An open letter those who feel the need to defend Woody Allen to their feminist friends who are propagating the #ibelievedylan hashtag. (If you have been living in a cave for the last week…here is why such a hashtag exists, read first ;).
I know that “he’s innocent until proven guilty” sounds trenchant and obvious to you. I know that you’ve read a lot of blog articles about the unreliability of our memory on Neurologica. I’m sure you’ve read Robert Weide’s article at the Daily Beast.
So you chime in. And your feminist friends jump all over your ass. Maybe you get unfriended or blocked. Certainly there are some harsh words. And you may be left with the feeling that these online feminists are being irrational and emotional and unfair. You discussed it with other guy internet friends and they agree, heck they don’t even bother talking about feminism or writing about feminist topics on their blogs anymore because it’s not worth the trouble.
To borrow the words the launched a thousand misogynist twitter updates…“Guys, don’t do that.”
Seriously… because I feel like some of you are well on the way to ending up with new Facebook friends, the kind of guys who use the term “Misandry” and Gynocracy” a lot.
Here’s the thing, none of your skeptic analysis is really relevant to the feminist discussion about Dylan Farrow’s accusations. Woody Allen doesn’t need you white knighting for him. Disputing or denying Ms. Farrow’s accusations, or endeavoring to minimize other’s anger at the situation doesn’t make you an extraordinary rationalist or brave hero. It makes you part of the rather unfortunately common mainstream.
The accusations against Woody Allen are decades old, yet they did not stop The Golden Globes from giving him a lifetime achievement award. Woody Allen, at this point is never going to be brought before a court of law. Now one will be taking away his millions of dollars. No one is even taking away the well earned accolades he has received for his filmmaking (although I must admit that I felt his best work was done back when his movies had giant vegetables in them). At best he will face some public opprobrium, a modicum of shaming, then the news cycle will move on to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death
Being on Woody’s side in this situation is a meaningless gesture. Society is on Woody Allen’s side. Being on Dylan Farrow’s side, especially for your feminist friends, is part of a larger picture in which sexual crimes against women are frighteningly common and where their testimony is often disbelieved or disregarded. Powerful, famous men often get away with horrific crimes because of this. Google Steven Tyler’s sexual history, if you have a strong stomach, then consider how much that has interfered with the former American Idol judges career. See how many speaking engagements Michael Shermer has lost after the accusations leveled against him last year.
It really bothers me to see my friends in the larger Atheist movement acting this way. One of the bedrock foundations of the New Atheist movement has been our collective revulsion and our political actions in response to the monstrosity of the Catholic Churches actions in covering up the sexual assault of minors, a scandal that I’m fairly certain anyone reading this is familiar with. And the response of the Catholic Church has been remarkably similar to the response of those who so readily leap to defend powerful men from similar charges. Obfuscation, minimizing the victims story. Minimizing ALL victims stories. Giving the powerful man the benefit of your doubt whilst reserving your skepticism for the woman’s story. If your feminist friends are emotional and upset when you trot out these same tactics in defense of Woody Allen, perhaps consider that they HAVE considered your salient skeptical point. Perhaps consider how insulting and condescending it is to have the same arguments trotted out by interlopers like yourself, over and over again every time something like this happens.
We feminists… and yes I’m talking about me now, believe and support Dylan Farrow because women need to believed in these situations, precisely because historically they have NOT been believed, so we must err on the side of the victim in order to fight to overcome this bias.
To argue otherwise… to argue that your skepticism trumps the record of history, that the standard of belief should be the standard of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”, is to indulge in the fallacy of a just world. In reality we live in a world where the only justice Woody Allen will likely receive if he indeed did this thing will be our scorn and derision. Dylan Farrow most likely deserves better than that, but we definitely do not live in a just world, so it will have to do.
Edited to fix glaring typo in title…;)
Featured Image: IMDB.com