Have you ever thought about how many times Matt Damon hasn’t cornered a female journalist and masturbated into a plant pot? Or all the many, many occasions when he’s successfully worn a bathrobe and not forced himself on a woman? How about his sustained track record of not hiring Mossad agents to harass women who’ve turned him down? I’d like you to close your eyes for five minutes and visualise Matt Damon, not doing anything heinous to a woman. Because Matt Damon is very concerned that, in this #metoo movement, we’re not spending enough time thinking about all the sexual violence he’s not committing.
“We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great,” he told Business Insider, “but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys – the preponderance of men I’ve worked with – who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.” So let’s hear it for the non-rapists! Here’s shout-out for non-harassers! To every man who’s made it through another 24 hours without pressing his erection where it’s not wanted, a grateful lady nation gives thanks. It’s time we put our focus where it really belongs: on the people who won’t be affected.
Of course, Damon’s comments are just your standard "Not All Men Are Like That", written as large as the Hollywood sign. The wonder isn’t that he thought these things, it’s that he thought them worth saying. And that having commented on this once, he decided to go back for seconds: last week, in an interview on ABC, Damon made the startlingly redundant observation that “there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” (Big-up to the butt-patters! You’re not the best, but you didn’t molest a child. You tried.)
And I do, truly, feel some sympathy for Damon here. Just a teeny-tiny crumb, but it’s there. The Weinsteins made his career: with no Miramax to produce and distribute and campaign for Oscars, there’d be no Good Will Hunting, no Talented Mr Ripley, no Kevin Smith bit parts to prove that Damon’s a serious actor but also a handsome leading man and a down-to-earth funny guy. Wouldn’t you be a bit sore if it turned out that your success was in large part down to someone belatedly exposed as a terry-towelling wrapped horrorshow. Wouldn’t you want, however unworthy the impulse, to put a bit of space between you and your toxic mentor?
But what’s become clear from the Weinstein revelations – and what we know about the way misogyny functions in every industry – is that there is no nice-guy get out. While the decent men we apparently don’t talk about enough have been assiduously not committing indecent exposure, their female colleagues have been falling away. There are the ones such as Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd who were blackballed for roles on Weinstein’s instruction after turning him down; then there are who knows how many other women who didn’t even need to be directly intimidated any further, but just felt their careers fade as trauma dragged them down.
Every one of those disappeared women is competition that their male peers have never had to face on equal terms. The movies those women could have carried which never got made, while Damon did culturally vital work like We Bought a Zoo. The films they could have produced, which unlike the Damon-backed Manchester by the Sea, maybe wouldn’t have starred a subject of multiple sexual harassment accusations like Casey Affleck. A female-fronted Project Greenlight might not have been home to Damon’s claims that Hollywood recruitment happens on merit. A woman of Damon’s age – for example, Mira Sorvino – would know how hollow that sounds.
On the face of it, Damon’s request for more attention to be given to men who aren’t doing anything wrong is absurd. But we could grant him his wish. We could talk about how the good boys who didn’t get their hands dirty and didn’t ask questions (questions like: “How come all the women I used to work with have melted into the ether?”) have all along been the beneficiaries of a positive discrimination scheme for men. Give him the attention he wants. The result might be a lot less comfortable for him than he’s hoping, though.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies