It was a seemingly normal Monday morning in May at the New York Police Department when a call came into dispatch. A frantic woman was on the other line, pleading for help.
“There is an African-American man, I am in Central Park, he is recording me and threatened myself and my dog!” she screamed into the phone, her voice sounding more urgent with every word, “Please send the cops immediately!”
Had you only listened to the audio, it may have been a very convincing performance. Undoubtedly, thousands of people would have sided with the woman placing the call, Amy Cooper, if they had only heard her cries for help as she feigned terror and choked back imaginary tears.
Fortunately, the African-American man she was calling about recorded the entire incident on video. Spoiler alert: the video doesn’t match the audio. In the video, she is not threatened in any way. Her biggest struggle seems to be with her dog, which she is seen handling poorly as she focuses her energy on making her voice sound as emotionally distressed as possible.
With the video component, we can clearly see she is lying. But how differently would things have been if we only had the audio to go off of? And how many other men, African-American and otherwise, have been falsely accused by vindictive females – even complete strangers – who knew their claims as a woman would garner much more sympathy than the any defense the man could come up with. In a he said/she said battle, the default position usually sides with the woman. Many men learned that lesson the hard way and have been falsely imprisoned for years.
Which may have been why many men, who were smeared as “apologists” for hardened criminals, pushed back against the recent notion that we should always “hashtag Believe All Women” in all situations – especially related to reporting crimes.
In a world where the criminal justice system is already disproportionately set against men, of course they wouldn’t want the scales to be tipped any further, especially to such a ludicrous degree that society would openly flaunt in their faces that no matter what their defense is, society would believe the woman in any given situation. It’s sheer sexism in its ugliest and purest form.
Imagine all of the people who would’ve come out in defense of Amy Cooper had we only had the 911 call as evidence. “No way she faked that,” people would say. “She has no motivation to be lying, she doesn’t even know the guy!” they would rationalize. “Can’t you hear the terror in her voice? That’s a victim.” others would insist.
Every tired line would have been trotted out. Nobody would have even entertain the suggestion that Amy Cooper might have been lying. Instead of being “innocent until proven guilty”, men are “guilty until proven innocent” in the modern age. It’s a regression back to the days of innocent young men like Emmett Till being executed based on false accusations, or men such as Gregory Counts and VanDyke Perry being imprisoned for 26 years over lies.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t take women seriously when they report alleged crimes, or that we shouldn’t condemn all crimes against women without exception. Women should be protected by society, as it is because of women that we even have a society.
That said, society needs to do its best to reduce any double standards. And that includes reflexively believing all women all the time. We should not abandon the pursuit of truth above all else just to win some “gender wars” battle that we’ve constructed in our minds. Amy Cooper is just the latest and most high profile example.