Why Aren’t The Men From ‘Buffy’ Supporting Charisma Carpenter?

There's a conspicuous silence from her male colleagues.

Charisma Carpenter Joss Whedon

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Actor Charisma Carpenter, best known for her beloved role of Cordelia Chase in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spinoff Angel, has alleged show creator Joss Whedon of abusive behaviour towards her on set.

“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,” she says in a statement released on her Twitter and Instagram. The actress alleges a disturbing array of abusive behaviours from Whedon that include belittling, disempowering, and alienating her on set. He is alleged to have called her “fat” when she was pregnant, as well as cruelly asking if she was “going to keep it”. The allegations continue, and come a month after Warner Media completed an investigation into Whedon’s behaviour on the set of Justice League.

Since her statement, many of her co-stars from Buffy and Angel have swiftly rallied in support.

“While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon,” said Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy. “I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.” Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Clare Kramer, and Emma Caulfield similarly released statements on their social media.

Conspicuously, no men from the show have publicly supported Carpenter.

“Back then, I felt powerless and alone,” said Charisma Carpenter. “With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on.”

She says that Whedon’s actions created a “hostile and toxic work environment” — a narrative being told again and again by women, often in the entertainment industry.

Abusive behaviour by men in positions of power is such a common story now that we need to interrogate how other men respond to such allegations. It’s extremely telling that other women from the show quickly rallied behind their colleague, reiterated belief in her statement and shared support — yet the men have, so far, kept their heads down. At the time of publication, five female actors from Buffy have spoken up, and no men that I can find. I’m sure that some will speak up soon — or at least, I hope — but even that gap in action is indicative of a cautiousness around what role men are meant to take when supporting women speaking up about harassment, misogyny, and bullying in the workplace.

I think that perhaps a lot of men have (finally) internalised the necessary lesson about not speaking over women, especially when it comes to women-specific experiences around #MeToo or Time’s Up. A less charitable view would be that men have really only internalised the fear of saying the wrong thing, and keep silent in order to avoid any risk.

But I also personally believe it’s important for men to use their voice and platform and privilege to boost and support women speaking out — to call out other men, and to state that they believe women. Even writing this article gives me the hibbly-jibblies — who am I, and what authority do I have to talk about a situation revolving around allegations of abuse against women in the workplace? But what I can do is talk about the actions of my own male community, and call it out, and interrogate it. And I believe men should do this more.

I hope that Charisma Carpenter’s male co-stars aren’t actively complicit in creating a toxic work environment for women. But by not posting their support, and not boosting her voice, they are enabling that environment to continue unquestioned at the very least. It makes me so genuinely sad to think about men who worked on the same show, in the same environment, leaving her unsupported — and benefitting from it. Men are part of the problem if they’re not willing to put their career and their “reputation” in the industry on the line for their female co-workers (although imagine being such a simp that you’d want to work with Whedon again after this?).

In my belief, it shouldn’t be up to women to bear the entire burden of calling out, and then holding accountable, abusive men — they should be supported and believed by their male colleagues throughout the process.

One of the most common statements by men who don’t want to believe their gender is inherently monstrous in some way is that of “not all men” — but the fact is that it’s enough men that it’s a systemic problem, a constant through line. Because of this, it’s not enough to simply stand by, to attempt some kind of neutrality. Men have to commit, very explicitly, to being against abusive members of their own gender — and furthermore, this should be a bare minimum. This should be expected, and unremarked upon. If men want to claim they are allies for the women in their life, they have to aggressively make the spaces around them safe for those women — including the workplace — and that involves explicitly speaking out against abusive men in power.

Patrick Lenton is the Editor of Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.