In an interview published on the NYTimes yesterday, Jason Bateman — in some misguided attempt to play peacemaker — found himself not only defending Jeffrey Tambor but minimizing and devaluing the real pain that Jessica Walter felt after being on the other side of yet another Jeffrey Tambor screaming fit. Caspar Salmon put Bateman’s response in the exact right context:
Astounding and dreadful to see how power works, how personal relations carry into the political sphere; how women have to fight to talk and be taken seriously. It's all there.— Caspar Salmon (@CasparSalmon) May 24, 2018
The backlash to the interview was quick, and it was merciless, eventually eliciting an apology on Twitter from Bateman himself.
Based on listening to the NYT interview and hearing people’s thoughts online, I realize that I was wrong here.— Jason Bateman (@batemanjason) May 24, 2018
I sound like I’m condoning yelling at work. I do not.
It sounds like I’m excusing Jeffery. I do not.
It sounds like I’m insensitive to Jessica. I am not.
In fact, I’m-
- horrified that I wasn’t more aware of how this incident affected her.— Jason Bateman (@batemanjason) May 24, 2018
I was so eager to let Jeffrey know that he was supported in his attempt to learn, grow and apologize that I completely underestimated the feelings of the victim, another person I deeply love - and she was..
… sitting right there!— Jason Bateman (@batemanjason) May 24, 2018
I’m incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry to have done that to Jessica. This is a big learning moment for me.
I shouldn’t have tried so hard to mansplain, or fix a fight, or make everything okay.
I should’ve focused more on what the most important…
…part of it all is - there’s never any excuse for abuse, in any form, from any gender. And, the victim’s voice needs to be heard and respected.— Jason Bateman (@batemanjason) May 24, 2018
I didn’t say that and instead said a bunch of other stuff and not very well.
I deeply, and sincerely, apologize.
His apology? It may be sincere, but it still misses the point. When he tweets, “I sound like I’m condoning yelling at work. I do not. It sounds like I’m excusing Jeffery. I do not. It sounds like I’m insensitive to Jessica. I am not.” He did condone yelling, and he did excuse Tambor. He did all those things. Maybe he didn’t *mean* to, maybe he was unaware of how his actions were normalizing abuse and devaluing Walter’s experience. Own that. Because right now, this sounds similar to Aaron “I’m not a racist” Schlossberg declaring his racist rant was a problem because he wasn’t polite. Tone wasn’t the issue. The issue is the content of what he said. Actions speak louder than words, and much louder than apologies that only come after he’s been dragged by Twitter. If he really wants to learn and grow from this, he needs to confront the completeness of what he did wrong. And maybe learn how to thread tweets.
Because, the thing is, what he did? It’s not worse than what Tambor did. But it’s part of why that happens. It’s part of why it continues to happen. Because people like Bateman create a context or story that makes abuse okay. They justify that it was an isolated incident. That he didn’t go from zero to sixty. That creative people have quirks. That acting is a weird job. On and on. And with every justification, they tell the abuser he’s fine, and the abused they are collateral damage.
I suspect every woman here has experienced this. Maybe not as severely as Walter. But I’ve definitely told colleagues about inappropriate behavior by male co-workers and been given excuses instead of support. And it makes you think, “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I overreacted. Maybe this is just what work is.” This is why it’s so damn hard for women to speak out, because even in milder scenarios that don’t involve sexual misconduct, responses like Bateman’s tell us our perspectives matter less than the abuser’s. Maybe you’ve gotten it wrong? Or maybe he did screw up, but he apologized. What’s YOUR problem? Why can’t you move on? An apology isn’t a sign of change or often even genuine remorse. It’s too often a tool to make the issue disappear. But it may be a false resolution for those who’ve suffered. We should get to decide when they are forgiven. We are the ones who have to let go of our anger and pain.
The Jason Batemans of the world may think they are the arbiters. But their normalization of abuse and minimizing of victims’ feelings is a major part of the problem. It builds the environment that allows abusers to act out without consequence. Because they know they’re always the guys who’ll want to know the details. And by details, they really mean, “Give me an excuse to act like this is fine, so I don’t have to feel uncomfortable and can carry on like nothing’s wrong.”