Reckonings, and the limits of believing women

Reckonings, and the limits of believing women

Before Harvey Weinstein or Roy Moore, before Brock Turner, before Rolling Stone screwed up a story at the University of Virginia, before the Obama administration tried to improve policies on how rape cases are handled (which the Trump crew has gone about destroying), there’s been much debate over how rape accusations should be handled by society. It would be nice to believe we’ve made progress. It would be great to think there aren’t still people who discount a woman’s word because she was wearing a skirt that was “too short” and high heels that somehow meant “she wanted it.” But contrary to those with alternate facts, we don’t live in a world of make believe. We exist in a place that can be all too real, indifferent, and cruel.

It’s in this backdrop the recent spate of high-profile accusations of sexual misconduct has made headlines. The reaction of the right has largely been subdued on the larger issue of violence against women, but vocal when the accused can be connected to Democrats. For progressives and liberals who identify as feminists, or are sympathetic to the injustices women face, the past week has been one of trying to balance uncomfortable distinctions for some.

Last Friday, Murray Miller, a writer and producer on shows like Girls, King Of The Hill, and American Dad, was accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau, after she filed charges at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Perrineau, whose credits include Jem And The Holograms and Passengers, is the daughter of actor Harold Perrineau of Lost, and was only 17 years old when the alleged attack occurred. Since Miller worked on Girls, series creator Lena Dunham, along with Girls showrunner Jenni Konner, issued a statement defending Miller, in which she implied Perrineau was lying by saying ultimately the charge against Miller would be “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” That statement was met with significant backlash, since Dunham has identified as a feminist, asserted political stances, and in the past asserted “women don’t lie” when they make accusations about rape. This ultimately led to a huge backlash and Dunham retracting her statement of support for Miller. But not before damage was done, and some of Dunham’s own former employees called her a hypocrite and accused the actress/writer of “hipster racism” for making distinctions when taking the word of women of color. 

The larger issue, of how far to go with the notion of “believe women,” is an interesting one given what happens when the allegations hit someone where people think the intersection of context and doubt should matter. 

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