In the initial reporting of what would become the Harvey Weinstein scandal, one of the most vocal accusers was Italian filmmaker and actress Asia Argento. She gave Ronan Farrow a detailed account of Weinstein’s predation and abuse, and this year at Cannes she gave a scathing speech condemning the festival as Weinstein’s “hunting ground”, and she has been one of the most visible and active #MeToo representatives. However, in an article published yesterday, The New York Times revealed that in the wake of her own allegations against Weinstein, Argento herself was accused of sexual assault by Jimmy Bennett, an actor with whom Argento worked when he was a child. Argento has settled with Bennett, who alleges Argento assaulted him when he was underage.
I believe Jimmy Bennett. I believe Asia Argento. Two things can be true—Harvey Weinstein assaulted Asia Argento and Asia Argento assaulted Jimmy Bennett. We could talk about the cycle of abuse—the details are eerily similar to Weinstein’s M.O. of hotel room assaults—and we could talk about the expectation of perfection placed upon survivors and how no one is ever going to be perfect enough for total public acceptance and sympathy. But Argento’s suffering does not lessen Bennett’s pain. Her hurt does not negate his.
This is difficult to write about because Jimmy Bennett deserves to be heard and supported as any survivor of sexual and intimate violence does. But there is no escaping that a whole lot of people will use this to entirely discredit Argento and thus the movement of which she has been a prominent leader. #MeToo founder Tarana Burke has the best summation of this complicated response – here’s the thread:
I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward. It will continue to be jarring when we hear the names of some of our faves connected to sexual violence unless we shift from talking about individuals [+]— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
There is no perfect survivor and there is no one type of predator. The work to be done is hard and painful and requires a level of emotional honesty that isn’t easy to achieve. It means believing survivors when they come forward and also accepting when someone we like, even a fellow survivor, is charged with being a predator. It’s calling out the harm being doing no matter who is doing it, and figuring out how to restructure and rebuild a system that is not working for anyone. One person being hurt doesn’t preclude that person hurting someone else in turn, but it’s also not a reason to give up and stop trying to make things better.
I’m sure there are people who want to remove Argento from the Weinstein narrative and discount her as a survivor, but her story still deserves to be told, just as Jimmy Bennett’s does. These two narratives co-exist and as painful and messy as it is, they NEED to stand together as a reminder of just how f*cked everything is and what we’re really fighting is not any one person, but an entire culture built on power imbalances. We’re in the Swamp of Sadness and the only way to get out is to keep moving forward.