Content Note: Discussion of sexual assault, victim blaming
This is my second piece in response to an article published on The Daily Beast by Robert B. Weide. My first piece on this topic can be found here.
In my first response to Robert B. Weide’s defense of Woody Allen, I pointed out that Weide spent much of his piece painting Mia Farrow as an “unacceptable” woman. I pointed out how his framing of Mia’s consensual, adult sex life as “deviant” was used to discredit Dylan Farrow’s account of her own sexual assault at the hands of Woody Allen. I pointed out that, Weide knows he cannot get away with discrediting Dylan as “slutty and gossipy,” so he goes after Mia instead.
He does, however, try to discredit Dylan in other ways. I will talk about those in this post.
Though Weide makes statements throughout his piece indicating that he feels for Dylan Farrow, he obviously sees her as a helpless victim with no autonomy. He doesn’t think she is lying; in fact, he states, “I know Dylan/Malone believes these events took place.”
He knows she believes these events took place, in the same way he knows a child believes in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy. Even though Dylan Farrow is now an adult woman, Weide refuses to grant her enough autonomy in his piece to know her own life. She can only believe it–the author only uses the verb “know” to describe his own opinions on the situation.
In addition to the subtle linguistic tactics Weide uses to put down Dylan Farrow, he also uses more obvious gaslighting tactics to paint her seven year old self as “crazy.” Multiple times he brings up the fact that investigators found Dylan to be “emotionally disturbed” when they began looking into whether or not she was assaulted.
Society, movies, news media, everywhere we look we get this message: you can’t trust “crazy” people, especially “crazy” women and girls. Once again, Weide hones in on the prejudices his readers likely hold because of our misogynist, ableist society and uses them to defend Allen.
At no point in the article does Weide stop to consider that maybe being sexually assaulted by your father causes emotional disturbance.
Reading this piece showed me that nothing that could convince Allen’s defenders of his guilt. Only paragraphs before, the author was using evidence of Dylan’s lack of emotional investment in the situation to discredit her, quoting the family’s former nanny saying that during Mia’s taping of Dylan’s account of what happened, “Dylan appeared not to be interested.”
Too emotional? Obviously you’re just a crazy person who can’t be trusted.
Not emotional enough? Obviously you weren’t really victimized, or you’d be more invested in this.
This is how rape culture works. No matter what response we have to the abuse that we suffer, it will be used against us.
He also cites inconsistencies in Dylan Farrow’s accounts of the events–“She told us initially that she hadn’t been touched in the vaginal area, and she then told us that she had, then she told us that she hadn’t”–and reminds readers that doctors found no evidence of injury to the vaginal or anal area.
Weide seems to have a limited understanding of what can constitute sexual assault. This perpetuates the myth that if sexual assault wasn’t obviously violent, leaving visible physical damage, it didn’t happen. It leaves no room for seven year old Dylan to be confused about a traumatic event that happened to her. For someone who doesn’t seem to think seven year olds can really remember anything, he expects 100% accuracy and consistency out of seven year old Dylan, affording her none of the “nuance” that he claims to be representing.
This part feels personal to me. I survived being sexually assaulted as a child. Though my abuser wasn’t caught abusing me, he was caught in the act abusing someone else. I know he is an abuser. Everyone knows he’s an abuser and there is no denying it.
Yet, articles like this cause me to doubt myself. My assault left no physical damage that I know of. I don’t remember it clearly–in some parts of the memory the details are painfully clear, while other parts of the memory are nothing but dark, blank spaces. I know it happened, but I could not tell you every detail then, and I still cannot tell you every detail now. When my mother asked me about it as a child, asked me “Did he touch you here?” I could not answer because I did not know. I felt embarrassed, confused, awkward. I just wanted to go back outside and play tag with my friends, not sit there and have that conversation.
Yet it happened. I trust myself, I trust my memories–even though they are foggy in places–and I trust Dylan Farrow.
Toward the end of the piece, Weide believes he should “remind readers that the woman is recalling memories from the age of seven, when a six-month investigation characterized her as being ’emotionally disturbed,’ and making statements that were likely ‘coached or influenced by her mother.'”
I’ve already discussed the latter two “reminders,” in this blog post and my previous one. I want to close by asking you all to look closely at the first thing Weide wants to “remind readers” about.
“…the woman is recalling memories from the age of seven…”
I think it really all comes down to power. All of this.
Trusting women when it’s their word against a white man’s is hard enough for people in our patriarchal society to do. But children, in most cases, have almost no power in society. Trusting children? Trusting a seven year old girl?
That’s a radical act.
It’s so rare that people trust children, especially in regards to sexual assault and rape, that Weide thought that Dylan’s age when the assault took place could be used as a mark against her credibility.
Articles like Weide’s tell survivors of childhood sexual assault, “You cannot trust yourself. You are crazy. You can’t possibly remember that.” They tell non-survivors, “Don’t listen to children. They just have overactive imaginations.”
These articles are dangerous and harmful. Weide can try all he wants to convince us that he is speaking from some magical plane of objectivity where he can play devil’s advocate all he wants. But his words are actively contributing to a world that hurts and oppresses children.
Don’t buy into this. Don’t just go along with this crowd.