The sexual harassment allegations against Casey Affleck are not new. And perhaps due to the fact the actor/auteur himself isn’t a particularly public figure, it’s not necessarily news either. But as we enter Oscar season, with his Manchester By the Sea gaining traction, we are faced with another year, another likely frontrunner with a disturbing past.
But re-reading the stories of the women who came forward to talk about Affleck, stories I’d heard but admittedly forgot about because, despite being possibly the more talented Affleck, Casey is also not the most top-of-mind, one thing stood out for me: with each tale, the memory of the same thing happening to me. And to almost every single woman I know.
And the strangest feeling that it was normal.
Amanda White was a producer on I’m Still Here, the documentary-mockumentary-thing that is still among the strangest, most masturbatory film projects in recent memory. One of her complaints was that Affleck “ordered a crew member to take off his pants and show White his penis—even after she vehemently objected.”
He also referred to women as “cows” repeatedly, and graphically and frequently discussed his sex life. When he found out White’s age, he asked her “Isn’t it about time you get pregnant?” even presenting a crew member for her to reproduce with. Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix also locked themselves in her room during the shoot so they could have sex with two women, after he’d tried to get her to share a room with him. That’s when things turned physical.
When she resisted, White claimed, he grabbed her threateningly and attempted to scare her into submission. Affleck then allegedly proceeded to send White abusive text messages, calling her “profane names” for refusing to stay with him. White filed a $2 million lawsuit against Affleck in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 23, 2010.
White’s not the only woman who has alleged harassment. Magdalena Gorka had already left the film due to Affleck’s behavior. He and the crew “openly talked about engaging in sexual activities with her, and jokingly suggested that she have sex with the camera assistant, a good friend of Affleck’s.”
As with White, it wasn’t just talk for Gorka.
According to Gorka’s complaint, she awoke in the middle of the night to find Affleck lying in bed next to her. She alleges that the actor was “curled up next to her in the bed wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt. He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol.” Unaware of how long Affleck had been there or whether or not he had touched her while she slept, Gorka said she was “shocked and repulsed.” When she ordered Affleck out of bed, he allegedly responded, “Why?” to which she replied, “Because you are married and you are my boss.” Affleck then allegedly asked if she was “sure,” and when Gorka remained resolute, she claimed Affleck “left and slammed the door in anger.”
Raise your hand in the comments if this has happened to you. Maybe even more than once. This happened to me three, maybe four times in college. And I’m not including the time I woke up to a crush actually having sex with me. These are the times I was lucky. These are the times even now I have ascribed the strangest normalcy, as I have with every other story in that article. This feeling of “this is what it is to work with men,” and as survival you pretend you’re cool with it. Because when you don’t, you’re a bitch.
The concept of normalization is big right now in Trump’s America, but it’s always been there. It’s amazing and terrifying what we normalize, often for survival. And by pretending we’re OK with it or not fighting back when we should, when we absolutely should, it has been made acceptable. It’s a horrifying cycle—pretend out of fear, accept out of fear, and the perpetrators go on never knowing they’ve been something to be afraid of. Or do they? I don’t know. The normalized experience I’ve had over and over again tells me they don’t. That this is common. That I’m just one of many for that person, for all three or four of those persons.
We are now loudly screaming “this is not normal” in the face of Donald Trump and our new American frontier. Let’s take it and scream it in all the places we’ve never been able to before.