Features, Feminism, Politics, Sex

Believe (Some) Women

“Believe women” is a central tenet of #MeToo, the media movement that has become the de facto path to justice for anyone who claims to have been victimised by a public figure. Given, however that presumption of innocence is one of the most fundamental principles of a democratic society, “believe women” is, or at least ought to be, a controversial demand (and as the slogan’s imperative suggests, it is indeed a demand). For despite, in some ways, being an understandable response to what many perceive to be decades of abusive and sexual misbehaviour in the entertainment and media industries, “believe women” is a request that explicitly undermines the presumption of innocence.

Despite this inconvenient fact, the movement has become a cause celebre among those very factions of society who claim to care most deeply about democracy. How to square that? Particularly when it appears “believe women” may not actually apply to all women judging from the media cycle this week following a rare interview with Woody Allen’s wife Soon-Yi Previn published in New York Magazine last Sunday.

Previn, the 47-year-old adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and composer Andre Previn, has maintained a decades-long silence since the exposure of her affair with Allen in the early 1990s when he was still dating Farrow. Debate has long raged about the appropriateness of their relationship in light of the fact the director was, at least in theory, something of a father figure in Previn’s unusual family set-up, which included thirteen siblings, as well as the fact she was only 21 and Allen 56 when news of their affair first broke (that Farrow was herself 21 when she married a 50-year-old Frank Sinatra is apparently irrelevant in this saga). Relations between the parties were strained yet further when, shortly after discovering the relationship, Farrow accused Allen of molesting her younger daughter Dylan.

Immediately upon publication of the controversial interview with Previn, the court of public opinion handed down its judgment: Allen was still a monster, Previn his victim-accomplice and journalist Daphne Merkin, who conducted the interview, a toady. In hindsight, Previn may come to consider it an error of judgment that she chose to break her silence by speaking to Merkin, a friend and fan of Allen’s, since this in itself has caused many to disregard the piece automatically, although it might be considered noteworthy that New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, a friend of Farrow’s who has written at length about Dylan’s abuse allegations, has never endured half the criticism Merkin received this week. Still, regardless of Merkin’s objectivity or lack thereof, under the doctrine of #MeToo Previn’s allegations of abuse at Farrow’s hands ought to be accepted without question.

Unsurprisingly, that has not been the case. Instead, she has been labelled a liar and/or a victim (of Allen’s), both labels serving only to undermine Previn’s story. One of her fiercest critics this week was her younger brother Ronan Farrow, the reporter whose story on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse effectively launched #MeToo and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Yet despite his leading role in a movement that demands “believe women”, Ronan published a statement in which he not only disputed his sister’s allegations, but erased her entirely from her own story. Chillingly, nowhere in his statement, which was published on Twitter, does Ronan mention Previn by name, instead reducing her to an anonymous “ally” of Allen’s.

“I owe everything I am to Mia Farrow. She is a devoted mom who went through hell for her family, all while creating a love home for us,” Ronan wrote, deliberately undermining Previn’s account of Farrow’s abuse, despite the fact it has been corroborated previously in a blog post published by another of Farrow’s adopted children, Moses, earlier this year. Ronan went on to accuse Previn of “planting” the interview solely in order to “attack and vilify” his mother. No doubt Ronan would have expressed horror had a similarly vitriolic statement been published about any of Harvey Weinstein’s victims.

Previn’s treatment reveals two inherent contradictions in the #MeToo movement. The first is that #MeToo decrees that all women are victims (since all men are predators) thus denying them agency in their own stories. The beginnings of Previn’s relationship with Allen were undeniably unorthodox and, possibly legally questionable (although despite insinuations the affair started before Previn turned 18 this has never been proven). Today, however, Previn is a 47-year-old mother of two adult children who last year celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary with Allen: she clearly does not consider herself a victim of anyone except Farrow. Such a scenario, however, does not sit comfortably with proponents of #MeToo who must cast her as a victim in order to further demonize Allen.

Which brings us to the second inherent contradiction: #MeToo demands that all women must be believed — except where their stories upset the prevailing narrative. In this case, Previn is doubly damned, for not only does she refuse to demonise Allen herself but she instead goes on to castigate Farrow, who, with her numerous adopted children and political activism – not to mention her crusade against Allen – has become something of a modern-day apostle in the public consciousness. Previn, therefore, has upset the natural order of #MeToo, not least because if one woman accuses another of abuse and #MeToo demands we “believe women”, how do we automatically know which woman to believe?

