The 18th annual First Person Arts (FPA) Festival’s opening event, #IMNOJANEDOE, was a celebration of the power of women's voices, focusing on stories from journalists and survivors who boosted the #MeToo movement.
The event, produced by Elaine Lindy, featured Megan Twohey, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter and co-author of She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement. With a long history of working with survivors of sex crimes, whether battling exploitive doctors or untested rape kits, Twohey has been patiently working the long game to hold powerful men and institutions accountable for their actions.
Pain and public service
Twohey spoke at the FPA event about how she, along with fellow NYT reporter Jodie Kantor, broke the story of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse over a period of nearly three decades. Twohey was on maternity leave when she started investigating Weinstein, but after learning the scope of Weinstein’s abuse, Twohey knew she wanted to investigate further.
Spending hours calling victims to piece together a case against Weinstein, Twohey urged them to “turn their pain into some sort of use and public service.” Actresses she spoke with were terrified of Weinstein and didn’t know how to stand up to him, knowing their careers and dreams were in his hands. Although I’ve never experienced abuse on such a grand scale, I can relate to being hesitant to speak out against injustice committed by people in positions of power.
The NYT investigation found previously undisclosed allegations against Weinstein through interviews, legal records, emails, and internal documents from the businesses he has run. Twohey’s discovery of secret settlements for Weinstein’s sexual harassment cases led her to understand how abusers cover the tracks of their misconduct, allowing them to continue predatory behavior.
Others joined the FPA panel: Jim DeRogatis, author of Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly; activist, playwright, and I Killed the Crow performer Larissa Marten; and Annette John-Hall, host of WHYY's The Why. Also featured were Emily Woods and Colleen Kennedy—two brave survivors from Philadelphia who remind us that the power of a woman's voice lies in using it.
Society has witnessed how we’ve held men like Larry Nasser, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein accountable for their crimes because of the brave women who told their stories. #IMNOJANEDOE emphasized how empowering people to come forward from the shadow of silence fueled the #MeToo movement.
I shed tears throughout the event, my heart feeling the pain and trauma these women carry with them. The auditorium at the University of the Arts overflowed with support for the #MeToo movement and demonstrated how believing survivors is a powerful weapon that can end cycles of abuse. #IMNOJANEDOE displayed the solidarity and strength within our communities and the power of one’s voice to create change. The personal stories from survivors and journalists embolden others to unleash the power of their voices. Check out the rest of this year’s First Person Arts Festival, with performances, workshops, and storytelling events centered on themes of transformation, social justice, and liberation.
What, When, Where
#IMNOJANEDOE. Presented by First Person Arts at Levitt Auditorium, 401 S Broad Street, Philadelphia. (267) 402-2055 or firstpersonarts.org/festival. The First Person Arts Festival runs at venues around the city through November 16, 2019.