“The Women in the World” summit was just held in New York City. Ronan Farrow moderated one of the panels that discussed the #MeToo movement, with the speakers being actress/director Asia Argento, one of the first women to speak out against Harvey Weinstein, model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, and Laura Boldrini, an outspoken member of Italy’s parliament who advocates for women’s rights.
Argento has accused Weinstein of rape, while Battilana Gutierrez has accused Weinstein of groping her. We learn that when Asia Argento told her story about being raped by Harvey Weinstein she was met with slurs and insults in her native Italy.
She was called a prostitute and people went as far as to say that she deserved it, and that “a woman like her” could not be raped. Totally discouraged by the venomous reaction, she decided to leave and come to the US where the story would be received with greater sympathy and where she could set the record straight —Weinstein, she says, was never her boyfriend. Farrow agrees that this is precisely the advice he gave her: “God, get out of there, protect yourself!”.
Boldrini, on the other hand, vehemently opposes this view and urged her to stay: “No, no, no” she says, “we have to fight there and we will win!”
In a nutshell, this is the dilemma that women find themselves in when they become the victims of violence. Frequently, to report the crime means to be victimized all over again by the public who jumps to conclusions without having the facts. It means to be not only the victim of the violence, but the victim of character assassination. Argento asks herself, “Should I go or should I stay?” When faced with a similar situation, most women do ask themselves, “should I fight and face further humiliation, or should I hide and cut my losses?
Argento decided that she had to tell her story, that “we need to keep the conversation going because this movement is the most important thing to have happened to women since the vote”. In short, Argento, and many of the other women who have spoken out, see this as a mission. But I wonder if they realized when they took it on that a mission frequently involves a sacrifice, sometimes a great sacrifice, and certainly a great deal of pain. Did they also realize that all movements generate a backlash? Think of the feminist movement, and how much antagonism it engendered. Many young women are still reluctant to identify themselves as feminists because of long-standing negative associations with screeching harpies. It is only when we point out to them that they are feminists if in actual fact they want gender equality and all its rights, that they hesitantly reconsider this allegiance.
The #MeToo movement has been to some extent diluted by those who trivialized it with frivolous accusations. By too many women and men who have jumped on the bandwagon for the wrong reasons or for outright publicity. Think of Corey Feldman, whose initial accusations of sexual molestation subsequently gave way to increasingly bizarre claims of other kinds. His credibility has been pretty much destroyed, and in turn that diminishes the credibility of all concerned. Today the #Metoo movement was dealt another unfortunate blow when Janice Dickinson admitted that certain aspects of the accusations that she has made against Bill Cosby were fabricated when she wrote her autobiography, for the purpose of increasing sales of her book.
By now every wannabe celebrity who was once goosed has come out to claim her 15 minutes of fame. But let’s be serious, there’s a difference between being goosed and being raped. Nor is the #MeToo movement helped by cynical attempts to cash in on its popularity for ratings purposes. The 2018 presentation of the Oscars featured a salute to the Movement, but how can we ignore the fact that the film and television industry is notorious for having promoted and covered up such abuses? Harvey Weinstein’s crimes were an open secret in Hollywood for decades, no one denounced him until Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd dared to break that silence—indeed, omerta’ might be a better word.
Asia Argento is on a mission, and that is a noble undertaking. She obviously is paying the price. But not every accuser is equally disinterested and civic minded. The question is, if you make an accusation, are you willing to stay and fight?