Neither angel nor devil: women can lie too, you know
18 March 2018
Women who come forward with stories of sexual harassment must be taken seriously. Gone are the days when we can simply sweep these allegations aside in favour of a clean conscience. Now that the public has shown a strong interest in these stories, the media coverage will be relentless—it has been.
But in this frenzy of allegations and falls from grace, I feel as if we’ve gone slightly too far in our efforts to believe women, and as a result, innocent men, alongside their guilty peers, are at risk of being utterly destroyed.
The 20th anniversary of the Dustin Hoffman film, Wag The Dog, got far more attention than it should’ve when John Oliver openly argued with the famed actor over his numerous allegations of past sexual misconduct. The two men traded verbal blows in an exchange that had Oliver questioning each defence Hoffman gave about his alleged behaviour. At one point, Hoffman asked, ‘Do you believe this stuff you read?’
Oliver replied, ‘Yes. Because there’s no point in her lying.’
And this is where I lost all my respect for John Oliver. Whether or not Dustin Hoffman is actually guilty, to say there is no reason behind an accuser forging a story is to be either stupid or brazenly dishonest.
The kind of forced naiveté that is required for such a statement is frankly baffling. It’s clear that Oliver is trying to fit an agenda, an agenda of ‘believing all women’ that attempts to help everyone but aids no one. Specifics are thrown out in favour of an umbrella of good will that does not actually achieve anything. It is slacktivism at its most refined. Why help the women who deserve attention when you can just say that you believe all women?
There are many reasons why someone might lie about sexual harassment, and not all of them are devious. It could simply be a case of misremembering something that happened years prior.
But there’s also a plethora of reasons why a woman might want to falsely accuse a man, from blackmail to receiving money from a settlement, wanting fame and attention, sympathy, or being a disgruntled lover.
It’s needless to say that women are capable of lying just as much as men. False sexual assault allegations are quite rare, but they do happen, and when they do, we need to make sure innocent people don’t have their lives ruined.
We need to make sure men don’t lose years of their life because of a spiteful ex, and we need to make sure mothers don’t kill themselves alongside their falsely-accused boys.
Everyone in society has a right to claim innocence. Accusations, however, should not be held under the lens of assumed truth. In court, evidence is everything. It is up to the prosecution or plaintiff to deliver their case and compound it with facts. But in the court of public opinion, the facts do not matter, and nowadays, a widely publicised case can be far more damaging than legal action itself.
Reputations can’t be rebuilt. You can be found innocent in court but be deemed guilty by everyone else. If this ‘I believe all women’ line of thinking continues to exist, bad women will have no problem toppling the lives of men who have even the smallest amount of fame or power.
How is this equality?
Women are being hurt just as much as men in a situation like this. Generalising an entire sex as being infallible takes power away from everyone. I don’t see how it is ‘feminist’ to believe that women can do no wrong and must always be sided with. It’s a mindset steeped in actual sexism, as it restricts women’s freedom to be normal members of society, adhering to the rules we all set together.
Rather than putting in the work to examine things on a case-by-case basis, so-called progressives have found it easier to just make vague, broad statements. The movement certainly comes from good intentions, but its ramifications could have a detrimental impact on our culture’s sense of justice.
We should listen to women, but belief will only come once the allegation is credible.