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COMMENTARY

Asia Argento is not the #MeToo movement

Asia Argento.
Asia Argento.LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Asia Argento is not the #MeToo movement.

The actress and director may have been among the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, but the new scandal implicating her will not be the end of #MeToo and sexual assault survivors coming forward.

Argento has said Weinstein raped her in a hotel room when she was 21; Weinstein claimed his relationship with Argento was consensual. She was one of his many victims. Sixteen years later, she may have been a predator, too.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Argento allegedly sexually assaulted Jimmy Bennett, an actor and musician, in a Los Angeles hotel room. She was 37. He was barely 17 at the time. She’d known him since he was 7, when she played his mom in “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”

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On Tuesday, Argento released a statement denying the assault and claiming her relationship with Bennett was platonic. She also said a $380,000 settlement with Bennett was an effort by late boyfriend and culinary culture legend Anthony Bourdain “to help Bennett economically” and “protect” the couple.

We’re allowed to be outraged. We’re allowed to have questions. Bennett is allowed to never address it if he so chooses. And none of it hurts #MeToo.

We need to have these conversations. Because rape culture is anything but simple.

“People have this one-dimensional view of survivors, that they’re anointed and never do anything wrong,” says Gina Scaramella, executive director of Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “But people are complex. Survivors are complex. There certainly is no causality between being a victim and being an offender. But being a survivor doesn’t preclude someone from being an offender. And Argento having offended against someone doesn’t mean her victimization is not victimization. One is not proof against the other.”

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#MeToo founder Tarana Burke took to Twitter on Monday to remind people that #MeToo is a movement and it’s up to everyone to take charge of the fight.

Headline after headline pegs Argento as a #MeToo leader. She should be held accountable, but Argento is not the sole voice of sexual assault. She is one of many, many voices.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. This could never be one woman’s movement.

#MeToo was initially started to help victims of sexual violence, particularly women of color from low-income communities. But Burke has always said it’s a movement for everyone.

It didn’t go mainstream until rich, famous white women embraced it last year.

But the hashtag didn’t just go viral — survivors took action. Over the past year, strides have been made. Harvey Weinstein faces multiple sexual assault charges, including first-degree rape. Bill Cosby was found guilty. R. Kelly is finally losing his audience and airplay. #TimesUp, a call to action for workplace safety and equity, was born out of #MeToo.

Still, the voices that continue to rise to the forefront are often those of the white and wealthy women. Survivors of color, queer survivors, working-class survivors, and male survivors deserve the same respect and advocacy.

“Male survivors are extremely silenced,” Scaramella says. “Their victimization is often seen as some sexual victory, and it makes healing hard. That’s a narrative we have to get over as a culture. That’s part of the work in expanding the #MeToo movement, listening to different narratives that have not been the predominant one.”

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Yes, 90 percent of rape victims are women. It doesn’t mean women can’t be rapists and perpetrators of sexual violence. Patriarchal power dynamics doesn’t mean men aren’t raped and sexually assaulted. According to the RAINN, 1 in 10 men are victims of rape.

We have to listen to them, too. It’s taken hundreds of years for victims of sexual assault to speak out. We can’t pick and choose who gets a platform.

This isn’t an unraveling of #MeToo. It’s a deepening of the movement.


Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.comand on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.