UPDATE: Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of rape in landmark case for the #MeToo era. Weinstein was convicted of third degree rape of Jessica Mann. The jury in New York also convicted Weinstein, 67, of third-degree rape of Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress. He was also convicted of criminal sexual act in the first degree against Mimi Haley, a former “Project Runway” production assistant. Read more here.
(Original article published February 13, 2020) Harvey Weinstein is now on trial, and all the world is watching to see how far the women survivors can get in their pursuit of justice. Women in philanthropy, in particular, are paying close attention to the Weinstein trial, many of them commenting regularly on social media about it, and offering support and thanks for the bravery of the women testifying. There also appears to be a surge in funding for initiatives that get women’s voices on the record about sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the film industry. All of these events are evidence of #MeToo’s indelible imprint on civil society.
One statistic that further demonstrates this imprint is the fact that in the three months following the beginning of #MeToo, the number of actual reports of sexual assault rose by 14% worldwide, and 7% in the US. These stats also showed that the effect cut across all socioeconomic and racial divides. And the research on #MeToo from this recent CBS poll also suggests there is a substantial shift in the way that young men are thinking about how to approach women sexually.
The entry points donors are taking to address #MeToo are becoming increasingly diverse. Corporate donors like PepsiCo appear to be taking an innovative (and probably very low cost, relative to providing other services) technical approach, supporting game-based learning to help women learn how to deal with workplace harassment. Meanwhile, large foundations like NoVo are working on helping sex trafficking survivors across the country explore their life stories and find exit ramps to free themselves from exploitation.
How Can Donors Push for More?
Donors who want to be strategic in their support of the #MeToo movement face a daunting task — finding their point of entry, and figuring out how to leverage their resources most effectively. Since I watch this work closely, here are my top picks for strategy focus areas that support #MeToo.
Fund Efforts to Test All Rape Kits
Could there be anything more indicative of the ineffectiveness of current criminal practices to end sexual violence than collecting a rape test kit, and then never doing anything with it? Yet this is the sad state of affairs for an estimated 200,000 rape kits that have been collected across the country. States are now beginning to get active with legislation and funding to end the backlog and start a routine procedure for testing all rape kits being produced now and the in the future. Funders who want to fund this work can support the Joyful Heart Foundation, or if you are ultra high net worth, you can join Women Moving Millions, which is now led by one of the rape kit legislation pioneers of our time, Sarah Haacke Byrd.
Fund Efforts To End FGM
Let’s face it: FGM is violence against women, and needs to get addressed both in the U.S. and globally. Without this piece resolved, we are continuing to perpetuate a fundamental human rights violation on girls. To learn more about the funders working to end FGM, check out our list here.
Fund Media Efforts to Help Rethink Gender
Americans are finally getting opportunities to see and hear some stories that show the range of gender experiences, but there is definitely room for more. There are a wide range of organizations that fit under this umbrella, but my advice is to pick one entry point and stick with it. Organizations like Gender Avenger are doing important work to push for more media representations of women, while the Geena Davis Institute continues to be a longstanding player in challenging gender norms in media and improving conditions for women working in the industry.
Fund Efforts to Ensure Technology Reduces its Gender Bias
One of the scariest things about the rise of Big Brother online is how much Big Brother appears to be a flagrant anti-feminist. Do a quick Google search of the term “sexist algorithms” and you’ll turn up a host of big companies being investigated for their use of sexist algorithms such as Goldman Sachs, Amazon, Apple, and of course, the biggest sexist algorithm of all, Google. Women funders can be one step ahead of the game on addressing gender-based violence if they get in there and fight for technology that does not render us more sexist than we already are.
Organizations like the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Reframe Project are watching these issues closely and helping fight the bias. For example, a recent initiative of Reframe is helping women filmmakers fight back against studios downgrading their films to a lower level of distribution. The degree to which sexist algorithms impact gender-based violence is still a largely unexplored area of research, but those who are funding efforts to end cyberstalking and online threats of sexual violence are doing critical work.
Fund Housing, Education and Legal Support for Survivors
This has been, and still is, a no-brainer. If you want to support the end of gender-based violence, give to your local domestic violence shelter and its educational and legal supports. If you want to support some of the national programs doing this work, check out my piece here.
Pressure Large Foundations (Gates, Ford, Rockefeller) to Step Up on Sexual Violence
One thing that is abundantly clear from our Community Survey is that people really want to see the big foundations step more fully into the role of advocacy on all women’s issues, especially sexual violence. Here, I am going to call out three elephants in the room: Ford, Rockefeller, and Gates. These funders have all, at various times and with various strategies, attempted to address gender equality issues. But more often than not, they skirted way around the gender-based violence issues and went straight toward other less hairy-scary issues like women in leadership or women in tech. It’s time for the big foundations to take responsibility for their role in leading the way to a stronger coalition of advocates fighting gender-based violence.
Tell Your Story of Abuse so that #MeToo Includes Donors
Whenever a donor comes forward, such as Pat Mitchell in her new book, Becoming A Dangerous Woman, and opens up about her own history of gender-based violence, something wonderful happens. More women come to know and accept that this is a reality they do not bear alone. In whatever form it needs to take (anonymously reporting to the National Women’s Law Center is an option for those who want to add their story but not face public reprisal), get your story out there. It matters.