Wallace Shawn defends Woody Allen in an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times and does so in a way consistent with how many men have responded to this issue.
First is to castigate others for “gossiping” about public figures. This is intended to dismiss any serious discussion about sexual abuse and the bravery it takes for victims to speak out as mere “gossip” — the activity of clucking hens.
Yet, despite attacking the gossip, the man feels it necessary to have his say — with no real personal experience as a witness of the alleged crime or a victim of sexual abuse. This always come across as the man having the last word before sending the kids to bed.
Finally, there is a defense of Allen that is based solely on a professional relationship, which is ironic as Allen himself boasts of his ability to compartmentalize his personal and professional lives.
Shawn ends his statement with this:
I’ve never become a friend of Woody Allen or even had any terribly lengthy conversations with him, but I’ve been in his orbit enough so that I can’t possibly see him as the abstract, weird cardboard fantasy figure that one reads about. In fact, like so many of those who have worked with him repeatedly over the decades, I’ve found him to be not merely thoughtful, serious and honest, but extraordinary and even inspiring in his thoughtfulness, seriousness and honesty. Of the people I’ve known, he’s one of those I’ve respected most. And for that reason, I personally would have to say that it would take overwhelming evidence to convince me that he had sexually abused a child, just as it would take overwhelming evidence to convince me that Desmond Tutu, Franklin D. Roosevelt or Doris Lessing had sexually abused a child.
I know women are only usually accused of this but that is the most irrational thing I’ve read in a while. Shawn is not a close friend of Allen. He hasn’t spent much time with him, but hey, we are in the social writerly social circle and he makes swell films, so he’s on the moral level of Tutu, Lessing, and FDR.
Isn’t this the same argument we hear when a woman accuses a man of rape or even sexual harassment? He couldn’t have done it! He’s so good at his job! Think of his esteemed professional reputation!
Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Shawn. I loved you in Manhattan and Melinda and Melinda, but I still consider a woman’s thoughtful, consistent firsthand account “overwhelming evidence.”