As the revelations concerning Asia Argento – one of Ronan Farrow’s key sources in his Weinstein story who was recently accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy have also demonstrated, the reality is that the world is a complicated place. Perhaps Argento is both a victim and an abuser. Perhaps Farrow was a good mother to two of her children and a bad one to others. Although many will find Allen and Previn’s relationship wildly inappropriate and distasteful, the affair has plainly resulted in a stable and abiding marriage. Ultimately, dividing the world into victims and villains, as #MeToo demands of us, fails to take into account the complexities of human nature. And the trouble is that it’s a much more difficult concept to believe.

Karen Yossman is a writer and former lawyer. Follow her on Twitter @KarenYossman 


  1. Philip says

    Very thoughtful and well written. To think of the world and it’s matter in binaries is very dangerous, and ill-fitted to deal with reality.

  2. Michael says

    I learned with some disgust last week that Allen’s latest film has not been released because most of the actors have disavowed their roles in it in the wake of the #metoo movement. And for what? Because his “victim” is now 47 and they’re still together? Because of Farrow’s totally unproven child molestation allegations that have all the marks of a mentally unbalanced woman seriously scorned? Read up on the crazy valentine card she sent Allen around the time of the allegations. And at the same time as she was accusing him of an unspeakable crime, she continued to prepare to star in Allen’s next film Husbands and Wives. He couldn’t believe she still thought she was going to be in the movie. I have no respect for the cowardly actors who turned on Allen and the studio for seemingly shelving his latest film, and even less for any puritanical movement that would incite this kind of moral panic.

    • ga gamba says

      … the actors have disavowed their roles in it in the wake of the #metoo movement. And for what? Because his “victim” is now 47 and they’re still together?

      Given Allen’s situation has been public for almost three decades and plenty of other actors made films with him during that time, I doubt that’s the real reason. Scared of the twitter mob, bullying journalists such as Ms Valenti, and offending Hollywood’s newly woke producers and studio executives, who themselves have been cowed and won’t transgress.

    • Hasn’t Farrow suffered enough? Why continue to malign her? Any woman would get a bit crazed, given the same circumstances. And why should Previn be dragging her through the mud again? To what end? The truly despicable one in all of this is Allen. Even his movies betray his predilection for pedophelia.

      • ga gamba says

        And why should Previn be dragging her through the mud again?

        First sentence of the third paragraph: “Previn… has maintained a decades-long silence…”

        No, most everyone is piling on Mr Allen and it appears Previn has had enough.

      • Joseph says

        In which of his movies does he show a predilection for pre-pubescent children? I don’t remember any.

      • “Even his movies betray his predilection for pedophelia.”

        Qualify this. Which films? What scenes? What themes?

  3. david of Kirkland says

    Evidence over belief, please. Modernity is the result of using evidence over stories, even if they seem reasonable. In the case above, you have two women saying the opposite thing so we can’t believe them both, and we all remember the Duke lacrosse story a decade ago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_lacrosse_case).

  4. This is one of those situations that I just go… “uh, hard cases make bad law.” Personally, I think Woody Allen is a creepy dude. I never liked his movies and thats why I avoid them, not because of this.

    • Martin28 says

      Whether you like them or not, some of his movies are excellent, particularly Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig, and Manhattan.

  5. ccscientist says

    In the literal witch hunts of the 1600s, it was in fact the believing of women that got hundreds (or thousands) killed. Since there are no witches in the real world, the accusers were either deluded or liars. Historians have found that in many cases the accusers either had something to gain financially or had a beef with the accused. The idea that women never lie is so self-serving and politically convenient. Who can possibly believe it?

  6. Since there seem to be few, or maybe no, women commenting, I’ll step up. It has become heresy to challenge or even express doubt about #MeToo, but as a woman of a certain age I have encountered numerous women who lied. I have even encountered quite a few women who lied for personal gain or to get even with a husband or lover.

  7. Mike van Lammeren says

    Oh, the twitter mob! If only there was some way to escape them! Ummm…don’t read Twitter?

