One of the most prominent men exposed by the #MeToo movement was disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was finally arrested in May on rape charges. Dozens of women have spoken up about harassment and assault at the hands of Weinstein, and it finally seems as though they may see some justice. However, yesterday, August 19th, one of Weinstein’s most vocal accusers, actress Asia Argento, came under fire after it was reported she had settled sexual assault allegations made against her late last year.
The New York Times first released the report about Argento, writing that the actress paid actor and musician Jimmy Bennett $380,000 in an out-of-court settlement. Bennett had played Argento’s son in a film, and the incident reportedly occurred in 2013. The Times reportedly received documents stating that the assault had taken place when Bennett was 17 years old, and the documents included a picture of Argento and Bennett in bed together.
Actress, activist, and fellow Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan, who is good friends with Argento, took to Twitter on August 20th, writing, “my heart is broken” and promised to continue advocating for survivors. But in a since-deleted followup tweet, she asked her followers to “be gentle” in the wake of the Times report.
Many on Twitter were quick to point out the problematic—and hypocritical—nature of McGowan’s comment. McGowan would never call for others to “be gentle” toward male abusers or those who weren’t her friends.
Some said this double standard is destructive to the entire #MeToo movement.
Of course, McGowan isn’t the first self-proclaimed ally to reveal a bias towards friends. Back in November, writer and director Lena Dunham was heavily criticized for defending a male Girls writer after he was accused of rape, although she later apologized.
In the end, standing up against sexual assault means believing the victims—even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable. Picking and choosing who we believe—and calling into question the validity of those who come forward with their stories—is one of the major reasons so many victims stay silent.
UPDATE, August 23rd, 2018:
Bennett responded to the Times report with a statement, saying, “Many brave women and men have spoken out about their own experiences during the #MeToo movement, and I appreciate the bravery that it took for each and every one of them to take such a stand. I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself.”
He went on to note that he was nervous to speak out when the incident first ocurred because he felt that male victims of sex crimes are still stigmatized in our society, but Argento’s accusations against Weinstein and the broader #MeToo movement inspired him to come forward. He closed by saying, “I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence.” Read Bennett’s full statement here.