As we ride out yet another nauseating wave of revelations about sexual predators in Hollywood, we’re also getting outrage from the very industry that enabled their abuse.
Many of the predictable, strongly-worded, flack-approved condemnations from Hollywood elites about their shock, dismay, and (alleged) ignorance of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior sounds well-meaning.
But look more closely—at the subtle hedging in their language, at the protective coats of phrasing. And you’ll quickly see how some of these people just don’t get it. Or, even worse, are making condemnations that slyly deflect any would-be charges of accountability for why this keeps happening. So many people knew. Can every person who condemned Weinstein openly this week not have known?
Well-meaning statements don’t mean much, ultimately, when the people making them keep demonstrating complicit behavior—the same kind that got us here. As if that’s not bad enough, so many of these people are focusing on their own traumatic feelings about someone else’s horror. Or they dole out justifications for why they’re just so much more woke to why sexually assaulting women is bad (I have daughters! I love my mom!).
Yeah, the intentions are good and all, but the road to hellishly bad takes is paved with good intentions. And also, let’s be real, the need to have a strong personal celebrity brand.
Thus, for all these sleepily “woke” celebrities, a guide: Here’s how not to respond to widespread sexual misconduct in your industry.
1. Don’t tell other people how to fix the problem when you’re the problem.
Ben? Good news for you: You don’t even have to leave the house in order to condemn this kind of behavior in your industry. Just go to the dinner table and ask your brother, Casey Affleck, about it. Or, better yet, Argo look at yourself in a goddamn mirror (and I’m sorry, but your half-assed Tweet apology sounds about as remorseful as a kid caught with his hand molesting the innards of a cookie jar, mouth full of cookie).
As far as lending your support, two things:
1. Women aren’t objects in your White Knight narrative who exist to be saved from rape to further your character development. We just need you to care enough when we’re sexually assaulted IRL to actually do something about it.
2. When you lie awake in bed at night just racking your brain about “what you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” think about not saying some dismissive bullshit like this to victims like Rose McGowan:
@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.
— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 10, 2017
Because while these victims suffer assaults, then summon the courage to come forward about it, your careless lies lead to countless others being assaulted.
Finally, that brings us to another common through-line of reasoning from the men of Hollywood (including Weinstein himself): A woman shouldn’t have to be your sister, friend, coworker, or daughter in order for you to care about her sexual assault. Or anyone else’s.
2. Don’t. Use. The daddy excuse.
has come under fire for his insistence that he could’ve stopped all these assaults—if he’d only known about them.
Aside from the cringe-worthy egotism of
Jason Bourne’s Matt Damon’s mentality, Damon went on to claim that men “have to be vigilant and we have to help protect and call this stuff out because we have our sisters and our daughters and our mothers.”
PSA to all men, straight, gay, innocent, or criminal: The reason women shouldn’t be raped is not because they are your sister or daughter. They shouldn’t be raped because they are people. Becoming a father isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a prerequisite to understanding why sexually harassing or assaulting people is wrong. This should be common logic, but it’s not, because people are narcissistic idiots who only see the world through their own myopic vantage point. You are getting the chance, now, not to be. Don’t.
Becoming a father is not and should not be a prerequisite to understanding that rape is bad. That’s just, you know, a thing everyone should know off the bat.
3. Don’t shed tears for the imaginary innocent men who might get accused of sexual harassment.
#Weinstein a pig-Now any women-making any allegation of harassment vs celeb-however old or uncorroborated-gets near unrebuttable presumption
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) October 10, 2017
Ah, this ol’ classic.
To paraphrase the logic behind what’s being said by Geraldo Rivera—a walking mouthbreather whose most notable claim to fame is a trademark mustache that screams “compensating” (also, “FREE ME!”)—it seems he’s thinking: “Sure, Weinstein’s gross. But now that his decades-long reign of sexual terror is no longer an industry secret, any woman can go around crying rape and actually (dear god) be believed. The real victims here are clearly creepy dudes who now have to be careful about the way they act around women!”
It’s hard not to read anything like this as, well, preemptive, and said in the interest of covering one’s own ass. Because, like Affleck, Geraldo doesn’t need to go too far to find other white men in power who were proven to display the same behavior, and get away with it. Take, for example, his Fox buddies Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes.
As if that wasn’t enough, Geraldo believed it a good idea to defend his first hot garbage Tweet with a second one! In it, he explained that the “pendulum has swung so far to revulsion of old ways as a Handmaid’s Tale.” First: Whuh? Second: Did you even watch the Handmaid’s Tale, or grasp that it’s about how abuses of power lead to systemic rape, both figuratively and very much literally?
Blessed be whoever gets Geraldo a Hulu subscription or (perchance to dream) a copy of Atwood’s book, so he can at least have relatively informed shitass takes.
4. Don’t interrogate the victims instead of the perpetrator.
DKNY fashion designer Donna Karan seems hellbent on knowing what Harvey Weinstein’s victims did to deserve their abuse:
I think we have to look at ourselves.. how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?
Hearing the same tired old excuses from men is upsetting, but expected. But hearing a fashion designer tout the “But what was she wearing?” line of reasoning is more than a little devastating. Did someone tell her that she actually has a direct influence on how women “present all the sensuality and all the sexuality” through the clothes she designs?