    • And what will it accomplish? If you are a public figure, then not reading Twitter means nothing, they will still smear you there. It may work for “normal” people who are getting the heat only if engage in discussion and have unpopular opinion. Though, seeing how Twitter works now, they would likely be blocked in less than 3 tweets, so it won’t matter anyway.

    • ga gamba says

      I wish I could say it’s shocking, but little shocks me anymore. Why the police refused to tell his parents the exact nature of the allegations is disturbing nonetheless. Thanks for posting the link. I contributed to the child’s legal defence fund because father is a working-class fella who doesn’t have the resources for this.

    • It should scare any sane person. This is just a slice of “better” world leftists and SJWs are aiming for. Round them up, thrown into a space rocket and send to colonize Mars. Either they succeed and can buid their dream world there or they die in space. And I am fine with both outcomes.

    • Also, how exactly school get away with clear breach of law? Underage was interrogated without presence of his legal guardian (which means at least one of parents in this case). Principals should be literally shitting themselves now and sweating under pressure of questioning how this happened.

      • Agreed. He should not have been questioned without a parent present. All parents should counsel their children that if they get called to principal’s office, they say they will not speak without a guardian present.

  8. Northern Observer says

    I have always found Moses Farrow’s statement on this to be utterly convincing. Mia Farrow is one of the great monsters of our era. The fact that we have let her largely succeed in her defamation and self aggrandizement campaigns says more about us than it does about her victim Woody Allen.

    It is a shame that the gutless saps that make up A list Hollywood have caved into to groupthink and intimidation. Allen has made some masterpieces recently, Match Point, midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmin, and might have one or two left in him. MIrrational Man is my new favourite and I think it speaks directly to our current Pomo intellectual, moral, and cultural crisis.

  9. E. Olson says

    Because of their relative physical frailty and the threat of unwanted pregnancy, women have evolved to be passive-aggressive and to feel guilt about “meaningless” sex. Women are also almost completely dependent on men for their survival and comfort, and modern feminism has made them feel resentful and angry about this dependence. Put these things together, and you get “hell has no fury like a woman scorned” on steroids. Thus too many woman think it is ok to destroy a man’s career or family or wealth with exaggerated or imaginary accusations of sexual harassment/assault or rape or child abuse because she gets drunk and has sex with someone she would otherwise not have sex with (i.e. she decides she was sexually assaulted or raped after the fact), or because he didn’t show her proper attention (i.e. she wants a relationship or sex and he doesn’t, she wants a relationship and he only wants sex, she trades sex for help with her career/standard of living and he doesn’t follow through, he shows her romantic/sexual interest but she doesn’t think he is good enough for her, she withholds sex and/or gets some combination of fat, whiny, violent, naggy, or romantically cold and he dumps her for someone else, etc.). We now also have a lot of women who feel they should be believed and have their “violations” avenged even when the alleged event took place decades ago, or even when there is no proof besides the woman’s word, or even when there is a previous history that strongly suggests fault with the woman’s motivations, character or memory. Feminism has declared war on men, and women are not going to like the outcome, because in the end women can’t support themselves, and men are increasingly likely to avoid supporting or interacting with women through dating, marriage, employment, mentoring, paying taxes to support welfare, or any other means to enact their own revenge and/or reduce the chance of having their lives destroyed by a vindictive lying woman.

    • Lady Amelia says

      E.Olson your statement contains so many unsupported assertions, and displays such distate for women and feminism, that its hard to know where to start. There is no point arguing your points, as they are mainly unquantifiable opinions. You have some valid points, but if you wish to garner support or persuade others of your views, a little more reasoned logic and less inchoate rage might be useful. For example “in the end women can’t support themselves”. Explain, with worked examples, how this is the case>

      • E. Olson says

        Lady Amelia. My points are very quantifiable and have been studied extensively. If your toilet backs up or the power goes out who do you think is going to fix them for you – about 90+% of electricians and plumbers are men. Thinking about a new house or an expansion or remodel of your current place – 90%+ of the loggers, carpenters, bricklayers, heavy equipment operators, etc. are going to be men. Is your garbage getting stinky – 90+% chance the person who hauls it away is a man. Want to fly or drive somewhere – 90+% of the people who design, build, repair cars and pilot planes are men. Need someone to protect you (or die trying) from foreign or domestic attack – 90% chance it is going to be a man who saves you. The only thing that a woman can do that men can’t is gestate and breastfeed a baby, which is obviously crucial for the long-term survival of the species, but even here men are responsible for almost all the improvements in child-birth survival of both mother and child.

