Good guy and all-around bro Matt Damon has made a habit of making clueless comments about the experiences of those who aren't straight white men. Take, for instance, the time he interrupted a woman of color, director Effie Brown, on his show Project Greenlight, to explain to her how diversity works in Hollywood. Or the time he instructed LGBT actors to remain mum about their sexual identity because it keeps audiences guessing. Then, later that week he appeared on Ellen DeGeneres's show and moaned that people were "twisting my words to hurt me."
Unsurprisingly, the Oscar-winning writer-actor's latest gaffe occurred last week when he chose to speak at length about the experience of women who've endured sexual harassment, and his ex-girlfriend, Speechless star Minnie Driver, called him out as tone-deaf and "part of the problem."
Driver, who dated Damon in the late '90s after meeting him on Good Will Hunting,tweeted, "Good God, Seriously?" in response to a Vulture headline that quoted Damon as saying, "You know, there's a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?"
She elaborated her response in a follow-up tweet.
\u201cGosh it\u2019s so *interesting how men with all these opinions about women\u2019s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem( *profoundly unsurprising)\u201d
While speaking with ABC News' Peter Travers about the dozens of sexual abuse allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, Damon, who is promoting his new film, Downsizing, from director Alexander Payne, began well enough, saying, "I think we're in this watershed moment. I think it's great. I think it's wonderful that women are feeling empowered to tell their stories, and it's totally necessary," according to Jezebel.
But he couldn't help but continue talking until he put his foot in his mouth.
"I do believe that there's a spectrum of behavior, right? And we're going to have to figure -- you know, there's a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?" Damon said, speaking about the difference between Al Franken, who's accused of groping women's butts and shoving his tongue in their mouths without consent, and Roy Moore, who is accused of sex with young teens.
"Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated, right?" Damon asked for good measure.
But he wasn't done. He just kept paying lip service to an experience about which he knows nothing:
"The Louis C.K. thing, I don't know all the details. I don't do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement, which kind of, which [was] arresting to me. When he came out and said, 'I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth.' And I just remember thinking, 'Well, that's the sign of somebody who -- well, we can work with that' Like, when I'm raising my kids, this constant personal responsibility is as important as anything else they learn before they go off in the world."
Driver, who reprised her role as Karen Walker's nemesis Lorraine Finster on Will & Grace this year, didn't stop with her outrage. She elaborated on the contents of her tweets in an interview with The Guardian.
"I don't understand why Matt would defend Louis C.K. It seems to me that he thinks that because he didn't rape somebody -- so far as we know -- that what he did do wasn't as bad," Driver said.
"That's a problem," she continued. "If good men like Matt Damon are thinking like that then we're in a lot of fucking trouble. We need good intelligent men to say this is all bad across the board, condemn it all and start again."
Speaking as a woman who's faced harassment, sexual epithets, and the threat of tanking her career for refusing to have sex with the right man in power, Driver said that Damon was unqualified to parse out how survivors experience harassment.
"How about: It's all fucking wrong and it's all bad, and until you start seeing it under one umbrella it's not your job to compartmentalize or judge what is worse and what is not," Driver said. "Let women do the speaking up right now. The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once."
Driver was not the only one to take Damon to task for his comments. Actress and activist Alyssa Milano echoed Driver's sentiments:
\u201cI have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt. And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted--even welcomed-- misogyny.\u201d
\u201cWe are not outraged because someone grabbed our asses in a picture. We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal. We are outraged because we have been gaslighted. We are outraged because we were silenced for so long.\u201d
While Driver asserted that people like Damon with no firsthand experience of harassment should not attempt to speak about such things, she also said that men can and should be allies in helping to eradicate the culture of harassment, but that they must do so as listeners.
"In the same stereotypical way that we see women being supportive of men in their endeavors I feel that's what women need of men in this moment. They need men to lean on and not question," Driver said. "Men can rally and they can support, but I don't think it's appropriate, per se, for men to have an opinion about how women should be metabolizing abuse. Ever."