But apparently, some still think questions like “How do we present ourselves as women?” are a more relevant line of investigation in a sexual assault case than, say, “Why are we teaching men that it’s OK to rape people?“
Oh, and to answer Dotard Karen’s question, of “how much should [women] show?” Start with common human decency, for a start. And enough of it to not spout utterly tone-deaf, regressive noise like that.
5. Don’t shame and tell victims how to react to their own sexual assault.
Depressingly, it appears female celebrities have taken up the mantle of knee-jerk victim-blaming.
In a Tweet she quickly deleted and replaced with the digital equivalent of tucking your tail between your legs, Vanessa Carlton voiced another common response: Every time a powerful man finally gets taken down for sexual abuse, people quickly turn their ire from the perpetrator to the victims.
Here, Carlton takes this to Inception levels of layered ass-backwardness, by guilting Paltrow, for not coming forward sooner, because she has a daughter.
Hard to understand why Paltrow didn’t come forward sooner, right? But it might be because she didn’t want to ruin her life, and be silenced or shunned out of her industry (to say nothing of dealing with all the angry baglady takes like Vanessa Carlton’s).
6. Don’t do mental gymnastics to turn perpetrators into saints, and victims into villains.
Honestly, everything that’s come out of Lindsay Lohan’s mouth since she suddenly decided she has a foreign accent should be struck from the human record. But her choice to put an angel emoji next to the word “Harvey” in this post basically sums up her horrorshow of a take—if you can even call it that—quite nicely.
The evil fucked-up batshitedness of making excuses for sexual predators aside, Lindsay’s reaction isn’t uncommon: People often appear much more capable of empathizing and believing perpetrators of assault than victims.
We get it. It’s not fun to have to face the hard truth that we live in a world where full-on monsters walk in plain sight among us. It’s hard to reckon with the fact that someone you worked with closely is one of them. But often, this leads to the gut instinct of disregarding or justifying accusations, of deep cognitive dissonance, so that some people (like Lindsay) can sleep easy at night.
We need to be better about that—and the first step is to not use our own personal experiences as evidence to dismiss outright the claims of countless other women.
7. Don’t make other people’s sexual assaults about you.
You know what’s worse than having your body violated through forced sexual acts? Your shitty 2013 thriller The Canyons getting ruined by said sexual predator. And you thought being raped was bad!
This abysmally, almost impressively bad response from writer-director Paul Schrader encapsulates The Male Problem in Hollywood, which is: While women are fighting tooth-and-nail to be heard and equal to men, let alone retain the right to their own bodies, schmucks like Schrader find an instance of losing creative control as “more offensive” than an actual crime against an actual woman. And on the off chance he was being cute, and making a joke? Well, his sense of humor certainly does well to explain the last 37 years of his post-Raging Bull track record, which is to say, it sucks ass.
8. Don’t make excuses for why you thought it was OK to sexually assault people.
Without a doubt, Weinstein takes the gold for the OG of shitty responses to the Weinstein scandal. But it’s worth understanding exactly what his artfully awful response makes clear about Hollywood’s cultural problem. Because, sure, these tactics didn’t save Weinstein from the onslaught of evidence this time around. But it’s certainly worked for others. And last time, not only did the public buy it, but they voted him into office as the 45th President of the United States.
Using “boys club” behavior as an excuse for being a predator is the definition of missing the point. Instead of equivocating sexual assault with “locker room talk,” you might as well say: “I did it because I thought no one was watching, and would never have to face consequences for it, because it was normalized.”
Harvey goes one step further, though: At first, he vows to call in sexual assault attorney Lisa Bloom to “tutor” him on, you know, how to not sexually assault women. Unfortunately, though, no amount of Female Tutoring can cure you of being a purebred scumbag, to say nothing of making right all of the scumbag things you’ve done.
And of course, given that Harvey has such a hard time understanding that women don’t exist just to serve him, he probably doesn’t understand that it’s also not a woman’s job to teach you that rape is bad.
Now, Harvey’s trying to scuttle his own shitty reactions to his own shitty behavior by hiding out in Europe, so he can blame his shitty predatory behavior on being, yes, a “sex addict.”
This excuse isn’t just tired (ask Anthony Weiner) but also offensive to people who actually suffer from sex addiction. It also ignores the fact that the problem wasn’t that Weinstein had a lot of sex, but that he forced sex on women who didn’t want it.
As his bafflingly botched bait-and-switch with the NRA went, this too just goes to show the sheer lack of effort that went into Weinstein’s original apology. It’s almost as if no one’s ever held him accountable for this kind of behavior.
Oh, wait: That’s exactly what happened.
Because only someone with no idea why what he did was wrong would end his apology with a laundry list of the things he’s done for women—things that they should feel grateful to him for. If you ever needed an object lesson in what “performative allyship” looks like, then look no further.
As a last-ditch effort to try and convince people that he’s a human, instead of the life-sized rotting sphincter of a man that he is, Harvey even parroted the logic that many of the men above used: He is a family man, after all. A father! And he even has a mom!
Because, as we all know, no man who’s ever been a father or born to a woman has ever raped anyone, ever. Not once.
Do better. All of you.