It‘s not unusual to see the words “a stunning level of hypocrisy” and “Hollywood” in the same sentence, but anyone tired or sceptical of #MeToo will have been raising a few eyebrows over the past week as it was revealed that one of the key Hollywood actresses to be involved in the movement from the start, Asia Argento, had herself been accused of sexually assaulting an actor in 2013 – and paying the young man $380,000 “hush money”.

Harvey Weinstein‘s lawyer – the author of that gleeful sentence – was clearly no exception. The first thing I thought of when I read the latest news reports about Asia Argento were Tarana Burke‘s words to me back in March.

“Be careful who is called a leader of this movement,” the founder of #MeToo told me. Meaning that, if and when that person is discredited or torn down, the movement might become collateral damage.

Although the 45-year-old Bronx-born activist was too graceful and selfless a lady to “call out” anyone she believed could help promote the battle against sexual violence she had quietly been waging for 12 years from her non-profit organisation, Girls for Gender Equity, in Brooklyn, I now believe Burke may have had Argento in mind.

“I watch every day the way the mainstream media will select certain people,” she went on, “elevate them to certain positions and give them titles that sometimes they haven‘t even picked themselves – and then people look to them for leadership.”

Argento quite clearly crowned herself a leader of the #MeToo movement when she became one of the first 70 actresses to allege that she had been sexually assaulted by Weinstein in the 1990s in Ronan Farrow‘s explosive October 2017 New Yorker expose. This was despite her story standing out from the rest on account of the five years of consensual sexual relations she went on to have with the director afterwards.

I wasn‘t the only woman for whom this rang alarm bells. As someone who has lived in Los Angeles since 2010, I can tell you that the way actresses spoke about the casting couch back then was very, very different to dinner party conversation now. “If all it takes is giving him a quick ****,” I heard one say of a producer, “I‘d do it.”

None of this is to deny how vile the power play that has been at work for decades in the entertainment industry is, but when the cynical talk suddenly got supplanted by victim talk – and claims of total ignorance – I couldn‘t help feeling sceptical.

I also feared for the future of the movement in the same ways that Burke admitted to when her life‘s work was hashtagged and co-opted by Hollywood overnight. Six months into #MeToo, we had gone from bringing down vile predators like Weinstein to conflating clumsy flirtations with sexual abuse in a way that was denounced by a group of French women in an open letter to Le Monde as symptomatic of “a hatred of men and sexuality”.

Male “suspects” were put on trial by social media and due process was promptly ditched. Men were being pitted against women, friends of mine with sons were being openly pitied – “poor you”, I heard one woman say, “having to have that in the house”.

There was only one narrative in town and one Hollywood producer told me then “any scripts with ‘bad‘ women in them are immediately turned down at the moment”.

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And yet there are bad women in the world, as uncomfortable as that notion is. Maybe Argento is as 100pc virtuous or immune to bad behaviour as we‘re currently supposed to believe all women are, simply by virtue of their sex. Whatever the truth does turn out to be (and I‘ll wait to hear more details of Bennett‘s “trauma” before I raise an eyebrow in his direction), this sordid tale shouldn‘t be allowed to destroy the good work started by Burke all those years ago.

Human relationships are complex, both men and women engage in sexually coercive tactics of varying styles and degrees, and no “consent app” or single set of rules is ever going to work for all of us.

“What‘s most important is not getting distracted,” Burke pointed out when I told her how concerned I was becoming by the gimmicky statements of all-black dress codes, pin and rose wearing. And anyone who does turn out to have latched on to #MeToo for suspect reasons – whether that is narcissism or some form of self-servingness – should be cast aside like the gimmick they have turned themselves into, rather than distract us from the ongoing task at hand.

©Telegraph

Telegraph