When Anthony Bourdain died by suicide just over a month ago, the multitudes that admired him and his work felt this suckerpunch of loss. Among so many gifts — an insatiable curiosity, a respect for the communities he visited, an unusual ability to admit his own failings and publicly try to improve — was his thoughtful, passionate advocacy for women and survivors of sexual violence. He was the unusual man willing to look inward, to question his own complicity, to push himself to be a better ally.
He left behind a partner who had endured an especially excruciating year: Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director who came forward in the first New Yorker investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s prolific sexual violence. Weinstein, Argento said, raped her in 1997. In the New Yorker, she detailed what her “horrible trauma.”
“It wouldn’t stop,” she said. “It was a nightmare.”
It was after Argento came forward that Bourdain, who had been in a relationship with her since 2017, gave several interviews about “meathead culture” in the culinary world and having a partner who’d survived rape, one who was speaking publicly about her experience in the face of so much criticism and vitriol, against a man who’d been known to spearhead smear campaigns against those who dared to cross him.
In an interview with Slate, Bourdain attested to the way Argento’s experience opened his eyes to “the kind of the difficulty of speaking out about these things, and the kind of vilification and humiliation and risk and pain and terror that come with speaking out about this kind of thing.”
“That certainly brought it home in a personal way that, to my discredit, it might not have before,” he said.
But in the wake of Bourdain’s death, Argento has faced venomous harassment from the people one would hope would support her most in this moment: An angry contingent of Bourdain’s fans who blame Argento for Bourdain’s suicide.
In response, more than 40 public figures in the #MeToo movement have signed an open letter “to anyone who loves Anthony Bourdain and what he stood for” to “stand with Asia.” The letter, published in the Los Angeles Times, reads, in part:
Asia has now found herself on the receiving end of vicious cyberbullying and repulsive slander at the hands of internet trolls who hold her responsible for Anthony’s death. She has been accused of everything from causing her boyfriend’s suicide to trying to use her “survivor status” and the #MeToo movement to advance her career.
There has long been a traditional narrative of blaming, vilifying and martyring courageous women. We reject that narrative.
They “ask those who are angry and grieving the loss of Anthony to find a healthy outlet for their pain. Asia is a survivor, just as we are, and her fame and outward show of strength does not make her any less vulnerable. Asia is not a headline — she is a human being, and she is in horrific pain.”
The self-described “silence-breakers” who signed the letter include Terry Crews, who recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his experience as a sexual assault survivor; Anthony Rapp, who, in detailing how Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance on him when Rapp was only 14 years old, was among the first to speak publicly about Spacey’s now widely-reported alleged sexual predation of boys and young men; and several of Harvey Weinstein’s most vocal accusers, including Rose McGowan, Mira Sorvino, Paz de la Huerta, and Lauren Sivan.
Argento has continued to speak out against Weinstein, delivering a searing speech at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the same place where she alleges Weinstein raped her all those years ago. “I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground,” she said to a room that reportedly watched her in silence. “And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those that need to be held accountable for their conduct against women for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or workplace. You know who you are. But most importantly, we know who you are, and we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer.”