        But if you want some enlightenment from other sources here are a few useful links:





      • E. Olson says

        Sorry I can’t provide supportive links, but when I have tried my comments are not posted. But do a few google searches and you will find that if you need electricity/energy, plumbing, housing, transportation, scientific/engineering innovation, garbage collection, or protection against predators, criminals, terrorists, and natural disasters, there is a 90+% chance that a man will be providing it for you. The only area that women can utterly dominate men is gestating and breastfeeding children, and even here 90+% of the innovations that have dramatically reduced fatalities of mothers and babies during birth and early years have been developed by men. Try googling an article by Charles Murray titled “where are the female Einsteins” to show how dependent we all are on male genius. You might also google a paper titled “The Distribution of Income and Fiscal Incidence by Age and Gender: Some Evidence from New Zealand”, which shows that only men are net lifetime contributors to the government tax revenues, while women are net takers since they get more government benefits than they pay in taxes. You might also a google a paper titled “THE PARADOX OF DECLINING FEMALE HAPPINESS”, which demonstrates that greater female life choices, equality, and freedom has led to less female happiness since feminism went mainstream in the 1960s-70s.

      • Peter Murphy says

        E.Olsen makes some excellent points, and it makes me wonder whether a great deal of feminism isn’t women’s testing the boundaries of their providers.

    • John Craigton says

      Olson: “men are increasingly likely to avoid supporting or interacting with women”…that won’t happen, men and women are attracted to one another. The problem is that media stories just give a completely wrong picture of the reality. People are drawn to such stories (including myself). People need to read fewer Internet stories and go out a bit more to see what reality is.

      • E. Olson says

        John, have you seen the demographics in Japan and Europe? Marriage and children are just not happening like they did. The apparent popularity of online/phone porn and sex, lifelike sex dolls would also suggest that many men are finding cheaper and less risky substitutes for the real thing. Then there appears to be the growing adoption of the Pence rule and MGTOW, which further suggest that feminism is having success in killing the working and loving relationships between men and women built over thousands of years. The links below show some evidence, but hopefully the trends are reversible.




      • E. Olson says

        John, I tried to provide some links but my comment was not posted, so will try again. Do some google searches on European and Japanese demographic crises, which are all based on declining marriage rates and child bearing. You might also search the crises in Japan and China where young men are increasingly not desiring to have sex – at least with human women (online porn and lifelike dolls seem to be seen as an increasingly attractive and safer option). You can also search the growing popularity of the Pence rule and the MGTOW movements, which are both based on a desire to avoid having trouble with vindictive women.

    • Why can’t a woman do a white collar job and call the male plumber or builder when she needs something? That’s what white collar men do when they can’t or don’t want to do the dirty work themselves. Are you saying all the men who don’t know how to change a tire or lay bricks “can’t support themselves?”

      • E. Olson says

        mightysprout: the problem is women almost always do “white” collar jobs and virtually none have any interest/ability to do the jobs that actually allow modern society to function (i.e. plumbers, builders, etc.). If men were to suddenly disappear from the planet, the remaining female population would collapse within days because there are too few female farmers, truck drivers, plumbers, garbage collectors, electricians to keep things running. On the other hand, if women were to suddenly disappear from the planet, the remaining male population would move along with minimal disruption until the need for female eggs and wombs became apparent to create the next generation, and I would bet serious money that some male geniuses would invent and perfect synthetic eggs and wombs before that problem occurred.

  10. Carl Craven says

    Anyone ever notice how much Woody’s biological son to Mia Farrow looks incredibly like Mia’s former husband? Believe all women?

    Just imaging the birth
    Mia: look woody….hes got your eyes.

  11. David Gray says

    Yes, women are only to be automatically believed when it furthers the narrative. Hence the Keith Ellison story…

    • Not just Keith ellison. Three women accused Al Gore of sexual assault. Many women accused Bill clinton of rape and of sexual assault and of sexual harassment. Hillary slut-shamed and victim-blamed the survivors of Bill’s crimes. As an added bonus, by the feminist standard that ‘if there is a large power differential a woman cannot consent and it is rape’, Monica Lewinsky is another Bill Clinton rape victim. There isn’t a greater power differential between adults than that between the President and an intern nearly young enough to be his granddaughter.

