Why can’t we seem to hold them accountable?
Woody Allen, long-time filmmaker and actor, was accused in 1992 of raping his daughter, Dylan Farrow. The allegations against him are both well-known and, it seems, easily forgotten. Although the Farrow family has fully supported Dylan and corroborated her story, the film industry is determined to keep its eyes wide shut when it comes to Allen’s abusive history. In fact, some of the most famous women in Hollywood continue not only to work with him, but also publicly defend him.
Scarlett Johansson, who has appeared in several of Allen’s films, comments, “I think he’ll continue to know what he knows about the situation, and I’m sure the other people involved have their own experience with it. It’s not like this is somebody that’s been prosecuted and found guilty of something, and you can then go, ‘I don’t support this lifestyle or whatever.’ I mean, it’s all guesswork.” (emphasis is mine)
Blake Lively recently responded by saying that “It’s very dangerous to factor in things you don’t know anything about. I could [only] know my experience. And my experience with Woody is he’s empowering to women.”
And from Diane Keaton, who has worked with Allen for decades: “I have nothing to say about that. Except: I believe my friend.”
Allen’s list of apologists goes on, including Kristen Stewart, Cate Blanchett, and Emma Stone. Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of this affair is the number of women – powerful women – who actively refuse to believe other women. And by choosing to defend Allen and turn him into some kind of perverted martyr, they perpetuate a culture in which survivors of sexual abuse rarely see justice.
Director Roman Polanski was actually convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, facing six felony counts. In a truly cowardly move, he fled the United States on February 1, 1978, the same day he would have appeared for his sentencing. While abroad, Polanski continued to make films. In 2003, he won the Best Director Oscar for The Pianist, but declined to attend the Academy Awards ceremony because he would have faced arrest upon re-entering the United States. Before fleeing the country, he spent only 42 days in prison. Let me say it again: he is a convicted rapist.
More recently, we learned of the domestic violence allegations against Johnny Depp by his now ex-wife Amber Heard. Despite the fact that Heard was “the perfect victim,” we still didn’t believe her. She went to the police with visible bruises on her face. She provided photographs and witness testimony and text messages as evidence. She donated every cent of her settlement money. None of this was enough to sway public opinion that she is a liar and a gold-digger. (And besides, how could dear, beloved Johnny Depp ever do such a thing?)
As Constance Grady writes, “Our treatment of Heard proves that it doesn’t really matter how women act when they accuse men of hurting them. We don’t really care. We’ll find a way to call them liars no matter what they do.”
Casey Affleck, younger brother of Ben and rising movie star, was sued eight years ago for sexual harassment. Shortly after his film I’m Still Here was released, the film’s producer, Amanda White, and cinematographer, Magdelena Gorka, sued Affleck for his repeatedly inappropriate and aggressive behavior towards them. Once again, Hollywood has turned a blind eye on Affleck’s behavior. He is poised to win Best Actor at the Oscars this year.
It is worth nothing that all of the men above are white. In a jarring comparison to the treatment of Afflect, Nate Parker‘s prospects of winning an Oscar were completely destroyed after his 1999 rape accusation resurfaced a few months ago. As Kelly Walker writes for BUST, “This is how abusers like Woody Allen continue to work and live without consequences for their actions. If you take a white male with a history of abuse and present him as complicated and artistic, the world can be pretty forgiving.”
We all know the story of Bill Cosby, who has been accused by over 60 women of sexual assault, and Chris Brown’s well-publicized history of violence against women. While Cosby and Brown have plenty of apologists, it cannot be ignored that they are treated differently than their white counterparts. Though Brown was released early, he served 108 days in an LA county jail after being convicted for domestic abuse. Bill Cosby’s public image has greatly deteriorated since his accusers stepped forward. And let’s be clear – Cosby, Brown, and Parker all deserve to be held accountable. The question is, why aren’t white men held to the same standard?
Ultimately, all of these stories share a common thread: as a society, we care more about protecting abusers than their victims (particularly if they are white men). While men are given the benefit of the doubt, women are immediately assumed to be liars. We are publicly shamed, blamed for our own abuse, or ignored entirely. This is rape culture. It is rape culture perpetuated on movie sets, award show stages, and through news outlets. And here’s the thing: young men all over the world watch these famous men using women as they please and facing little to no consequences. This is the normalization of violence against women, and it is unacceptable. As long as abusers such as Johnny Depp continue to be employed and make millions, I will never stop fighting for survivors to be heard.