In the eight months since the #MeToo movement resurfaced, the women coming forward with spectrum-spanning stories of mistreatment found an ally in a man that had previously been more associated with food than feminism.
But Anthony Bourdain, who died Friday at age 61, was quick to admit that his passion for advocating on behalf of victims of sexual misconduct and harassment came from a personal place.
Bourdain’s girlfriend, Asia Argento, was among the first women to publicly accuse disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape. (Weinstein has previously denied all accusations of “non-consensual sex” and pleaded not guilty days ago to three felony charges unrelated to Argento’s accusations.)
“I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women,” Bourdain wrote in December 2017. “Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage – as much as I’d like to say so – but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories.”
Bourdain and Argento, an actress and filmmaker, met while filming an episode of his CNN show, “Parts Unknown,” in Rome.
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When stories began emerging in the food world – “a brutal, oppressive business that was historically unfriendly to women,” Bourdain once said – he remained steadfast in his dedication to believing and listening to women.
“Look, no matter how much I admire someone or respected their work, I’m pretty much Ming the Merciless on this issue right now,” he told “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. “I’m not in a forgiving state of mind. I mean, that sh** ain’t OK.”
The movement, Bourdain said, had caused him to start “reexamining” his past.
“I look back, like, I hope, a lot of men in that industry and say – not so much ‘what did I do or not do?’ – but ‘what did I see and what did I let slide? What did I not notice?’” he said.
Bourdain also joked of his 2000 book, “Kitchen Confidential”: “I wrote sort of the meathead bible for restaurant employees and chefs.” (Bourdain earlier this year noted that he had not been part of the restaurant business in nearly 20 years.)
As part of his role as a male ally to the movement, Bourdain was particularly critical of those who he perceived to be misguided on the issues relating to #MeToo and remained pessimistic about people’s ability to change.
“I think, unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to expect people who have been in the business a long time – men, in particular – to change their hearts and minds. …I would hope that they do, but I’m just not that optimistic about the human race,” he told CNN’s Poppy Harlow in an interview on “New Day.”
He added: “What we are learning now is that to stay silent has a real cost. …You will be asked what you did when you saw this. Whether you have a good heart or not, I think the reality of the situation in this rapidly changing field is that people will be forced to do the right thing.”
Bourdain himself once wrote that “in these current circumstances, one must pick a side.” He’d clearly chosen his.