
Even so, McGowan knows it was the right thing to come forward about her abusers — and says the path forward will be learning to trust again. “It’s about making the choice to trust people despite every single disgusting thing that’s been done to me,” she explained. “If I didn’t, my abusers would have won.”
In November, Angelina Jolie spoke to Harper’s Bazaar about #MeToo’s progress, noting our failure to start a serious inquiry into the crimes reported. “As anybody knows, the usual starting point in any situation like this is an independent inquiry by experts who can look into the facts and identify what legal changes and protections are needed,” Jolie contended. “That hasn’t happened.” so there is some measure of independent expert scrutiny and accountability. That hasn’t happened.”
During an NBC interview this September, Gwyneth Paltrow reflected on the “seismic” change #MeToo brought about and explained her own decision to come forward about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. “I never could have imagined that collectively a shift this seismic would happen, but I feel proud that I have a small part in it,” the Shakespeare in Love star shared. “Having a teenage daughter that’s the love of my life and worrying about her going into the workplace…if there was ever a chance that there could be a cultural shift on this stuff, I wanted to participate.”
For Morning Show star Reese Witherspoon, the biggest effect of #MeToo has been opening her eyes to all the misconduct and abuse happening around her. “It really took that moment in time for all of us to start talking,” Witherspoon said on an NPR interview this November. “Because you have to remember, as an actress for hire, usually I was the only woman on a set for, I would say, the majority of my 30-year career. I’ve been the only woman in a cast or one of a handful of women in a crew or a cast.”
But once the #MeToo floodgates opened, that sense of isolation started to melt away: “When all of that started happening, women started to gather and really start talking to each other and sharing stories,” she recounted. “And I have to say, I was blown away. I did not know the kind of experiences that people were having. And I was I was in shock. I think a lot of us were in shock.”
When Salma Hayek was featured on Meghan Markle’s guest-edited edition of Vogue UK in September, she took the opportunity to talk about the change she’s seeing in her industry. “We can only find the force [for change] inside each other,” the actress insisted. “Every woman [on set] inspires me. I don’t feel comfortable, almost, to be in the company of such great spirits. It is the redefinition of what it means to be a woman that is most inspiring for me at this moment.”
“What are we going to do now that we are being heard?” Hayek asked of a post-#MeToo Hollywood. “What is our contribution? What is the next shape of hope? I think, in this day and age, it’s going to be very curvy.”
Jennifer Aniston’s new show The Morning Show doesn’t shy away from tough topics — and neither does its star. The Friends alum addressed the changes #MeToo has brought, and she has a surprisingly sunny view of the progress we’ve made. “I think there’s still room for improvement, but I think that kind of behavior is done,” Aniston told Variety this October. “I think people have had the sh*t scared out of them.”
“It’s also this big pendulum,” she continued. “Everybody has this new playbook and everybody’s trying to figure out what the new rules are. But what’s so wonderful about doing [The Morning Show] is that it is …showing how things are said behind closed doors during Me Too, that no one else has the balls to say in front of the world.”
Lupita Nyong’o reminds us that #MeToo isn’t just about addressing sexual harassment in the workplace — it’s about fundamentally changing the makeup of those workplaces, and creating more equitable environments for everyone. “This #MeToo time, this Time’s Up time in the industry, is about allowing for equitable representation,” Nyong’o told The Hollywood Reporter in November. “And because I am a black woman, I am a beneficiary of that movement in the work that I’ve been able to do.”
“I’m very grateful to have come into the industry at the time that I have because I am benefiting from the efforts of a lot of other women who have come before me, other black women who have had it a lot rougher than I have,” Nyong’o acknowledged. “This is a time where there is a concerted effort to consider diversity and inclusion. What I really want is for it to not be a fad, not be a trend. Right now it’s really dope and cool and on-trend to work with women and underrepresented groups, but the moment of maturity in the industry is when it is just the norm, you know?”
Brad Pitt is grappling with a specific element of the #MeToo movement: how it’s called out toxic masculinity, and how men are scrambling to find a new kind of masculinity in its place. “What I see now is a new masculinity, especially with people who have gone through Hollywood and its recalibration,” Pitt told The Sunday Times in July. “A new male who is more vulnerable.”
“I’m not talking mushiness,” the Ad Astra star clarified. “I mean a man who owns his own flaws and is aware of them and open about it. And vulnerable, with real feelings, rather than being this macho, trying-to-be-tough guy.”
