On Saturday, Dylan Farrow published a harrowing personal essay in the New York Times that chronicled her alleged sexual abuse by her father Woody Allen. Four days prior to the release of Dylan’s essay, the Daily Beast published an article by award-winning filmmaker Robert Weide titled “The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast.” Weide is only the most recent person to question the accusations against Allen. He’s also only the most recent person to do so by undermining Allen’s former long-time girlfriend and Dylan’s mother, Mia Farrow.
In his piece, Weide spends a great deal of time trying to discredit Farrow by bringing up her sexual indiscretions with André Previn and Frank Sinatra. In other words, he slut shames her.
Some believe that the elder Farrow may have planted the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Allen in Dylan’s mind, spurred on by anger after Allen began a relationship with Farrow’s daughter from another marriage, Soon-Yi. But regardless of what one believes about the case against Allen, using a woman’s sexuality as a means to undermine her credibility is just plain sexist journalism. And the attacks on Mia represent an all-too-common theme in these types of cases, as women are painted as unstable deviants whose accounts of assault subsequently become less likely to be believed.
“I am not here to slam Mia,” Weide writes, before proceeding to suggest that her feminine wiles are at fault for the mental breakdown of another woman. Weide continues,
“[Mia] became pregnant by musician/composer André Previn, 40, who was still married to singer/songwriter Dory Previn. The betrayal is said to have led to Dory Previn’s mental breakdown and institutionalization … Maybe sleeping with your friend’s husband doesn’t earn as many demerits as sleeping with your girlfriend’s adopted daughter, but if you’re waving the ‘Never Forget’ banner in Mia’s honor, let’s be consistent and take a moment to also remember the late Dory Previn.”
But before we go about waving the “Shut Up Homewrecker” banner in Dory Previn’s honor, let’s be consistent and take a moment to also remember André Previn. André Previn, a then 40-year-old man, certainly had more of a moral obligation to his wife than did the 24-year-old Farrow. Yet his actions are never part of the ant-Mia narrative; they weren’t even worth a sentence of consideration in Weide’s piece.
The drama between Previn and Farrow is well-known, and Weide is certainly not the first to cast her in an unflattering light. But this troubling theme is still seen all the time in tabloid stories. This is textbook slut-shaming. Once again, the onus is on women to preserve the sanctity of someone else’s relationship, as we are expected to be the “responsible” parties who are better at controlling our wanton desires. And this continued pitting of women against each other further promotes the insulting ideas that women are all in dramatic competition for men, and that men don’t have the fortitude to make their own decisions.
Of course, such a line of thinking doesn’t fit with Weide’s attempts to sew seeds of doubt about Farrow and her daughter. Because in a society that continues to place disproportionate value on female purity, bringing up instances of supposed sexual immorality remains one of the easiest ways to drag a woman down.