There’s an old internet proverb which states that a best friend’s primary job is not just to love what you love, but to hate whatever you hate, too.
One only has to scroll through a few of Ellen Barkin’s tweets in support of her friend, Annabella Sciorra during the rape trial of Harvey Weinstein to see the truth of that proverb play out in real time.
Though this is no petty spat between entertainers. It was Weinstein who broke open the #MeToo movement in October 2017, following detailed allegations published in The New Yorker and the New York Times that he had been sexually abusing and bullying women for close to three decades.
Sciorra was among the first to speak out publicly about it.
We live in a world where women are inherently disbelieved. Our pain, our trauma, is trampled over – flattened – lest we ruin men’s lives with our side of the story.
After being shunned by Hollywood, (his Academy Award membership was withdrawn) Weinstein returned on January 23 to have his day in court. According to his defence the alleged rapes were consensual; these women had agreed to sometimes violent and demeaning sexual acts in exchange for movie roles, and that of course included Sciorra.
Barkin was having none of it. On January 23 she arrived at court to show her support for Sciorra, sat down in the area reserved for the public and proceeded to tweet.
Here is another internet proverb: your best friend should always get angrier than you are about whatever injustice you face.
Barkin began with Weinstein’s head defence attorney Donna Rotunno, a criminal lawyer who built her career in Chicago, defending men accused of sex crimes.
“In my alternate universe Annabella Sciorra and I are 12. Donna Rotunno calls my friend a liar. Donna Rotunno gets a lesson in justice behind the handball courts. The end.”
Putting schoolyard justice aside, Barkin went in harder, with a flurry of follow-up tweets, detailing the facts surrounding sexual abuse and trauma, and re-tweeting other journalist’s reporting of the case.
“Victims of sexual assault often continue a relationship with their abusers. I know I did. Now the mobbed up weinstein legal team is counting on our ignorance on trauma. Too late. We are no longer ignorant. We learned everything about trauma from weinstein himself.
She then directly tweeted Rotunno again, saying her defence of Weinstein had cost her “[her] woman’s heart”, before going on to refute claims that her friend Sciorra was an “aspiring” actress, stating that she had already arrived, before Weinstein “stole her dream.”
But the coup de grace came when Barkin tweeted her opinion of the Weinstein defence.
The New York Post described her as a “diva” for displaying anger toward her friend’s alleged rapist, after giving the middle finger to a photographer. But one only has to think of how they would react if one of their friends had to give detailed, gruesome testimony about their own rape in front of a hostile audience, and the word “diva” is probably not strong enough.
Here is another internet proverb: your best friend should always get angrier than you are about whatever injustice you face. It sounds almost trite in the face of a trial like Weinstein’s – a man who was once the most powerful in the entertainment industry; who could destroy your career almost as easily as he could promise your ascent.
It sounds trite, but the facts are these. We live in a world where women are inherently disbelieved. Our pain, our trauma, is trampled over – flattened – lest we ruin men’s lives with our side of the story.
In our homes, on the street, in relationships, in doctor’s offices and, as we know only too well, in court, the onus is on us to convince, to plead, to read out our victim’s statements, and yes, to tweet, in the sometimes vain hope that it will make a difference, and translate into change, as the #MeToo movement itself did.
In this context, it is clear that Barkin, who has a long history of campaigning for social justice, and a platform of over 200,000 followers from which to amplify causes, is that she’s not afraid to speak truth to power, let alone a friend who loves what she loves and hates what she hates.