What does it mean for #MeToo that Asia Argento, a very public face of the movement, reportedly made a deal with her own accuser?
It means that #MeToo is working as it should, Tarana Burke, the founder of the movement, said on Twitter.
“People will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement — don’t let that happen,” she tweeted on Monday. “This is what Movement is about. It’s not a spectator sport. It is people generated.”
Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay off the actor Jimmy Bennett after he said she sexually assaulted him in 2013 — when he was 17 and she was 37 — according to documents that were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Monday that it was looking into the allegations.
[Law enforcement officials in California said they were reaching out to Mr. Bennett]
Ms. Argento, an Italian actress and director, was one of Harvey Weinstein’s early accusers. She said that Mr. Weinstein, the now-disgraced movie producer, raped her during the Cannes Film Festival in France in 1997, when she was 21. She has not yet responded to the new report.
Ms. Argento’s very public accusation of Mr. Weinstein last fall helped propel the fast-spreading #MeToo movement, which has toppled dozens of entertainers, executives and politicians, among others, and opened a space for mostly women to share their stories of sexual abuse and assault and stand in solidarity with other survivors.
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Now, almost a year later, it’s become clear that the movement, like most, is a complex entity that has grown and changed as more survivors, especially men, have stepped forward. These are positive developments, Ms. Burke said, praising these men on Twitter: “I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward.”
Last week, it was revealed that another woman, Avital Ronell, a renowned feminist professor at New York University, was found by the school to have sexually harassed a male graduate student.
And more than 100 men, many of them former Ohio State wrestlers, have come forward to say they were molested by Dr. Richard Strauss, a team doctor and physician at the school from the late 1970s to the 1990s.
“My hope is that as more folks come forward, particularly men, that we prepare ourselves for some hard conversations about power and humanity and privilege and harm,” Ms. Burke continued on Twitter.
Tina Fetner, a sociology professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and an expert on social movements, said on Monday that she did not think #MeToo would be derailed by the news about Ms. Argento.
It’s easy to talk about movements as if they are a “single solid entity,” she said, but “they’re complex groups of lots of diverse people.”
“When we talk about a social movement, we’re talking about the entire sensibility — the way that people understand what a problem is and what needs fixing,” she said. “What is special about Me Too is that it touched the heartstrings of so many people who now have it in their mind.”
“I don’t think that discovering one more disappointment in a whole host of disappointments of people that we thought we loved and that have failed is really going to change that,” she went on. “That shift in the culture seems strong to me.”
Ms. Burke and others were also quick to shoot down criticism that being accused somehow invalidated Ms. Argento’s claims that she was assaulted.
“There is no model survivor,” Ms. Burke said on Twitter. “We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.”
In a tweet on Monday, Rosie Waterland, an Australian actress and author, called the actions Ms. Argento is accused of “reprehensible and unforgivable,” but added: “Do I think it means she wasn’t assaulted by Weinstein? No.”
Maya Salam reports on gender issues for The New York Times. Follow her on Twitter @Maya_Salam. And follow NYT Gender on Instagram.