Why Amber Tamblyn's Open Letter to James Woods Could Have Been Written By Literally Any Woman

On Thursday, the 34-year-old actor penned an open letter to 70-year-old James Woods calling out his “predatory” behaviour for the time he hit on her when she was just a teen. But her message could have been written by anyone

Laura Hensley
Actress Amber Tamblyn posing in a blue dress on a yellow background
(Photo: Getty)

Amber Tamblyn just became my new hero.

On Wednesday, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star penned a powerful open letter to 70-year-old actor James Woods calling out his “predatory” behaviour after he denied hitting on her when she was just 16. In a letter published by Teen Vogue, the 34-year-old detailed an incident where Woods—who was in his 50s at the time—invited her and her teenaged friend to Las Vegas to “have a good time.”

“My friend Billy and I were at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard seeing a band we loved. We decided to go to Mel’s diner on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to get burgers after,” Tamblyn wrote.

“Upon leaving the restaurant we were stopped by you and your friend, who both seemed very nice. At one point you suggested we should all go to Las Vegas together. ‘It’s such a great place, have you ever been?’ You tried to make it sound innocent. This is something predatory men like to do, I’ve noticed. Make it sound innocent. Just a dollop of insinuation. Just a hair of persuasion. Just a pinch of suggestion.

‘It will be so much fun, I promise you. Nothing has to happen, we will just have a good time together.’ I told you my age, kindly and with no judgment or aggression. I told you my age because I thought you would be immediately horrified and take back your offer. You laughed and said, ‘Even better. We’ll have so much fun, I promise.'”

Tamblyn first shared her story after Woods criticized actor Armie Hammer for playing a 24-year-old pursuing a 17-year-old male in his new film, Call Me by Your Name. “Didn’t you date a 19 year old when you were 60…….?” Hammer tweeted back on Monday, calling out Woods’s dating history. (Woods did in fact date a 20-year-old when he was 66). In support of Hammer’s tweets, Tamblyn jumped in with her own encounter with Woods—which Woods has since called “a lie”—even though she shared evidence of her friend confirming the incident.

“The saddest part of this story doesn’t even concern me but concerns the universal woman’s story. The nation’s harmful narrative of disbelieving women first, above all else,” Tamblyn wrote in her letter.

“Asking them to first corroborate or first give proof or first make sure we’re not misremembering or first consider the consequences of speaking out or first let men give their side or first just let your sanity come last.”

While upsetting, the sad thing about Tamblyn’s letter is that it could have been written by literally any woman.

Tamblyn’s message is so powerful because she articulated something that I often cannot. She described a feeling, a “pinch of suggestion” that men insinuate when they dance in the grey zone. A predatory man might not outwardly grab your ass or grab you by the pussy; instead, he’d hint at things he’d like to do to you—lines he would cross if given the chance.

One instance in particular stands out in my mind. I was 22, and my 40-plus landlord was at my apartment fixing the leaky bathroom sink. I was getting ready for a date and came out of my room wearing red lipstick. “Saucy,” he said as he stared at my lips. Taken back and confused, I smiled and left the apartment. He later texted me about arranging a follow-up visit to come check on the sink, but instead of writing “come” he wrote “cum.”

A dollop of insinuation and a hair of persuasion, remember?

Inappropriate sexual behaviour doesn’t have to be physical to be inappropriate. And while men like Woods try to disguise their misogyny behind aloofness, women are smarter than that. We know better than to pretend a man didn’t mean what we know he meant.

By speaking out, Tamblyn gave words to a feeling so many women have a hard time describing. That icky, uncomfortable, lingering sensation that we get when a predatory man is sizing us up, planning his next move. Despite being called a liar by Woods (because when do exploitive men admit their actions?), Tamblyn is bringing attention to something that is too easily brushed off, and validating these experiences for all the women who have had them.

Because how many women can easily think back to an experience where they’d like to look a dude in the face, as Tamblyn does, and ask: “Are you and your history with women and girls a part of the problem?” My guess? Most of us.

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