Content Warning(s): Rape, sexual assault, not believing survivors, being dismissive of assault, Hollywood.
Please note that this post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you.
Liam Neeson has become the latest celebrity to say something repugnant about the #MeToo movement, while appearing on The Late Late Show, an Irish television program.
At one point in the interview, he says, "There is a movement happening... it's healthy and it's across every industry, the focus is on Hollywood at the moment but it is across every industry. I'm a Unicef ambassador, and very proud to be one, and I get sent facts and figures and if you read what I have read about how female labourers are being treated on farms and ranches, it's chilling."
And that's probably where he should have stopped talking, as he then went on to say it was becoming "a bit of a witch hunt", and then dismissed accusations that Dustin Hoffman groped women (some of whom were teenagers) and exposed himself as "childhood stuff" and perhaps a Hollywood "superstition" for making sure the movie turns out well. The reference to it being "childhood stuff" echoes something said by Aziz Ansari's accuser in a recent article - that he wasn't some "horny 18-year-old". Both comments serve to dismiss the actions of younger rapists and abusers. It doesn't matter if someone's sixteen or sixty; this behavior is never acceptable, at any age, and rape is still rape, and no, boys will not just "be boys."
Beyond that, I find it odious that those complaining about the #MeToo movement often call it a "witch hunt". Do you know who the predominant victims of witch hunts were, especially in early modern Europe?
Hey, don't like the woman your son is contracted to marry? Accuse her of being a witch and get her out of the way so he can make a better match that'll get more money into your family.
Hey, bad year for your crops? Must have been Goody Proctor over there with her husband's ample fields of corn. If you accuse her of being a witch, maybe you can buy up their land for cheap when she's dead and he's desperate to get out of town.
Hey, did you get caught with a woman who isn't your wife? Look, clearly she bewitched you and it's the devil's fault so she should be punished and you can declare you never committed adultery.
Witch hunts often came about when a supernatural explanation was needed for misdeeds, or bad luck, or just to get out of an undesirable situation. If people were scared or angry or desperate, they would turn and point fingers so they would have someone to blame, and when the dust settled, women were more likely than men to be the ones burned alive or hanged.
There are undoubtedly men in Hollywood and beyond who are starting to feel as scared and angry and desperate as those townspeople felt back then. They've gone through their lives treating others like they were disposable, just there to be used for a power trip, just there to be taken advantage of. They've abused and assaulted and they're seeing survivors step up and speak up and they're scared they're next.
And yet, those feelings of fear and helplessness probably aren't anything close to what their victims felt when they were being preyed upon.
We're not hunting witches; we're shining lights on the dark places where predators used to lurk, comfortable in the knowledge that they could harm others with impunity. They see us coming with our flashlights - with our enormous spotlights - and they know their little corner of the world could be next. We're exposing them for what they are. What they've done.
And if they're scared? Good. They should be.
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