Minnie Driver Says Matt Damon’s #MeToo Mansplaining Represents Every “Intelligent, Nice, White Male” Who Refuses to Listen
Minnie Driver has long been outspoken on issues of sexual harassment and assault, both within Hollywood and without, as well as speaking openly about her own experiences with assault. Earlier this month, she stepped down from her position as an Oxfam ambassador after it was revealed that some of the organization’s staff sexually exploited the vulnerable communities they were supposed to be serving in Haiti and other countries.
In a live interview with the New York Times, she said, “I needed to send a very clear message, not to the beautiful people that I’ve worked with on the ground for so many years who are amazing and industrious, but to the corporation that knew, corporate people who knew this was going on. Who hush-hushed it. Who were not transparent about it, either with me or the people that worked for them, and who didn’t do anything about it.”
In the same interview, she also had some more words for Matt Damon. Damon, if you remember, put his foot squarely in his willfully ignorant mouth late last year when he commented on Weinstein, Franken, and the ways in which he felt women were conflating all forms of harassment and assault. According to Damon–who, as the father of four girls and the husband to a woman, is clearly an expert on women’s behavior and their needs–”there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”
At the time, Driver responded, saying that yes, Matt, we do know the difference between all these things. But also that men like Damon “simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level,” and that you can understand nuance while still seeing the big picture of what women have to deal with. She suggested as a more useful approach, “How about: it’s all fucking wrong and it’s all bad and until you start seeing it under one umbrella it’s not your job to compartmentalize or judge what is worse and what is not. Let women do the speaking up right now. The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”
Driver still finds Damon’s supposed points system ludicrous. She marveled, “That somehow we should have a hierarchical system whereby touch on the arse is this, the tits is this, you know, front bottom, back bottom, over the shirt, rape! That there would be some kind of criteria.”
But what she really found interesting about Damon’s comments–which she says is different from what much of the media, who largely focused on her and Damon’s decades-past dating history, found interesting–was that his tone-deaf comments weren’t unique. As Driver puts it, “he represented every intelligent, nice, white male who feels it is their job to comment on the way that women metabolize stuff. And what he was talking about in this instance was how women should metabolize abuse.”
She points out the other huge problem with Damon’s comments, which is that “he was only talking about how men should be dealt with.” She says, “of course there should be due process”–because once again, no one is claiming otherwise. “But when I said that men needed to listen, it was that they needed to listen to the women speak about their assault without being proscribed.”
Many headlines, including in the NYT itself, are calling that “intelligent, nice white male” comment a “dig.” And maybe it is. But I don’t think she meant it as that. A whole lot of men who fit that description immediately think it’s an insult when we use descriptors like straight, cis, white, or male. You can watch the interview above (these comments start around the 8:45 mark) and hear Driver’s tone for yourself. Personally, I don’t think she’s using any of those words derisively. (She referred to herself at one point as a “straight, white amplifier” of others’ voices.) Instead, she’s just stating what so many of experience from men like Damon. Men who think of themselves as empathetic because of their niceness or intelligence or history of liberal activism that they assume translates to universal allyship. Those are the men who get incredibly defensive, sometimes aggressively so, when that allyship is questioned.
It’s telling that so many people (specifically, so many intelligent white men) took issue with Driver’s original response, and twisted her words to change her meaning. Men like Bill Maher and the NYT’s Bret Stephens called out Driver last year for “McCarthyism” and for trying to silence Damon. For taking the #MeToo movement “too far.” But, as Driver says, there is a difference between telling someone to be quiet and asking them to listen. She clarifies, “I said the time now is for men to listen. I never said anything about staying silent ad infinitum. […] There is no way for us to move forward unless we do this together. Bill Maher talking about McCarthyism–it’s so polemic, and so TV. It’s so not what this is about.”
Why is it that when we ask these men to listen, and to join us, to work with us–why is it that what they hear is us telling them to shut up? For men who are so concerned with the potential conflation of issues, they sure don’t seem to care much about getting specifics right.
Ideally, Driver says, “Women get to be heard. You get to be seen and heard and the accusers get to hear that and get to metabolize that and then there is due process and then there is healing.”
(via NYT, image: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
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