Harvey Weinstein and the Limits of ‘She Said, She Said, She Said’

I often wake up these days feeling as though I’m living in an upside-down world. Thursday was one such morning: Just as Donald Trump prepared to spend another day in a Manhattan criminal court to face charges related to hush money paid to a porn star he allegedly had sex with, in the same spot where Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape four years ago, Mr. Weinstein’s New York conviction was overturned.

The decision was determined by a single vote, by a majority-female panel of judges, who ruled that the trial court judge had improperly allowed testimony from accusers who weren’t part of the charges, compromising Mr. Weinstein’s right to a fair trial.

Those following Mr. Weinstein’s legal battles always knew there was a possibility that his conviction would be thrown out on appeal. But the nature of the decision, and its focus on several women who testified that Mr. Weinstein had assaulted them, even though none of those allegations had led to charges, revealed something that unsettled me.

Until Thursday, it seemed that we had entered a new age of accountability, legal and social, not just for Mr. Weinstein but also for the abusers who’d come after him. Even as the #MeToo movement fell short in some ways, the Weinstein case felt like a cultural marker — an Arthur’s sword in the stone moment, in which something irreversible happened. The monster of #MeToo had been vanquished, and it changed something about the way we understood vulnerability and power.

And then, suddenly, it didn’t.

To be clear, Thursday’s ruling will not spring Mr. Weinstein from behind bars. He already faced an additional 16 years from a separate conviction in California, and he may be sent there to serve out that sentence.

But in establishing the limits of these so-called prior bad act witnesses — an attempt by the prosecution in the case to show a pattern of coercion — the ruling did something else: It highlighted the striking gap between how we’ve come to believe women inside the courtroom and outside it.

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