      • E. Olson says

        Yes, but the difference is those guys wouldn’t appoint someone to the Supreme Court who might actually consider the constitutionality of their legal decisions. We need politicians who have suffered from a multiple episodes of human frailty and hence have the necessary empathy and guilt to nominate judges who will reliably rule in favor of unconstitutional laws that are too full of social justice to be passed through Congress.

      • Here you are wrong, None O. Power between a mighty political figure, and an insignificant girl in a room setting is quite different. Napoleon on his lonely Island St Helena was completely overpowered by a simple local young lady, that knew exactly how to fiddle and play the game. He was nowhere in her presence!

        • Her name was Betsy, I just now found out via Google, and she was just a teenager, 15 years old.

        • I don’t know much about Napoleon. History is definitely an area in which the more you learn the more you realize how little you know. I do like the line that the allies were fighting Napoleon in order to ‘Make the world safe for Aristocracy’.

          • He was good in Austerlitz, he conquered Europe, we all thought that this was the new world order (for about 10 yrs), but then lost in Russia and in Waterloo. But in St Helena, he lost his heart to that Betsy, she slept on his knees, she adored him, and teased him, and he obviously liked it, whether conqueror or not, after all the battles he won or lost. It’s mooving!

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  13. Abandoning the presumption of innocence, the need for evidence, and due process can only lead to one thing— mob rule. Be careful what you wish for.

  14. As a woman I’ll make a few observations.

    #1. Women are human. Humans lie. Women lie.
    #2 Saying that women lie doesn’t mean that every accusation is a lie. It simply means that an accusation may be false or true, so it must be supported by evidence and the presumption of innocence.
    #3 Increasingly, the #MeToo movement is about who the accused is as opposed to the accuser. So if the accused is clinton, then “it was a private matter between their marriage,” “it was a long time ago,” “it’s politically motivated,” “The women were bimbos and sluts and knew they were sleeping with married men” or – if all else fails – “lalala I’m not listening.” Whereas if the accused is someone you want to be brought down, then a 45 year old single accusation is enough, serves as a symbol of all rapes, and even the act of asking for evidence is evidence of your disbelief. In other words, it’s a religious dogma.
    #4 No way does every woman believe this. I think the majority do not. However, the media is aligning with social media to silence any opposition in lockstep.
    #5 Thus, this is clearly not about women or men, but about using our relationship as tools to further a larger agenda, manipulate people to focus their fear/ rage on each other, and allow despots to step in to control the ‘fear.’

    Do not think this has anything whatever to do with women.

  15. We just like public executions too much. The righteous feeling of burning a witch on the stake. The virtuousness of showing other people how much we care about justice. No. Back up a second – vengeance.

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  17. You can defeat the “Believe Women, Women Do Not Lie” thing in one fell swoop – just mention Margaret Thatcher and they’ll contort themselves into knots trying to choose between Thatcher being infallible or their slogan being wrong.

    They’ll most likely claim that she wasn’t “a real woman”.

  18. PFESSER says

    Since # has always meant “pound,” it’s very hard to take seriously an anti-rape group called, “#MeToo.”

    • But what does “hash” mean in Oz? Maybe “Hash me baby” is some Aussie dirty talk. Along with ‘That’s not a penis, THIS is a penis…’

  19. In Spain and mexico ,# means number. I wonder what it means in Uzbekistan.

    • In my country numbers are written as -nr- or -no-, not as #, but I understand that there are even differences between the UK and the US (so, has Mexico taken over the US method of coding numbers with # ??) . And in the meantime I found out: # is called almohadilla in Spain. By the way, @ is called arrobo, both arabic terms, why? What’s behind all that?

  20. And some people aren’t victims at all they are just abusers that claim victimization to put off the scent of there abusive behavior.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Yes. The fact is that a lot of people who claim to be bullied are actually using the accusation of bullying to bully people. The classic example is the woman who gets offended at everything said to her and twists all uttereancs by men into ”sexism”.
      We have to remove all subjectivity from the definition of any kind of abuse. The ”victim’s” viewpoint is useless in determining the truth. Like other crimes or torts proof must be based on an objective, reasonable person test.

      • Forget that objective Peter, that’s something for in natural science and stuff! Not in politics, family (absolutely not) and sociology!

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