I’m cautiously optimistic about the idea of Ben Affleck being a part of the solution to ending sexual harassment in Hollywood, and I can’t deny that it’s good to see him speaking up about changing the dangerous patterns of behavior so deeply ingrained in the entertainment industry.
While on the road promoting his new film, Justice League, the actor sounded truly gung ho about figuring out ways to effectively end the harassment and assault women and men have faced at the hands of powerful abusers in the entertainment industry. In doing so, he made it clear that he now wants to start being a part of the solution rather than just one of the many men who are complicit or silently perpetuating the problem.
When asked about the most important thing men can do to address the issue of sexual harassment, Affleck began by saying, “I think, you know, it’s obvious it’s a terrible thing; it’s happening on a scale that I don’t think anybody except maybe women, you know, understood and recognized how terrible it was, and it’s opening a lot of people’s eyes to this.”
He continued, “And, you know, for me, that means also looking at my own behavior and addressing that and making sure that I’m part of the solution and that I’m, you know, making positive steps and that we’re… we’re calling out other guys when we’re seeing behavior that’s inappropriate.”
But perhaps most interesting part of Affleck’s commentary (especially considering this is coming from Affleck) was the second part of his proposed solution to ending a culture of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. “Secondarily, I think the problem… two things need to happen,” he began. “One: More women need to be pushed to power so that women feel comfortable coming forward and having someone to report to. And two: I think, you know, it’s got to become… it can’t just be a woman’s issue. It’s got to be a men’s issue as well. Otherwise, it will always be an issue.”
That focus on putting women first and making sure men understand this is their problem too feels like an important point to make. Putting the onus on men to recognize and change their own behavior while lifting women up would be a vital and viable way to repair relationships in the industry, to be sure. So in this regard, Affleck’s not wrong at all. However, there’s a difference between saying it and doing it; considering Affleck’s history where allegations of sexual misconduct are concerned, he’s got a long way to go in redeeming himself.
Affleck has had some serious accusations of sexual misconduct of his own of late. Most notable is the allegation he groped actor Hilarie Burton. It is also worth noting that his brother, Casey Affleck, has stood at the center of similar allegations of sexual assault in the past. It’s under this cloud of allegations and a previously hazy position on how sexual assault should be dealt with that Affleck’s latest comments pique our interest. But we should also hold him to the high standard he’s discussing in these comments to ensure he becomes a tool for change rather than just an empty voice for it.
Actions speak louder than words, and while it’s good that he’s focused on repairing his own image, we also hope he acts on the real, tangible changes he’s suggesting going forward.