FIND YOURSELF A FRIEND as loyal to you as Diane Keaton is to Woody Allen. Just make sure you never accuse Allen of sexual molestation, because if that friend is anything like Keaton, she will not believe you.
For more than a quarter-century, Dylan Farrow has alleged that Allen, her estranged father, sexually assaulted her when she was a child. And for all of those years, Keaton has remained steadfast in her belief that her former collaborator and longtime friend did nothing wrong.
“Woody Allen is my friend and I continue to believe him,” Keaton recently tweeted. She then supplied a link to the 1992 “60 Minutes” segment where Allen professed his innocence, suggesting her followers watch it and “see what you think.”
In short, Keaton thinks Farrow is lying.
As the #MeToo movement continues upending a noxious culture of sexual misconduct in the workplace and other arenas, I’m disheartened by women who enable and defend abusers. Foolishly, perhaps, I keep expecting women to protect and believe other women, and I’m always disappointed when that’s not the case.
When it was recently reported that Hillary Clinton did not want her faith adviser Burns Strider fired in 2008, after a young woman staffer accused him of sexual harassment, I wasn’t surprised. It’s not because I believe that everything Clinton does is duplicitous, but rather that she was more concerned about the campaign disruption and unwanted scrutiny that would have come from booting Strider.
Instead, Strider was ordered into counseling and docked several weeks’ pay, while his accuser was moved to another job. Responding to The New York Times story after its publication, Clinton tweeted she was “dismayed” when she learned of the harassment allegation, but that the young woman “was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed.”
Yet, not so seriously that Clinton didn’t ignore the advice of senior campaign officials to cut Strider loose. Years later, he was fired from Correct the Record, an independent pro-Clinton group, for, among other things, sexually harassing a young female aide.
Clinton isn’t the only one.
Lou Anna Simon thinks she was forced to resign as Michigan State University’s president because “as tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.” Simon buries the lede: she could have stopped now-convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar from preying on young female athletes at the university. Victims who reported abuses were ignored and dissuaded, including by two women trainers, from seeking justice. Simon is just as complicit.
Not as deeply, I suspect, as the women who regretted breaking their silence and turning to Vega for help.
There’s a reason why children are told that if they get lost or need help to approach a woman. We are perceived to be more compassionate, more willing to protect the vulnerable. As a young career woman, I always found women in charge to be a welcome sight — and I still do. Yet I have no tolerance for anyone who trades their compassion for power. Women in high-level positions can succeed as a antidote to toxic environments only if their desire to protect a corporation or institution’s reputation is surpassed by their dedication to establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive workplace.
It should go without saying that to help turn the tide on sexual harassment and misconduct, we need more women running institutions and companies. What we don’t need are more women leaders acting like company men.