Since reading Dylan Farrow’s gutting open letter detailing the sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen on the New York Times website last weekend, I’ve been obsessively following the ensuing coverage.
This has not been good for me. It has made me feel exhausted, sad, frustrated and angry, which is why I’ve been really reluctant to write about it here. (Every time I’ve sat down to blog, all that comes out is low, guttural baying.)
For my part, I believe that Dylan is an incredibly brave woman for coming forward in such a public way. I believe that she deserves to be heard — really, actually, truly heard. Because her truth matters. She matters.
Encouragingly, I’ve read many wise words by many wise people over the past few days — among them Roxane Gay, who wrote this excellent Salon piece a few days ago, in advance of the “forthcoming conversation from ‘public intellectuals’ about Allen, Farrow, the allegations and how we should feel about all of this.”
Gay implores said ‘public intellectuals’ to elevate the discourse from the OMG HOW CAN WE REALLY KNOW IF SHE WAS MOLESTED? narrative by instead critiquing a culture that allows such a conversation to happen.
We can consider how nearly every single article about Allen and these allegations refers to Dylan Farrow as his ‘adopted daughter,’ instead of his daughter, as if that designation, by creating some distance, somehow lessens his alleged crimes. We can consider how, all too often, victims need to prove their stories in the court of public opinion. They need to be unassailable. They need to authenticate their stories in an atmosphere where they will be doubted and maligned for daring to speak up. We can consider how people seem to want to believe false rape and sexual abuse accusations are the rule rather than the exception. We can consider how little there is to be gained from false accusations of sexual assault. We can consider what it costs to stand up and say, “I am the victim of sexual violence.” The exposure of those wounds, the intense vulnerability of admitting how you have been trespassed against, is not some kind of compensation for the crime you have suffered.
And she goes on. It’s sound, smart advice — but sadly, from where I’m sitting, the conversation among many “public intellectuals” has been mostly fucking horrifying.
Many columnists at mainstream, high-profile outlets are continuing to dedicate precious column inches to protecting “the good name” of Woody Allen, many of them holding up Robert B. Weide’s hella problematic Daily Beast piece as some sort of journalistic gold standard because, I don’t know, it has lists. But, like, relax you guys: like Weide, these columnists aren’t blaming the victim — they’re “merely floating scenarios to consider.”
It’s not just mainstream media that has made me want to quit the Internet. I’ve had friends who have tried to carve out safe spaces for survivors/allies to talk through this shit on social media, only to see that space overrun by MEN WITH OPINIONS who felt the need the need to weigh in about the legal system/mansplain about rape culture/etc. And don’t even get me started about the ass-hattery on Twitter.
IS MY BITCHERY PALPABLE?
I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been eloquently covered by the ladies who did some real heavy lifting on this subject this week — like Andrea Grimes, who wrote this essential read on her experience as a childhood sexual abuse survivor — and numerous others.
To those defending “the good name of Woody Allen,” I leave you with the wise words of Melissa McEwan of Shakesville.
Woody Allen is 78 year old. He is fine. He has been fine, and he will always be fine. He doesn’t need anyone to defend him against some fantasy that Dylan Farrow telling her story is going to ruin him. Dylan Farrow, on the other hand, needs to be heard. She needs listeners.
ETA: Woody Allen isn’t the only powerful celebrity whose had (mostly forgotten) sexual assault charges leveled against him. On Tuesday, Gawker detailed the allegations against Bill Cosby.
THIS WEEK. THE WORST.