When it first emerged that Woody Allen had the gall to give his two-cents on the Harvey Weinstein allegations, I could feel the eyes of millions of women around the globe rolling back into their heads. Allen, the man who, just three years ago, explained away accusations of sexual abuse from his own daughter as part of ex-wife Mia Farrow’s plan to exact revenge against him, was calling the kettle black. But not before making sure to call for the protection of other men who might find themselves in similar positions as Weinstein as the result of a looming “witch hunt atmosphere”.
As “sad” as the exposure of Weinstein’s behaviour has been “for everybody involved” he said, “you also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.”
You will have seen similar expressions of fear in the wake of Weinstein and other examples before it (Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, etc). White men fear “witch hunts” – violence historically imposed on women; or white men fear “the lynch mob” – violence historically imposed on black people. And they use those terms without even stopping to think about what they mean.
As one woman perfectly phrased it on Twitter:
When men abuse or harass women, crowds made up of people more powerful than them do not gather in public to slaughter them brutally.
And it’s true. The fact that no such catch-all phrase exists for the oppression of white men speaks directly to the fact that white men have never faced systemic oppression on the grounds of their whiteness or maleness. When men abuse or harass women, crowds made up of people more powerful than them do not gather in public to slaughter them brutally. They are not framed or falsely accused for crimes that they did not, or could not have, committed. Instead, as Allen knows too well, more often than not they become untouchable, the allegations rolling off of them like water off a duck’s back.
As Lindy West put it in her recent New York Times comment piece: “On some level, to some men – and you can call me a hysteric but I am done mincing words on this – there is no injustice quite so unnaturally, viscerally grotesque as a white man being fired.”