Sunday, December 10, 2017

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XXXIX: Not Believing Dylan Farrow (Special Forward Edition)

In the Jewish Daily Forward, I have a reply to Eli Bromberg's "partial" explanation for why "Me Too" hasn't taken down Woody Allen. In brief, Bromberg attributes Allen's continued high status to antisemitism -- or rather, the fear of people being accused of antisemitism if they go after a Jewish actor being accused by a non-Jew.

My explanation, by contrast, is much more straightforward: it's misogyny, the same factor that explains the vast majority of other cases where men sexually abuse women and then don't face consequences. Woody Allen isn't the exception, he's the rule. And so we don't need a more complicated explanation for why people don't believe Dylan Farrow other than the standard one: most men don't believe most women when they make claims of sexual assault against powerful men. Any worries about "antisemitism" are entirely epiphenomenal.

This essay was originally going to be published on this blog, and in the move over to the Forward a bunch of stuff got cut. I did mention in the essay that while, contrary to popular belief, non-Jews don't really work that hard to not be antisemitic, they do
care quite a bit about portraying themselves as laboring under an oppressive cloud of Jewish scrutiny, whereby a single false move leads to banishment or worse, and where consequently attacking Jews or Jewish institutions is a brave act of rebellion rather than what it actually is — the historical norm.
In the full version, I offered a few examples to provide color: The Vatican newspaper complaining of how Jews complain "at the first shout by anyone who dares raise his voice against this barbarian invasion by an enemy race," a mere ten years after Jews were even emancipated in Rome; or the Presbyterian official who at a 2014 extolled her fellows that "Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell the Jews when they were wrong" -- as if Christianity's main historical problem vis-a-vis the Jews was the former being too reticent and taciturn towards the latter.

I also had an extended discussion of what I take to be the best analogy to the argument Bromberg wants to make: Clarence Thomas's response, in his confirmation hearings, to Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment. It is true that Black men have long been targeted by claims of sexual misconduct as a means of enforcing racist oppression. It is also true that Hill's specific allegations against Thomas were perfectly credible and deserved to believed. Finally, Thomas's declaration that he was being targeted by a "high-tech lynching" was precisely the explicit sort of appeal to racism that Allen is alleged to have made.

What was the result? Thomas' argument did seem to have an impact on some Black organizations who had vivid memories of the link between Jim Crow and claims of Black male sexual predation. But most continued to oppose his nomination. And even to the extent there was some hesitation amongst some Black people to full-throatedly support Anita Hill, it would be absurd to argue that such reticence translated into any meaningful advantage for Thomas inside the White male dominated Senate. White men have not historically needed Black people to give permission before they pass judgment on Black bodies.

Thomas's confirmation vote was 52-48, the closest margin for a Supreme Court nominee of the era. It is almost certainly the case that this margin would have been wider, not narrower, had Thomas not been Black. Put another way, there's little evidence that the Senators who voted for Thomas did so because they were afraid of being called racist. There's a lot of evidence that the Senators who voted for Thomas did so because they, like most men, trust men over the women who accuse them of sexual abuse.

And so too with Allen. Neither being Black nor being Jewish makes it harder for society to condemn you for sexual abuse. If we see Black or Jewish men who appear to be getting away with it, the primary explanation is not that we're too sensitive to the "race card" or we're fearful of being tarred with "antisemitism". The best explanation remains the normal explanation: that men, most of the time, don't believe women who make accusations of sexual assault.

1 comment:

PG said...

Misogyny bonus in Dylan Farrow's case: if a child accuses her mother's ex of sexual abuse, it must be because the vindictive mother is trying to ruin the accused man out of spite.