Up until a few weeks ago I would have reluctantly admitted to having a soft spot for Woody Allen films. Being a feminist, I would have conceded that I thought he was a creep, but oh well all men are creeps right? For some reason I never really looked into what he did.
As a survivor myself, I have struggled with compartmentalizing, dissociating to get through life. I understand in some ways just how complex human beings can be, even abusers.
The reasons I really liked his films was because a lot of them are really identifiable. I loved listening to his ranting monologues. I loved the women he cast in his films. Particularly Judy Davis, who is by far my favorite actress of all time. He let women be older, he let them be mean and complex and ugly sometimes and I appreciated that.
Anyway I haven’t really kept up in the past few years with his films. Maybe it was all that radical feminism I was getting into, I was seeing between the layers of how everything was all about him and how fucking boring that can be. Maybe I was also just too busy trying to support female directors, female artists in general to be to bothered.
In any account when I saw Ronan Farrow’s tweet about how Woody Allen had sexually abused his sister I knew immediately it was true and I was disappointed in myself for not looking further into the allegations that had been made against him sooner.
When a couple days later Dylan Farrow’s piece surfaced online about what had happened to her I knew it was true as well. I felt her anger at how what had happened to her was not taken seriously. Not even by adults who she thought cared about her. Thousands upon thousands ignoring and covering up what to her was a seriously traumatic and horrific event in her life.
There are certain things you can only understand if you are a survivor, and by “survivor” I’m meaning someone who not only has been through this things but has done a lot of work to understand the effect they’ve had on you. There are a lot more victims of male violence than we care to admit. In my life, when I’ve talked to other women about these issues only one of them has ever claimed that they haven’t been violated by a man. To be honest I had trouble believing her as well.
So when something is so rampant, like incest, like sexual abuse. Why are people so determined to not believe women when they come forward and say these things have happened to them? Women have nothing to gain from talking about it publicly. They’ll be subjected to even more traumatic abuse from people who are more apt to believe that a man who sexually groomed, took pornographic pictures of and later married one of his adopted children than another one of the children he raised.
Woody Allen’s response is typical of abusers. What man ever admits he raped a woman when she accuses him? I’ve never seen or heard of it happening. You’d have to be out of your mind to admit to something that could ruin your image and even land you in jail.
There’s another aspect of this I think should be brought up. Allen’s female friends. Women publicly named in Dylan Farrow’s piece. Abusers don’t abuse every person in their life. We have this really backward belief that abuse is the result of a person being bad, not a person being able to get away with something. Part of how they have support is through their relationships with other people. I’ve seen it many times in activist communities and subcultures I’ve been part of. Abusers have friends. Abusers are really kind to some people. They don’t harm everyone. Only the ones they can. This is why women like Diane Keaton can have the opinion that Allen is a friend of hers and wouldn’t do something like sexually assaulting his own child. Its easy to project how someone treats us onto how someone acts all the time. But are any of us the same person when we interact with everyone?
We need to start talking about these dynamics more openly. Every time there is movement towards understanding and helping victims of incest in our culture backlash inevitably arises. This happened with Freud in his early work. He documented over and over again how many of his patients had been sexually abused. When he came forward with his findings he was considered mad himself and was forced into “reexamining” his theories. He came up with this bullshit about how children somehow fantasize about sex with their fathers. This isn’t the case unless a child has been sexually abused. Why is it easier to believe, despite the statistics that children are fantasizing about these things?
Allen also claims that Dylan was coached by his ex Mia Farrow into making the “outrageous” claims of sexual abuse. But courts found no evidence of coaching by Mia Farrow and you can’t coach the type of trauma into someone’s brain that Dylan wrote about. Dylan is a grown woman now. She has her own voice, she doesn’t need anyone to advocate for her. Why would she still cling to this story if it were a fabrication? She has nothing to gain from any of this. The only person who stands to gain or lose anything is Woody Allen.
So I’m a former fan of Woody Allen. I can’t in good conscience watch any of his films. I can’t give him any of my money. I can’t support his work when it would mean that I’m contributing to the further alienation of his victim. I can’t look at him without my stomach turning and knowing that he’s no different than the men who’ve raped and violated me. I don’t know how anyone could.
For further reading:
An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow
Carolyn Gage : Siblings of Incest Survivors
Lisa Bloom: Six Reasons Why Dylan Farrow is Highly Credible