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{ trigger warning }

Men have been abusing women in one way or another for most of human history. Fortunately things are improving, but they are a long way from being ideal. This should be a source of embarrassment and motivation to all sensible men. In turn this should motivate us to be more careful and sensitive when putative cases come to light. Most of us liked Woody Allen, and his films. The world would be worse in a small way if the allegations are correct. We don’t know whether or not they are. But we do know lots of things. We know that we should be careful and sensitive when dealing with issues like this. We know that our liking his films or his screen personality provide us with no evidence one way or another about these allegations. We know that it is almost impossible to imagine forcing our own child to invent allegations like this, to put our own child through the invasive examinations, the awful psychological trauma. We know that, unfortunately, men have been abusing women, old and young, for many years, and continue to do so, and that they have done so in a culture in which they were the dominant subgroup, and have traditionally not suffered the appropriate consequences. But we also know that the way we react to allegations like this says more about our culture than whether they are true. If we react with sensitivity and concern, this will not only make things a little less bad for the would-be victim, but also for the many other victims who have suffered in the past. For what its worth, I think the main thing we should be talking about these days is what we can do to protect women, young and old, and to support them when this protection fails. Fuck Woody Allen; he’s not important.

I’d like to hide behind this quote for days, for weeks, for as long as it takes for social media to stop talking about Woody Allen. I’d like to let it speak for me.

The fact is that I can’t. The fact is I’m the one whose anger has been bloating up our studio apartment with its fat red force. And no matter how eloquently he comes to the defense of women, I feel a squiggling sense of shame for all the links and likes and other people’s words that I’ve been quietly adding to the Internet this week.

The particulars don’t matter. There are plenty of articles out there fact-checking each other ad nauseum. It’s not about he’s guilty, she’s telling the truth. It’s not a matter of I don’t like his movies, nor should you. I have no authority in either matter. But what has me wailing at the ceiling is how much instant hatred there was out there once this woman told her story to the readership of the New York Times.

One thing the “we’ll never know what happened” camp has right is that there’s not a lot of evidence—on either side—and it’s not our job to adjudicate. I’m not looking for a manhunt. But don’t we have it in us to acknowledge that just because we like a man or that man’s art doesn’t mean all those who cry against him must be liars, or manipulators, or, my favorite: “women scorned?”

There are predators out there, and so few of them are caught. When it comes to children (and here we’re talking about a seven-year-old child, not an adult woman; this isn’t just another post about rape culture and victim-shaming), they are smart enough not to be caught. Without going into motives, or the ethics of consent, I’ll just say that there are ways to discredit children. Easy ways, like: Choose your moment. Use your fingers or your mouth—not an object or a penis that might bruise them—and be gentle; this will leave no evidence. Tell yourself you’ve taken pleasure for yourself and done no lasting harm. Then tell the child that what’s just happened wasn’t wrong, that they are special. And, if that fails, instruct them not to tell. “This is our little secret.” “No one else would understand.” This is where abusers do the real damage. Because children know enough to feel shame, to feel in their guts that what’s just happened wasn’t right.

The point is, Woody Allen doesn’t matter. But a case like this, out in the open, with every intellectual who ever saw an art-house screening of Manhattan or Annie Hall at attention? That’s an opportunity to take a good long look at what it says about our culture that we’d rather defame the victim than consider an uncomfortable truth, be that about a total stranger or a famous man.

As a child who’s been through something like this—and the daughter of a mother who has too—I can only say: it would be the sickest kind of woman who would put a child through this scrutiny, let alone subject her to the speculum, just because she’s “pissed at her ex-husband.” Who knows, maybe Mia Farrow did. But ask yourselves, what do you really think of women?

I can’t say with any certainty that Dylan Farrow told the truth. You can’t say she didn’t.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter if he touched her in an attic or he never touched her anywhere. Woody Allen made her feel like he could or would or wanted to. And that is not a way a father ought to make a seven-year-old girl feel.