By Confronting Dustin Hoffman, John Oliver Demonstrates True Allyship

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Dustin Hoffman in the 1984 Broadway production of Death of a Saleman, the play during which he has been accused of sexual assault.


Throughout the public sector, particularly in politics, men claim to be “advocates for women.” For some, such as those who participate in writing laws that protect reproductive rights and that works towards eliminating the gender pay? gap., this statement is legitimate and believable, However, many politicians and public figures who are supposed to be feminists are either pure hypocrites, such as Al Franken, or they make no tangible efforts to further the rights of women in America, like Donald Trump P’00 — who fits into both categories easily. So, if many individuals are not true advocates, what does it actually mean to be an advocate for women? It means that people must  not shy away from confronting those who inhibit the advancement of women. John Oliver, the host of HBO’s  “Last Week Tonight,”showed such courage recently.

On December 4, Oliver hosted a panel at the Tribeca Film 20th Anniversary screening of the film Wag the Dog, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. The panel guests included the two actors alongside producer Jane Rosenthal and director Barry Levinson. During the discussion, Oliver brought up recent allegations made by writer Anna Graham Hunter regarding cases of Hoffman groping and sexually harassing her amidst her 1985 internship on the set of Death of a Salesman. She was seventeen years old at the time of the incident. The late-night TV host claimed it needed to be discussed because it was “hanging in the air.”

Throughout the conversation, Hoffman continued to mention that he didn’t think his actions were wrong, and even said that they were “not reflective” of who he is. In response, Oliver explained that “it’s that kind of response to this stuff that pisses me off. It is reflective of who you were… It feels like a cop-out to say ‘It wasn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?” Not only did Oliver accurately address the horrifying lack of accountability and remorse expressed by Hoffman, he also nailed the issue of assaulters simply dismissing their allegations so as to avoid the conversation. Later on in the discussion, Hoffman asked him if he “believe[s] this stuff you read,” to which Oliver replied by saying “Yes, because there’s no point in [an accuser] lying.” By saying this, Oliver reaffirmed his support for survivors and victims, rather than simply accusing them of lying. This positive support for survivors and victims makes him a much more genuine advocate for women than most public figures.

While Hoffman believed mentioning the allegations was inappropriate and blindsiding due to the lack of warning, it was ultimately the responsibility and duty of any legitimate advocate for women. Contrary to the silence and victim-blaming that are prevalent in media and politics today, Oliver chose to use his influence to confront another powerful man. While this discussion was undoubtedly uncomfortable for him, it needed to be done for the sake of Graham Hunter and the innumerable women who have experienced similar situations. In fact, this idea of using his influence for good is a common theme in “Last Week Tonight.” Each week, he addresses pressing issues that range from the well-known to the under-recognized. While he includes humor in his segments, the bulk of his material is crucial information and spot-on opinions. Recently, he began a campaign known as “Catheter Cowboy,” which is a series of TV commercials airing during “Fox & Friends,” President Trump’s favorite talk show. In these commercials, the cowboy speaks to Trump about mistakes he has made or facts he should know. This is just one example of the many ways that Oliver uses his status to enact social change.

As the “Me Too” movement continues to shine light on sexual harassment and assault, a new movement needs to form in its wake: a campaign of legitimate advocacy involving uncomfortable confrontation of accused individuals. The “Me Too” movement has proved the incalculable strength of women; however, men must also be brave and participate in both movements if they intend to be called advocates for women. Exposing assaulters’ and harassers’ despicable behavior is only one side of the coin; they must also be held accountable. It does not do anyone proper justice to simply reveal their wrongdoings without following through, even if that means mentioning allegations while simply discussing a movie.

As these movements take shape and spark global social change, we must call out faulty advocacy efforts. We must also recognize individuals like John Oliver — real male feminists who do not simply mention their daughters as excuses for not initiating real change. We must recognize these real deal feminists who want to create a world where their daughters won’t be harassed and assaulted by men like Dustin Hoffman.

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