Why defend Woody Allen?

Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow’s daughter, recently published an account of the sexual abuse she allegedly experienced at the hands of Woody Allen. I have to say “allegedly,” I guess, because that’s what we have to do when the accused was never charged. Of course, as those of us who have known abusers and abuse (and that’s likely most of us, as women) know, most abusers aren’t charged. So “allegedly,” I’ll say. But I believe her.

There is no reason not to believe her. I know, I know — it’s just all so complicated, some say. Who really knows the truth? Well, Dylan knows the truth. And Allen knows the truth. So pick a side, any side; equipped with the knowledge that going public about our abuse and our abusers is no walk in the park. Know that coming out about abuse most certainly and almost always will be cause for punishment, ostracization, accusations regarding one’s “mental stability,” more abuse (verbal, emotional, psychological), more trauma, and concerted efforts to discredit the victim. Know that women don’t go public about abuse for fun and kicks. Especially when your abuser is in a position of power (as men, most of them are…), like Woody Allen is.

I will admit I have been a fan of Woody Allen’s movies. Like a big, fat cliché, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Annie Hall have been among my favorite films. I was somehow clueless to these accusations when they came out in ’92. I was, like, 12 then, but there were other red flags. Though I hadn’t known about Dylan’s story, I knew about Allen’s marriage to Soon-Yi, which, while not technically illegal, is significantly… significant. It’s as though this is all he could get away with publicly. If society and the law would have allowed it, I don’t doubt he would have found an even younger girl to coerce into a “relationship.”

And yes, I judge men who date very, very young women. “Judgement?!” “Shaming?!” you might gasp. Yes, judgement and shaming. If we can’t judge and shame men who prey on and abuse young women, then we’re really done for in this postmodernism-soaked “movement.” “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” you might recall, is the song pedophile and rapist, R. Kelly, wrote for his underage former-wife, Aaliyah, to sing. Men get away with what they can get away with. Judgement is not a bad thing (take note, third wavers).

Sixteen year old Mariel Hemingway as Woody Allen's love interest in Manhattan
Sixteen year old Mariel Hemingway as Woody Allen’s love interest in Manhattan

I should have abandoned Allen’s work a long time ago, I know. And I’m sorry I didn’t. We see these kinds of “signs” all the time. We just ignore them. I mean, Allen dates a high school student — 17 year old Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway, who was actually 16 at the time) —  in Manhattan for Christ’s sake. How I managed to ignore this all these years is significant. But that’s how this all goes, isn’t it. We don’t see until we can’t not see. Men’s art, men’s work, men’s power is always at the forefront — always made more visible than the women they ruin and abuse and erase on their way to the top.

The Daily Beast published a revolting defense of Allen by Robert B. Weide, who managed to drag, what can be summarized as “bitches are crazy, amirite?” into a 5000 word piece, dripping with condescension. The old boys club routine never gets old.

The nerve. The absolutely sociopathic, hateful, sickening nerve an individual must have to listen to an account like Dylan’s, and come back with: “gossip” and “badmouthing.” I mean, Weide feels obligated to remind us that Dylan has been “characterized as emotionally disturbed” — what on earth does he think happens to women who are abused? They come out unscathed? This is gaslighting at it’s finest — calling women who have been traumatized, “crazy.” Well yeah. See how emotionally stable you feel after years of abuse.

This is a tactic used to silence women, in case that’s unclear — to call victims “crazy,” “jealous,” “unstable,” etc. It’s happened to me. It’s happened to countless other women. It’s no coincidence. It’s the plan. It’s how men continue to get away with abuse — because men are rational, you know, and women are nuts. It’s built into the system — the gender hierarchy — the notion that men can be trusted experts and taken at their word, whereas women should be questioned and forced to prove why anyone should listen or take them seriously.

The fact that “Woody literally pays no mind to this stuff, and he continues to work and have a happy home life,” is something that Weide seems to think works in Allen’s defense, when really, all this shows is his deep sense of entitlement. Allen thinks he’s untouchable, because he has learned he is. He thinks he will get away with this because he has. He thinks he has done nothing wrong because he has been treated as though he has, in fact, done nothing wrong. He’s fine and good and happy-go-lucky because he’s not the one who was sexually abused. Dylan was. Yeah, he’s fine. No, she’s not.

Mia and Ronan Farrow call out Woody Allen during the Golden Globes
Mia and Ronan Farrow call out Woody Allen during the Golden Globes

Wiede goes on to suggest Mia “get over herself,” referencing Tweets she posted during the Golden Globes’ celebration of Allen’s work. Really. Women everywhere who speak publicly about sexual abuse should probably just “get over themselves” — is there anything more selfish than calling out the men who abuse our daughters, after all?

Wiebe’s victim-blaming reaches vomit-inducing levels as he “calls out” Mia regarding the fact that her brother was recently sentenced to 25 years for sexually abusing two 10 year old boys. So Mia’s brother is an abuser, and you use that information in an attempt to discredit her and deny the abuse of another individual? Which, to be clear, equates to using male violence to silence the voices of victims of male violence. Get it, asshole?

What Dylan showed us, generously and painfully, beyond her own story, is the way in which silence and denial compounds abuse. When we speak out about abuse, and those around us ignore and deny that abuse, it works to retraumatize the victim — it reinforces that “am I just crazy?” feeling.

Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.

“Who can say for sure,” makes it easier for us to continue supporting and celebrating abusive men. Meanwhile, the victim learns she doesn’t matter at all. She learns that her abuser’s art is more valuable than her life.

Dylan’s story will be disturbing and shocking to many, but it is also a story that will be familiar to many. Because every woman who has experienced abuse — sexual, physical, emotional, psychological — knows what happens when you tell your story. We know that feeling — that sickening realization: “Oh, that’s right. No one cares.”

It’s difficult to see that which we don’t want to, but the consequences are right here in front of us.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.