Unsuspecting on a Monday night, an article popped up on my twitter feed from the Guardian about comments Matt Daman had made. I got mad, and wrote this:
Dear Matt Damon
You don’t know me. I don’t know you. But you have what I don’t: a following of people, globally, who listen to what you say and give it (rightly or wrongly) some credence. You’re abusing this. Moreover, your comments are getting harder to ignore. I won’t talk about your (obviously thoroughly researched and carefully constructed) new doctrine of the Spectrum of Sexual Violence, Alyssa Milano did a fantastic job of that and frankly, you sounded like a tit and should have learned to shut up. But you didn’t. And what you’ve said now really takes the biscuit.
I’ll relay the whole quote because, in all honesty, no one part is more unconscionable than another: ‘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.’
Congratulations for conceding that this is a watershed moment, you absolute fuckwit. But what you have actually managed to do in a few sentences was give a powerful (and before now, credible) voice to the asinine outcry of ‘not all men’. The well-known male excuse for shucking responsibility, to excuse their not being part of the conversation and an insecure feeble defence to what some consider as a threat towards their delicate and toxic masculinity.
Did it not occur to you that we don’t talk about the ‘shitload of guys’ who do not sexually harass or assault women because that should be the norm? We also don’t talk about men who refrain from mugging pensioners, robbing supermarkets, committing serial murder and reversing over cats either.
I am not going to congratulate you, or the shitload of other men you know, for not raping me. I will not idolise men as my salvation simply because they do not seek to repress me. I will not accept the atonement of men whilst women are still screaming out for recompense. If you would like an example of our talking about these men, please consult a history book, which you will find jam-packed full of men who did not rape anyone. It will also be jam-packed full of men who did, but the raping will not be the focal point. Can you imagine how much the current conversation would be damaged if Salma Hayek had taken a moment to give a hearty well done to all the men she had worked with along the way who did not assault her or try to thwart her career because she did not want to sleep with them?
What you have also failed to grasp, perhaps the most crucial point, is that this moment is not for you. This moment, this watershed moment as you so rightly put it, is not for the shitload of men that you have worked with who do nothing wrong. This moment is ours. Because for decades, we were not being talked about. What was normal for us: threat, fear, intimidation and violence, was not talked about in the way your shitload of guys are not being talked about now. This moment is not about the absolution of men. Not in any of its forms. The wound is too raw to shift the dialogue to forgiveness and too fresh to acknowledge the men who sat back and did nothing. What is ironic about your comment is that those most empathetic to your plight of being routinely ignored and overlooked, would be women.
You want the dialogue to include you, and your friends, for doing nothing. This would be easier to swallow if pictures of you wrapped in the friendly embrace of Harvey Weinstein weren’t a dime a dozen.
What you’ve managed to do in the last week is what has been holding the conversation back for decades: you’ve successfully turned women back into the objects of a male centred rhetoric. For weeks, women’s rights and sexual violence have been the subject of a global introspection which travelled from Hollywood to British Parliament to the senate to broadcast journalism. With a few comments, you have pushed the male perspective back into the central focus. Women are now at risk of once again becoming objects of a male driven conversation – “this is terrible but what about the men? Why are we not talking about the men? But how is this affecting the careers of men?”
What’s more, how sure are you about the innocence of these men that you speak of? They aren’t rapists themselves you say? Jolly good. Have any of them worked on a film set where they knew or heard rumours of a female colleague being targeted? Did they know Weinstein just like you did? Did they do anything? Did they do nothing – in fact, is this precisely the nothing of which you speak?
At your most flippant, you astonishingly point out that these men’s lives are not going to be affected. You’re right. Why would they? Men who do not rape people, just as with men who do not shoot people, have nothing to fear. To clarify, as a general rule, women usually have zero problems with men who do not assault or harass them.
What is disparaging is that you could be a shining light. You could be leading the way, drawing attention to the fight we’re now embarking on, the change we have been longing for. You, and your shitload of men, could stand up, take our hands and help us pioneer a way out of the darkness. Instead of this hostility and defensive commentary, you could be our ally. Feminism, women’s rights, this watershed moment is not an offensive against men. It never has been. We simply want to have volition over our bodies, freedom to make our own choices and the power to speak out against those who harm us. Further, we want the comfort of knowing that when we do, our voices will be heard.
We want what you have and take for granted – the ability to conduct a career without fear of a tycoon using our bodies as a pawn. This pushing women to the point where we have to objectify ourselves to save or advance our own careers or to accept an inevitability, the sacrifice of our own bodies in the pursuit of professional success.
It’s obvious that you do not understand and why would you? Not only are you male, but you are a white male. You will have never faced prejudice, rarely feared for your safety because of your genetic makeup. Instead think of women you love, if they had been assaulted and silenced for years, when they finally had their moment and eyes were on them to steer the conversation, how would you react if the shitload of men who sat around and did nothing suddenly stood up and lamented their lack of inclusion?
Men have survived, powerful and unscathed throughout history and progressed stronger into new eras. Good men will survive this. Better men will help shape this new era. This moment is ours, do not take it from us.