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Post-Weinstein, Anthony Bourdain Wanted To Know Why So Many Women Didn’t Think Of Him As An Ally

by Eric March

October 25, 2017
Anthony Bourdain. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

Anthony Bourdain is the latest male celebrity examining his role in enabling the “Harvey Weinsteins” in his industry. In an interview with Slate's Isaac Chotiner, the renowned chef, author, and “Parts Unknown” host confessed to valorizing and enabling a “meathead culture” in the food world, citing the “sexualization of food” and the prurient portrayal of a (consensual) sexual relationship between a chef and a customer in his book “Kitchen Confidential.”

“I had to ask myself, particularly given some things that I’m hearing, and the people I’m hearing them about: Why was I not the sort of person, or why was I not seen as the sort of person, that these women could feel comfortable confiding in? I see this as a personal failing.

I’ve been hearing a lot of really bad shit, frankly, and in many cases it’s like, wow, I’ve known some of these women and I’ve known women who’ve had stories like this for years and they’ve said nothing to me. What is wrong with me? What have I, how have I presented myself in such a way as to not give confidence, or why was I not the sort of person people would see as a natural ally here? So I started looking at that.”

Bourdain is currently dating Asia Argento, one of the more than 50 women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault.

The system itself, from the very beginning, was abusive, was male-dominated and cruel beyond imagining.

Several other male celebrities have spoken out in the wake of the allegations against Weinstein. On Oct. 18, comedian Jim Jefferies took himself to task for making “inappropriate [and] sexist” jokes and creating an environment where women did not safe feel coming forward about their experiences. “Orange Is the New Black” actor Matt McGorry opened up about how thinking of oneself as a “good man” blinds men to their complicity in propping up a system where women face constant harassment.

Jim Jefferies. Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images.

But what can potential male allies do beyond airing their regret? “Silence and not reporting behavior you see enables the perpetrator(s) of sexual harassment to continue their behavior and ultimately, allows them to get away with it,” writes Georgene Huang, CEO of Fairygodboss, a web service that allows women to share anonymous job reviews, in an email. Huang pointed to a study conducted by her firm that found a majority of professional men recognize that harassment is a problem generally, but think their workplaces are an exception.

Men who wish to be allies, she explains, can help by offering to back their female colleagues up when it counts.

“Tell them that what they experienced is unacceptable and offer to go with them to tell their manager or report the incident to HR or anything else that might help make the victim feel like they are not so alone and isolated in their experience,” she recommends.

That’s similar to what “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn did, warning friends over a 20-year period about director James Toback, who he claims accosted over a dozen of his acquaintances. Fearing that pursuing any further actions against Tobak could open himself up to legal retaliation, Gunn declared it “necessary that firsthand accounts come out to get these stories noticed, whether it’s from the victim or someone else who witnesses what’s occurring.”

With his admission, Bourdain says he wants to do better — and to be a part of a systemic fix that allows women to thrive in the restaurant world without fear of harassment and abuse. He believes the culture of the industry is due for a major update.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

Making that happen, he says, means ridding that system of its “very old, very oppressive” elements — the verbal abuse and the “sexualized” atmosphere, foremost among them. “The system itself, from the very beginning, was abusive, was male-dominated and cruel beyond imagining,” Bourdain told Chotiner. 

The ideal result: a playing field where all women, not just those who are dating powerful industry figures, can speak out and be believed.

Top image and share image by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

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