Canada-based comedian and podcast host Mark Hughes’s fascinating interview with the inimitable Samantha Jane Geimer deserves to be watched widely. Especially by some of the shriller #MeToo champions within Hollywood. If you don’t have the time to listen to the full interview, an extract is below.
Hawaii-based Samantha Jane Geimer rose to fame (notoriety?) in the 1970s and 80s as the child victim in the Roman Polanski rape case. She has since spoken and written extensively about the need for #MeToo to grow beyond celebrating victimhood and to embrace a more courageous culture of shared responsibilities alongside shared rights.
Geimer critiques #MeToo’s call to women to raise “incidents” of sexual harassment or assault, even decades after they’re said to have taken place. Geimer’s own claim (against Polanski) was born and raised in Hollywood, just as #MeToo’s noisiest champions and their claims were.
#MeToo crusaders within Hollywood have applauded actresses chatting now in the vaguest terms about a knee-rub from as far back as the nineties.
Geimer says: “Well, ‘40 years ago something happened to me, you must believe me’....I call (that) BS! If you wanted justice, you had your chance. Women are NOT too weak to go to the police. It might be hard. You might get f*d over. I got f*d over. It was very hard. I was 14 and it was an incredibly difficult year. Yet I did it. And here I am. This notion that women just can’t report. It’s too hard. You must believe them. They can come up 30-40 years later when there’s no possible, real way to prove it. That’s BS! You don’t get that. I didn’t get that. I had to fight to be believed.”
Geimer accepts the lingering faults of the Hollywood court system but takes issue with #MeToo’s molly-coddling: “Our legal system is kind of broken when it comes to sexual assault victims in a lot of ways. But it was never meant to be easy. Justice was never meant to be, ‘I say you did it. I don’t have no consequences and you get convicted because I said so’. That’s not the way it works. It’s a hard process in the best of times. I agree it should be easier. It should be more fair. And it’s very difficult. But I don’t agree that women are just so inherently weak and fragile that it’s impossible for them to go to the authorities and get justice for themselves.”
Hughes smiles when he asks Geimer, only half in jest: “I take it you’re probably not popular in feminist circles?”
Geimer: “No, I’m not. I’m like the worst victim and the worst feminist but, hey, I stand by my moral judgements and my convictions. Sorry. I am what I am.”
Hughes: “I remember at the height of #MeToo there was actually a strong push by a lot of people. Some with credibility. To say, let’s treat sexual assault as a separate crime. And make the accused prove their innocence. And people go ‘No, that won’t be abused!' Are you f*king kidding me!?”
Geimer nods: “Women are liars just like men. Women are nice and shitty and truthful and liars just like men. Not everyone’s truthful. The whole idea of it...is based on...if you’ve been sexually assaulted, you are now damaged goods & you cannot act & be responsible like any other adult. That’s not right. You can be sexually assaulted but you’re NOT damaged goods. You’re not somehow now less of a person?! It’s contrary. It’s almost sexist & abusive to say that because you’ve been sexually assaulted you must (be granted) 100% belief & extra special treatment because you’re no longer a regular citizen. To say that you’ve been harmed in some way you can’t recover from. That’s super shitty & hurtful to people.”
Hughes, who is clearly more thoughtful and insightful than his goofy style lets on, flags the questionable motives of many #MeToo champions and how victimhood sometimes pays: “During #MeToo I remember when people would question #MeToo ‘so what, you’re going to ruin a guy’s life over a Facebook post?’. And people would be like ‘what incentive does anyone have to lie?’. Er…..Dopamine? Getting likes (on their social media handles and posts) and being called brave….this is a different world.”
True, many #MeToo warriors have risen from obscurity to social media super-stardom without any of the hard-work, skill and achievement of Hollywood’s stars.
Geimer agrees: “#MeToo is teaching you that being a victim has value. Your victimhood has value. What they don’t really tell you is that your victimhood has value to other people who will use it to further their particular cause.”
But aside from fantasies about “justice” that are almost never realised, Geimer feels that even the overnight celebrity gambit is hit or miss. Some who flash their victimhood end up with not much more than fifteen minutes of fame. Others who know how to leverage their victimhood better end up with much more than fifteen minutes. “I advise against publicly trying to get your vengeance or your justice in a court of public opinion because it’s wildly unpredictable.”
Hughes raises an interesting point about vague accusations, unnamed offenders, vividly-remembered offences from aeons ago: “One of the stats that used to get paraded around was that the amount of false-rape accusations was relatively low. But that’s people who went (with their complaints) to the police. Not people who posted on Facebook." Hughes refers to the rewards of victimhood that some seek: "You’ve heard the term revenge-porn? Why can’t (we accept the possibility that) there (will) be revenge-posts?”
Geimer speaks to young girls and women who want (or have) to deal with predatory men: “Take care of yourself. Watch who you’re with. Watch what you’re doing. You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. You can’t just say ‘I’m helpless. I made a bad decision but I’m a victim because I didn’t know any better’. That’s no way to live your life. I made some really bad decisions. And I learnt some valuable lessons like how stupid I was. What ridiculous mistakes I made. Doesn’t get him (Polanski) off. What he did was wrong. He went to jail. It’s illegal. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get to learn my lessons, that I don’t get to realise that I could have stopped it and I didn’t.”
Geimer pushes back at #MeToo’s touchiness about victim-blaming and victim-shaming: “‘Oh, but it’s not your fault!’ Yeah, but I’m still a human being with my own initiative & I take responsibility for myself. I don’t blame everything that happens on everyone around me. Don’t take away my power, agency. I f*d up. That’s mine. I own that. Don’t make me the helpless victim. Don’t make me incapable of being responsible for making a mistake.”
Hughes agrees: “I’ve been sexually abused a bunch of times as a teenager. One of them was rape. One of the things I had to learn was, once I stopped using drugs and breaking the law I stopped being in a position where I was more likely to be preyed upon. It was my responsibility. What they did was wrong. It happened multiple times. I (kept) on finding myself around predators in vulnerable situations (with) no witnesses. Funny, as soon as I stopped using drugs or hanging around criminals I haven’t been in one of those situations in years.”
Geimer: “You get to own that. That makes you a better person. To say ‘you’re nothing but a victim & everything that happened to you is somebody else’s fault’ that just makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes your choices take you to a bad place. It might be a bad choice but it’s still a choice. And if you don’t own your choices you don’t learn.”
Samantha Jane Geimer offers a rare clarity, conviction and courage that challenges some of the more cowardly and confused crowds of #MeToo. Every woman already in Hollywood and young girls and women aspiring to be actresses in Hollywood need to hear her. #MeToo, even more.
Rudolph Lambert Fernandez is an independent writer writing on pop culture.