When the accusations against Woody Allen first surfaced 20 years ago, I was gloriously unaware of pop culture and it was nothing more than background noise. I am not a rabid fan of his work: I’ve greatly enjoyed some of his movies and greatly hated others. I did find the whole marrying-your-sort-of-step-daughter-thing creepy, but many powerful men are known for that kind of younger girl creepiness. It’s the kind of creepy to which we’ve become desensitized. We tell men they should be envious of men who can date women that young, and tell women that they’re past their prime and of no use to men their own age and for some reason we all accept it as OK.
I rarely thought about this at all over the years until much ado was made about the Vanity Fair article in which Mia Farrow said her son Ronan might be Frank Sinatra’s son and not Woody Allen’s. What was truly shocking to me was what wasn’t getting talked about: that in the very same article, Dylan Farrow, twenty years later, stuck by her story about being molested by Woody Allen.
This wasn’t a scorned woman making accusations against her former lover. This wasn’t an easily dismissed 7 year old girl that no one had seen or heard tell her story. This was an adult woman talking about being sexually abused and no one was paying attention.
No one was paying attention.
And no one continued to pay attention until her brother wrote a tweet that no one wanted to ignore. A man was able to accomplish in 140 characters what this woman was unable to do in 20 years.
For the last several months something has bothered me about this and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what. I’m a fairly skeptical person, so while marrying your sort of step daughter is distasteful, I can’t say that it makes you a child molester. There’s arguments on both sides that make fine points. The truth is beyond my knowing. It is beyond all of our knowing.
But as of yesterday Dylan has come forward with her side of the story and she is standing by her accusations, just like she did months ago in Vanity Fair. And now I know what bothered me about this: that once again a woman is struggling to be heard in our society. A woman is trying to be heard and we don’t want to listen. We want to dismiss her as brainwashed and disturbed. It is much easier for people to believe the narrative of a scorned, vindictive mother coaching her daughter into making accusations, than that of a man who has a thing for much younger women having a thing for girls even younger. Too many would rather believe in the intricate plot to malign him than in the girl-now-woman who is telling us in the clearest language possible what happened.
This is all too familiar to myself and to many women. Whether it’s something as serious as sexual assault, or the feeling that you’re being treated differently in the workplace because of your gender, too often we are told that it’s all in our head. Are you sure? Did it really happen like that? Maybe you’re just reading into things. He wasn’t coming on to you, he was just being friendly. Maybe you led him on. Maybe you’re not getting ahead because you’re not good enough. Maybe you’re brainwashed and disturbed and vindictive and scorned and sensitive and jealous and wrong, wrong, wrong.
Are there cases of false accusations? Sure. But you know what else there are cases of? Accusations that are true. Things that seem unfathomable, but are true nonetheless. Many of them. In a society where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, why are the accusers not afforded the same courtesy?