Dear Matt Damon,
We’ve been following your many comments on the recent wave of sexual-assault allegations in Hollywood. We get it, you’re on a press tour for your new movie Downsizing right now, and while there’s no way you can avoid journalists asking questions about the painful subject, you might want to try a different approach to answering them.
First, though, let’s review why so many people are upset with you right now: To begin, you’ve barely said anything supportive of the women who have come forward. Secondly, your comments come off as condescending. Last week, you told ABC’s Peter Travers, “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”
Of course there is a difference. Al Franken groping a woman’s breasts is not the same as Roy Moore allegedly molesting a child. However, it’s important to understand, that though wildly different, these behaviors are part of the same system — a system that allows powerful men to treat women like their sexual playthings, and then disproportionately punishes not the aggressor but the women brave enough to come forward. A system from which you, Matt Damon, have benefited immensely.
Harvey Weinstein’s production company Miramax financed Good Will Hunting, the film that put you on the map, alongside Ben Affleck (your friend, and big brother of Casey Affleck), and propelled both of you to superstardom. Both Casey and Ben have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. With Harvey’s power, they have helped further your career, and you have helped further theirs.
Women have been glaringly absent from your public conversations. You seem far more concerned with the men accused of sexual misconduct than you do with the women who say they’ve had to endure it. In an interview with Business Insider this week, you talk about the men who have not done “this kind of thing” and whose “lives aren’t going to be affected,” but you barely mention the thousands of women whose careers have been derailed and lives have been shaped by “this kind of thing.”
You have an enormous audience of men who implicitly trust you because you’re Jason Bourne and you’re from Boston and you’re friends with George Clooney, and you could actually impact this conversation for the better. Don’t just sign “a sexual-harassment thing” (we’re not entirely sure what you meant by that, but hopefully some sort of industry-wide standards manual), but help shape the conversation, lift up women and minorities.
Perhaps you think, in your own bumbling way, that you are disarming men, making them more open to hearing us. That would be the generous interpretation of your comments thus far. Admittedly, you don’t have the best track record with helping women, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late. In interviews, you can acknowledge how you have benefited from the same system that allowed aggressors to thrive; you can acknowledge that you can never understand the experience of being harassed. You can commit to changing things in Hollywood and be a man we can admire again.