Feminism News

Why Woody Allen’s “witch hunt” comments were not OK, at all

By Tanyel Mustafa

So, Woody Allen recently decided to share what he *thought* were words of wisdom regarding the Harvey Weinstein allegations.

According to The New York Times, Allen claimed:

“You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either”

…an infuriating remark to say the least.

If we look at what “a Salem atmosphere” actually means, it’s obvious that the modern day witch hunt we’re in is targeting women, not men.

Salem was a moment in history that punished sexually deviant and subversive women – to use it in this context is frankly insulting. Salem was men punishing women. This is the same narrative we still see today.

By making this claim, Allen downplays the significance of the survivors’ statements, and appears incredibly ignorant (and not the ally we called for).

Weinstein’s acts are so gross, that when Allen feels the need to use a “guy in an office who winks at a woman” as a comparable situation again paints him as ignorant, as it seriously undermines the women who have spoken out, and more so, it punishes them for speaking out.

This is where the women who speak out about their experiences become hounded.

The #MeToo comeback is important. What Allen is referring to, knowingly or not, is a fear. A fear that when one woman speaks up, so will another.

Weinstein’s case is a clear example of this domino effect. It’s a deep shame in our society that women are unable to announce the crimes their bodies have experienced when it actually happens – instead they need mass solidarity to feel that what they say will be respected and believed.

This is why we need to commend the bravery of these women, for creating this domino effect that creates a platform in which to say “me too”. Some people have condemned the hashtag, arguing that it makes the situation seem mundane. Newsflash: it is mundane.

It’s such an everyday occurrence that I don’t have one female friend that hasn’t been subjected to behaviour of this type. It’s time to wake up and realise this.

For the innocent women executed, silenced, abused and ostracised during Salem, we cannot have comparisons that pit perverted men as the victims. If anyone has created “a Salem atmosphere”, it’s the men who believe that this heighted form of masculinity is acceptable, and who use it to silence women.

I hope it doesn’t take a mass rapist to open up this conversation next time. If one person does it just once, it’s still the same act, and so it still counts. I hope to see more articles of resistance from men, and not just because they “have a daughter” as we have seen too many times.

We need to cultivate an atmosphere that allows victims of all genders to speak out and not feel afraid of losing their jobs or not being believed. Instead of guilt-tripping the women who come forward on any kind of sexual assault or abuse, how about we use and target that energy where it rightfully belongs: at the sick men who continue to create this “Salem atmosphere”.



  1. Of course Woody Allen is way off in his comments about comparing this to Salem. However, men were also persecuted and put to death during the period of the Salem witch trials. Some of the accusers were women.
    People like Woody Allen have survived for so long by people looking the other way at his behavior, and even celebrating his work.


  2. I thought I had made a comment here, it doesn’t appear to have gone through. Just wanted to clarify when you mention Salem are you talking about the events that happened in colonial Massachussets in 1692-1693?


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