It is, I think, a measure of the current atmosphere that so uncontroversial a move – the production has been touring since September, and the play, with its wild, working-class teenage heroines, has been loved and admired ever since Stafford-Clark discovered its 19-year-old author in the early 1980s – seemed weirdly momentous: significant enough to make the main news bulletins. When I heard about it, I poured myself another drink.
Rachel Cooke just discovered that the #IBelieveHer movement is like that tiger you gleefully climb on the back of, before it breaks free of the reins and starts savaging the people you previously thought were safe.
This is just one in a long line of recent instances of mimsy self-censorship in the arts and, in the months and years ahead, I predict many more, the fear and trembling among institutions growing exponentially as further cases of harassment and abuse are revealed, and some of those we know about already perhaps pass through the courts.
Oh, yes indeed. I’m stocking up on popcorn!
Although it gives me no pleasure to say so, I saw all this coming. Last April, when Harvey Weinstein was still protected by his ghastly network and the liverish glow of his formerly high-wattage power, I wrote a long piece about the increasingly nervous attitudes of galleries to “difficult” work in which I speculated that, among other artists, Balthus, some of whose subjects are pubescent girls, would probably soon find himself in trouble. And so it came to pass.
We could all see it coming, love. You’re not special there.
People talk of a “reckoning”. At last, they say, women need no longer be silent about what they’ve suffered at the hands of men; our idea of what constitutes sexual assault has changed forever. I have no problem with this.
So why are you writing this?
But we need to be careful. This is a dangerous moment as well as an important one.
Ah. Of course. Ir’s because your ox is now in danger of being gored. So, are you going to speak out against the accusers, to hurl criticism their way?
You don’t have to look very hard to see that we’re beginning to conflate sexual mistakes of all kinds with abuse, that beneath the surface of this debate conservative forces are at work, as well as reforming, liberal ones.
I guess not. This is one of those Left wing conundrums, then.
“He’s a sexual predator.
You’re a dangerous but dashing tease.
I’m a harmless flirt.”
And at the heart of it, it’s all those bloody conservatives’ fault!
The mob can be whipped up in as long as it takes to hit a keyboard; institutions are risk averse, worrying about funding and audience development with freedom of expression seen as mere tinsel atop the tree.
Yup. But it’s your mob, love. Own it.