For Judy star Renée Zellweger, #MeToo has brought a clear change in terms of how men in Hollywood behave. “I hear the conversations and I’ve been in professional partnerships with men who make different choices now, even if it’s just to be clear about what their intentions are,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter in November. “They keep the door open. Or I had one gentleman say, ‘I don’t meet with women alone. I always make sure that there’s somebody else in here because I don’t want anything to be misconstrued or misunderstood and I want her to be comfortable.’ So you see that there are different choices being made.”
Whether or not men have changed their behavior, Julianne Moore thinks #MeToo has taught women an important lesson about what we can say no to. “We’ve been inculcated with this idea that men were allowed to do certain things,” Moore told Tatler magazine in May. “Even something casual, like a man you didn’t know kissing you hello rather than shaking your hand — we used to tolerate that because we were told: ‘He doesn’t mean anything by it, he’s just being friendly.'”
And Moore knows that these kinds of lessons extend far beyond the workplace. “My husband and I were discussing just this, and he said: ‘That kind of stuff’s okay at a family party.’ And I said ‘No, it’s not.’ I remember someone who was that way when I was a kid and I was uncomfortable and I couldn’t say anything. The only person I could say something to was my sister, and she felt the same way. So this sort of discussion is a real change, and it’s important.”
According to Michelle Williams, post-#MeToo Hollywood means walking into a room and being taken seriously. “I feel like the dynamic on sets has changed. They don’t hug you anymore. You don’t get a morning grope, you get a morning handshake,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in May. “I feel like more space has opened up in the room, in the actual creative process. The space has opened up for me to be able to be heard.”
Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, like so many others, had just started thinking of sexual harassment as part of the job: “I’ve certainly been, you know, a woman working in show business for 3,000 years now,” she told Vogue in March. “And, yeah, I’ve seen my share of sexual harassment. I’m not going to start listing all of these circumstances, but I’ve been witness to it. It’s been very much a part of the culture, it’s just sort of the norm.”
So, has #MeToo changed that? “I’m really happy this MeToo movement has taken hold and that these conversations are happening,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “And that women feel emboldened to stand up straight and say, ‘enough’s enough.'”
Jennifer Lopez sees two clear changes: Those who were abusing their power are more careful now, and women are starting to take center stage in creating their work. “They’re definitely more careful now,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in November. “We’ve stood up and said, ‘Hey, we don’t want this to be going on and it’s been going on a long time and it’s enough.’ On a more positive note, we have movies like Hustlers and Little Women and all these other movies where there are women at the forefront, and we’re producing and we’re directing, we’re writing it, we’re editing it.”
Kristen Stewart didn’t mince words when it came to Hollywood’s reaction to #MeToo — and she’s speaking to one group of responders in particular. “It’s really clear when people balk at the #MeToo movement that they probably have done something that they are feeling a little guilty about,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in September.
Patricia Arquette’s sister Rosanna Arquette was also among the first to speak out about the harassment and predatory behavior she experienced from Weinstein. As an International Women’s Day honoree at a celebration thrown by nonprofit Visionary Women, Arquette spoke emotionally about the sense of community she’s felt since #MeToo took off.
“We have had each other’s backs. Me too has become we too,” she said in her speech. “It’s been an astonishing moment and I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime. It has been so beautiful to witness the way women have stepped up for each other when bad things happen to you…I have emerged from it all with a new understanding of sisterhood and its meaning and more importantly, its obligations.”
When it comes to seeing a real shift from #MeToo, The Kitchen star Melissa McCarthy is cautiously optimistic. “I think we’re at the beginning of a movement, and I think we have to keep pushing,” McCarthy comments, according to Reuters. “You can talk a good game, but you have to wait until it changes, so we’re not there yet. We will be. You’ve got to root for it. I’m a hopeful person. I have two daughters; I have to be. I’ll fight. I’ll fight until I can’t fight anymore.”
While some stars are feeling more hopeful than others, all seem to agree that #MeToo has sparked necessary conversation and that new expectations are slowly being put into place. If nothing else, we’re no longer sweeping misconduct under the rug — even if we don’t all agree on what to do about it.
In Hollywood and beyond, let these stars inspire you to keep fighting for the safe, equitable workplace we all deserve. In 2020, let #MeToo spark more than conversation: Let it spark real action, accountability, and change.