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Men, here's how you DON'T talk about sexual harassment

By Rediff Get Ahead Bureau
December 20, 2017 10:14 IST
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Lessons from Hollywood star Matt Damon's mistakes.

Matt Damon

Photograph: Fred Thornhill/Reuters

This year was a watershed moment in the conversation about sexual harassment.

As women began to speak up about the abuse they had faced, men of power who had been sexual predators for decades began to crumble under the scrutiny.

It not only empowered other women to finally feel safe enough to speak up about the sexual abuse they too had faced, but also saw men asking what they could do and how they could help without making the issue about them.

But not Hollywood star Matt Damon.

The Good Will Hunting actor, who has made enough gaffes to have led to #Damonsplaining becoming a thing, has made multiple tone-deaf and unnecessary comments about sexual harassment after the first Harvey Weinstein story broke in October.

Damon, who had first disclaimed any knowledge of Weinstein's behaviour and then admitted he knew the producer had harassed Gwyneth Paltrow, has now said in a recent interview, 'I knew I wouldn't want him married to anyone close to me. But that was the extent of what we knew, you know? And that wasn't surprising to anybody. So when you hear Harvey this, Harvey that -- I mean, look at the guy. Of course he's a womanizer. … I mean, I don't hang out with him.'

And that's not all. Here's a list of all the times Damon should have just shut up.

 

'There's a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated, right?

'... All of that behavior needs to be confronted, but there is a continuum. And on this end of the continuum where you have rape and child molestation or whatever, you know, that's prison. Right? And that's what needs to happen. OK? And then we can talk about rehabilitation and everything else. That's criminal behavior, and it needs to be dealt with that way.

'The other stuff is just kind of shameful and gross, and I just think … I don't know Louis CK [the comedian who admitted that he forced women to watch him masturbate]... I've never met him. I'm a fan of his, but I don't imagine he's going to do those things again. You know what I mean? I imagine the price that he's paid at this point is so beyond anything that he...'

-- Told to ABC News

 

'We live in this culture of outrage and injury, and, you know, that we're going to have to correct enough to kind of go, "Wait a minute. None of us came here perfect." You know what I mean? …

'The Louis CK thing, I don't know all the details. I don't do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement, which kind of, which [was] arresting to me. When he came out and said, "I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth." And I just remember thinking, "Well, that's the sign of somebody who -- well, we can work with that" 

-- Told to ABC News

 

'When you see Al Franken [the US Senator who had to resign over accusations of forcible kissing and groping and yet insisted he did nothing wrong] taking a picture putting his hands on that woman's flak jacket and mugging for the camera, going like that, you know, that is just like a terrible joke, and it's not funny. It's wrong, and he shouldn't have done that … But when you talk about Harvey and what he's accused of, there are no pictures of that. He knew he was up to no good. There's no witnesses. There's no pictures. There's no braggadocio … So they don't belong in the same category.'

-- Told to ABC News

 

'We're in this watershed moment and it's great, but I think one thing that's not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys -- the preponderance of men I've worked with -- who don't do this kind of thing and whose lives aren't going to be affected.

-- Told to Business Insider

 Oh, Matt!

 

The problem with Matt Damon's statements

 

The use of the words 'spectrum' or 'continuum' in the sexual violence conversation is not new. So, what was so wrong about what Damon said?

A US-based Rape Crisis Center explained the problem in a series of tweets.

'So here's the thing about someone proclaiming that a pat on the ass is not the same as rape. It's true. It's not. They are both crimes, but they carry different weight, different consequences, and different traumatizing effects for the victim...

'But an unwanted "pat on the ass" is still bad. Any sexual harrassment, however slight in the eyes of the abuser, is something that chips away at a victim's soul, just a little bit, every day, until life feels unbearable...

'When you suffer these indignities on a regular basis, or in many cases of harassment, every single day, it starts to feel like you have nothing to offer beyond your sexuality, that your position is tenuous, and you are merely a vessel of an otherwise worthless person.

'While sexual harassment might not have the immediate, dreadful, traumatizing aftermath of rape, make no mistake, it is a form of sexual violence that in the end can derail a victim's life just as surely as rape.'

Laura Palumbo of the US-based National Sexual Violence Resource Center told USA Today, 'The goal... is to help people understand the relationships between a range of behaviors... If people don't understand the relationship between a rape joke or an inappropriate comment or unwanted touching ... then we aren't able to challenge the overarching culture.'

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