Ashley Judd, one of the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in the New York Times exposé that started it all, has spoken at length about the #MeToo moment with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur for an upcoming episode of HARDtalk.
Judd said that the overriding emotion she’s feeling in reaction to the current moment is “unmitigated, electrifying joy” that it has finally arrived. Judd has in the past said that she was also molested as a child, and she says she has always been a “tattler”:
To use the word that Laura Dern used the other night on stage at the Golden Globes, I’m a tattler. And I was molested for the first time when I was seven years old, and the first thing I did was go to a grown up and say, “Hey, this just happened.” And is so often the case, the grown-ups said, “Oh he’s a nice old man that’s not what he meant,” but I somehow or another managed, Stephen, to stay absolutely authentic in my truth—that I knew that something terribly wrong had happened, and I think that’s why I’m such a crusader for gender equality and for the full eradication of all gender and sexual-based violence. Because I experienced it as a youth, I experienced it in Hollywood, it’s been the core of my humanitarian work for over 15 years, and now that this movement has collectivized and catalyzed and is here, it’s incredibly gratifying to me.
Judd also points out that there is a spectrum of sexually inappropriate behavior, raining on the parade of those who claim that #MeToo conflates the minor with the serious.
I think it’s fantastic to have the conversation, and starting to articulate and identify and have a gradient of behaviors—and understand there is a spectrum of behavior—that is so important. Unless we talk about this, and tease each part of it out, we can’t understand what is unacceptable and what is.
But when conversation turned to James Franco, Hollywood’s latest high-profile accusee, Judd’s response was unexpected. Whispers and tweets about Franco have been growing louder since his Golden Globe win on Sunday, and on Thursday, the actor was accused by five women—on the record—of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Judd praised Franco’s response to the allegations against him, in which he has denied the allegations while simultaneously championing the right of women to come forward (or as Reductress put it, “I Believe Women, Unless They’re Talking About Me”). As Franco said to Stephen Colbert earlier this week:
In my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for the things that I’ve done … The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate. But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice, because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to, I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing, and it’s important.
Franco has admitted to some past bad behavior, but often in a highly unspecified way. As the Los Angeles Times story notes, he recently told Out magazine that he’d embarked on a “new chapter,” and has tried to make amends with women from his past—just, sometimes, not for the stuff he’s been accused of. (He apologized to one accuser for getting involved with her while she was in recovery for substance abuse.) In another case, after he was accused of trying to pick up a 17-year-old girl on Instagram, he admitted to flirting with the teenager, saying, “I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.”
In her interview with the BBC, Judd gave Franco a lot of credit for his response, and for his proud declaration that he is willing to accept responsibility, even though, in this case, he has not actually done that:
I think that what James said is terrific. And I think that we’ve all behaved—at a certain level—unconsciously, and done things that were insensitive, inappropriate, without necessarily understanding that they were. I mean we’ve all operated with a certain amount of tone deafness, and I like the culpability, and we have to have restorative justice. This is about men and women being all together and having a more equitable and just workplace, home life, social spaces.
She’s not the first person to give Franco credit where it’s not necessarily due. The Washington Post’s new publication the Lily gave Franco credit for “not completely fumbling” his answer on the Late Show, and for championing women’s right to come forward with claims—even if it’s just for him to deny them.
The full interview will air on the BBC’s HARDtalk this coming Sunday, Jan. 14, at 11:30 PM Eastern time.
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