In an interview with ABC News last week, when asked to address the sexual misconduct allegations against a number of famous men in Hollywood, Matt Damon said that there is “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated.”
Damon's attempt at mansplaining the nuances of sexual misconduct sparked outrage on more than one account. Alyssa Milano tweeted at Damon, saying, “there are different stages of cancer. Some more treatable than others. But it’s still cancer.”
Minnie Driver, Damon’s ex-girlfriend and former co-star in Weinstein’s film Good Will Hunting, responded via Twitter, saying, “Gosh it’s so interesting (profoundly unsurprising) how men with all these opinions about women’s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem.”
Driver followed up her online comments with an interview at The Guardian, explaining that men “simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level.” She went on to explain that they should therefore not to try to distinguish between or comment on things they have not experienced themselves: “Until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not.”
While Driver leaves out the men who have spoken out about their experiences with sexual harassment (such as Terry Crews), her comments are super important. As Hollywood and other industries are in desperate need of reconstruction, men, especially powerful men, should not be dictating how sexual misconduct allegations are handled or valued. Categorizing survivor's experiences into tiers of "needs immediate address" and "does not need immediate address" is tantamount to silencing survivors. If we get stuck ranking "sexual misconduct" instead of confronting the whole breadth of rape culture — where women and children's bodies are up for grabs — in one fell swoop, we will continue to keep the same types of people in power, namely abusers, predators, and general scumbags.
As Driver said in her interview, “It’s all fucking wrong and it’s all bad, and until you start seeing it under one umbrella it’s not your job to compartmentalize or judge what is worse and what is not. Let women do the speaking up right now. The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”
Top photo: Speechless/ABC
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Sarah C. Epstein is a writer and creator living in NYC. In her free time she enjoys eating berries, reflecting on her dreams, and hanging out with her pet snake, Sydney. Find her online at cricketepstein.com.