The news that actress Asia Argento, an alleged victim of Harvey Weinstein’s and a popular proponent of the #MeToo movement, may have herself sexually assaulted a 17-year-old male actor has sent shockwaves through the public discourse about the #MeToo movement. Some critics have asserted that the news discredits the movement while advocates have rushed to point out that victims are equally capable of being perpetrators themselves. Argento has denied having had sex with the alleged victim, Jimmy Bennett, but leaked text messages appeared to show Argento admitting that she had in fact slept with him without being sure of his exact age or of California’s consent laws. Appearing on Good Morning America, actress Alyssa Milano said that she didn’t “have any fears about the #MeToo movement” amid the allegations against Argento. Instead, she said, she felt that this development could prove a good learning opportunity as “most growth happens in the grey areas and through criticism.”
“People that have been abused can also be abusers,” she acknowledged. “That’s a sad fact. I think it’s tragic no matter how you look at it. The #MeToo movement was built for women and by women, and that does not stop because of one story … that doesn’t undermine #MeToo.”
“In my view, it just means that the #MeToo movement is still strong and swelling, the fact that people are still coming forward, and still holding people accountable for their actions, whether that be a male predator or a female predator,” she continued. “The millions of women and men that have come forward telling their #MeToo stories cannot be erased from one story that may be hypocritical.”
She’s not the only #MeToo stakeholder who’s spoken out in recent days. On Twitter, the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, emphasized that “the issue is less about crime and punishment and more about harm and harm reduction.”
“A shift can happen,” she wrote. “This movement is making space for possibility. But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator.”
A shift can happen. This movement is making space for possibility. But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator.
— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
She also cautioned about the complexity of the movement. “There is no model survivor,” she wrote in another tweet. “We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.”
In a conversation published by The Cut, the website’s president and editor-in-chief, Stella Bugbee, and its senior culture writer, Anna Silman, wrote that the news of Argento’s apparent hypocrisy was “difficult to come to terms with.”
“As Stephen Colbert said, ‘Everybody believes in accountability until it’s their guy,’” wrote Silman. “I think for a lot of feminists and outspoken #MeToo supporters, Asia Argento is ‘our’ girl. We have a vested interest in her narrative. But I think what we’ve learned in the past year is that a lot of these narratives are not as simple as victim and perpetrator, good vs. evil.”
“Hypocrisy undoes so many causes because the opponents are just dying for things like this to latch onto and invalidate each other. Real progress means admitting that the people you support are also capable of being terrible,” added Bugbee. “Actively wrestling with ambiguities means listening to men a lot more than we were willing to do in the past year. It’s hard to admit that we might not be able to count on the kind of emphatic clarity of the initial ‘reckoning’ as it became known. For it to work, empathy must extend in all directions. This feels like a new chapter in the conversation.”
Below, watch Milano’s interview on GMA.
GMA EXCLUSIVE: "I think that people that have been abused can also be abusers, and that's a sad fact." #MeToo leader @Alyssa_Milano fights back following news of Asia Argento's assault allegations: https://t.co/5musHJqxWu@KaynaWhitworth with the story from Los Angeles pic.twitter.com/12vHiRY1US
— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 23, 2018