Sexual Assault is Nothing but a Career Step for White Men

And like that, Oscar season is over for the year. To the many winners of the night – congratulations.

Tonight in an act of dramatic irony – very fitting for the event – it was Brie Larson who awarded Casey Affleck his Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Manchester by the Sea from director Kenneth Lonergan. For those that don’t understand the irony in the situation, allow me to explain: In 2015, Brie Larson starred in Room (from director Lenny Abrahamson and author/writer Emma Donoghue) as Joy Newsome, a young woman held captive for seven years, forced into sexual intercourse with her kidnapper. The film details her character’s journey to normalcy in a world unfamiliar yet empathetic, as does the novel of the same name. Late last year during award season press tour, information resurfaced about two female colleagues working on Affleck’s I’m Still Here film in 2010, who filed to sue Affleck for misconduct while members of the project. In the official complaints by both women, made available to ABC News, one recounts how while sleeping in Affleck and fellow actor Joaquin Phoenix’s (Her) apartment awoke to a drunken Affleck lying right next to her “caressing her back”. When she confronted him he determinedly asked “why?”. When she refused, he reportedly stormed out of the room. The complaints are testimony to all else, like the verbal and sexual harassment endured by Affleck. Fortunately for Affleck, the lawsuits were resolved outside of court almost seven years to date. So you see the irony? A woman who played a rape victim – whose performance was so emotionally remarkable to garner her an Academy Award – to be the one to hand an assaulter an award of any kind, let alone an Academy Award for Best Actor, is belittling to all victims of assault. (Within this I must add what a beautiful humane person Brie Larson is. After Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til It Happens to You” – a song pleading compassion and understanding for all victims of sexual assault, their traumas, and their stories – Brie stood to hug all the victims of sexual assault who had joined Lady Gaga’s performance during the 2016 Oscars.)

My question: Are we going to continue to not hold these men accountable for their actions? Little has been done as in the case of Nate Parker (Birth of a Nation), whose career ended after his past with a rape conviction. And while we can rejoice in the progress, there continues to be support for men like Johnny Depp (with the most recent allegations of physical abuse from his former spouse, Amber Heard), awards for others like Casey Affleck, Woody Allen, and Mel Gibson, to (very unfortunately) name a few.

Nate Parker, an African-American man, was shunned from Hollywood, the Academy Awards themselves, for his past actions; why hasn’t Hollywood reacted the same to the Casey Affleck allegations? Is race the reason? One could strongly assume so. For example, why not upon learning the details of Woody Allen’s incestuous tendencies in 2014 from his own daughter be cause to blacklist the writer? Instead he went on receive and retain his nomination for Best Original Screenplay for the film Blue Jasmine – the film itself receiving a total of 64 nominations from various committees in different categories, he himself receiving 10. Was the letter from the victim herself not enough evidence? Ok. There was audio recording of Mel Gibson verbally harassing his ex-wife in 2010 during a string of phone calls in which he berates her, calls her vile names like “bitch”, “cunt”, “whore”, threatening to beat her not sufficient to acquit the actor-turned-director of any ties to Hollywood? No again. Gibson’s directorial work in Hacksaw Ridge earned him a nomination for Best Director at the Oscars and the Golden Globes (the two worth noting). These men have continued on with their careers, their lives somehow bettering as a result from assault allegations, and they can proudly thank their white privilege for these opportunities. As it turns out, we are a long way from progress.

But I am certain progress is coming. Whether it be in the form of a frosty-solid composure, an open letter, various 140-character tweets, as is true for Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu. More and more people are fighting for women’s rights, just peep the attendees at last month’s Women’s March. We will rally behind the victims, and no matter who your brother is Casey Affleck, you will not stand a chance. Our voices will be heard.