In the light of the recent allegations made against James Franco, we have to wonder whether the #metoo movement is continuing its mission to persecute perpetrators, or has become a way for young women to avenge their own personal resentments towards men.
The #metoo movement has undeniably gained momentum with the surge in sexual harassment claims made against high-profile men such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Laurer, Charlie Rose, Woody Allen, and most recently, James Franco. In what seems like the catalyst for victims speaking out against their alleged abusers, Harvey Weinstein’s case has left a rather sour taste in the mouths of the American public when we think of another alleged perpetrator who’s been exposed in the media.
There’s just too many to count.
Celebrity powerhouses like Gweneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have spoken out about inappropriate encounters with Weinstein, even while they have certain public images to preserve for both themselves and their families.
Salma Hayek even reported horrid encounters with Weinsten in an op-ed piece for the NY Times. He demanded full-frontal nudity and a girl-on-girl sex scene if she wanted the main role in Frida: ‘It was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another. There was no room for negotiation. I had to say yes’.
News sources have also confirmed that the NYPD reported Paz De La Huerta’s allegations of Weinstein raping her twice in her home back in 2010 as credible.
But all this lends itself to some speculation with all allegations that have surfaced since then. Claims against directors, actors, comedians, even athletes—which have saturated our news sources but weren’t nearly as well evaluated as Weinstein’s case. Claims we reasonably assumed were true as we witnessed more public outcry in the news and a surge in the #metoo movement as well.
As we have witnessed with James Franco.
Since Franco’s win at the Golden Globes, several young women alleged that he displayed sexually coercive & inappropriate behaviors while working with them. The women believed Franco would advance their careers and admitted to submitting to his advances to appease him.
Not surprisingly, Franco became the perpetrator we’ve all been nearly forced to internalize since Weinstein’s case. And why wouldn’t he be? With no other person to really defend him, except Ashley Judd who commended him on apologizing for actions that were only confirmed by the alleged victims (and out of loving the #metoo movement as well), no other credible source exists to convince us otherwise.
But the story can be told differently if our intent is as honest and sincere as it should be—which is to determine whether he is, in fact, a predator.
Aspiring film-maker Violet Paley claimed Franco coerced her into having oral sex with him while they were in a romantic relationship.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out (in a car). I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.”
Paley confirms they continued their romantic relationship even after the fact, but in retrospect, she would’ve told him she was uncomfortable because of his ‘abuse of power.’
Is this ‘sexual harassment’? Or just two people with two different expectations of the relationship at the time? How do we know Franco wouldn’t have stopped his advances if Paley asked him to? Could he have thought she wanted to perform oral sex because he was her ‘boyfriend’? And how do we know her allegations were not out of resentment as he basked in glory at the Golden Globes while she herself admitted to expecting career advancement out of their relationship?
We as women may reasonably be inclined to express our personal frustrations in a movement which speaks to our empowerment. If career advancement was Paley’s expectation, why wouldn’t anger at not getting what she wanted prompt her to exaggerate the situation?
Why wouldn’t #metoo suddenly take a different turn with hundreds of women finding whichever evidence they could to avenge for their own personal experiences with men: whether that be abuse, harassment, or cheating, as we’ve seen many supporters admit to as the movement transpired?
But relying on accounts that may be biased could distract us from our original goal: defining harassment and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. And while Franco’s case may be one of many more legitimate accounts, if it was pertinent enough to create such an uproar on allegations ALONE, then it deserves to be considered just that—an allegation. And essentially reviewed more carefully before we assume he’s guilty.
Because we run the risk of missing the real wolves in sheep’s clothing, as we missed with Weinstein for so long, our perception having been so heavily influenced by what the media projected him to be: a successful, media mogul who directed award-winning movies and brought up-and-coming actresses to superstardom.
Kind of different than what Paley felt entitled to get from Franco . Still, her and the other alleged victims already received an apology from him because he reports loving the #metoo movement too much to fight allegations. And yet, he still remains a perpetrator in the eyes of the public.