Louis C.K.. Image Source.
The patriarchy is unravelling. It’s as if a secret master switch has been flicked from ‘must give men the benefit of the doubt’ to ‘must believe women’. In this topsy-turvy new world victims have power and powerful white men are afraid; they are losing their jobs, their money, their credibility, and they are scrambling to “apologise” for behaviour that they never really thought was THAT wrong in the first place. This is an unprecedented cultural shift that’s more reminiscent of the ‘personal is political’ feminism of the 60s than the ‘who run the world? girls!’ feminism of recent years; it exposes endemic problems and implicates everybody in their resolution.
The non-apologies that men like Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and Harvey Weinstein have released in the past few weeks speak to the rottenness at the core of this problem. On top of taking space away from victims, their statements are full of half-hearted apologies that are more about saving face then saying sorry. They serve the perpetrator, not the victim. We wish we could just ignore their excuses and let them fade into the background, but theirs are the attitudes that must be interrogated if things are ever going to change.
It has come to my attention that some people feel sorry for Louis C.K.. Why? Because they like him? Because his crimes are “less severe” than Weinstein’s? Because he didn’t know that pulling your dick out in front of a non-consenting woman is not okay? C.K.’s behaviour falls into the exact same category as Weinstein’s — abuse of power that is sexual in nature. The sympathy people have for this man is one of the most insidious parts of the problem because it implies that some kinds of sexual abuse are okay and others are not. This is the same attitude that makes a guy think it’s okay to whip it out in the first place. THIS IS NOT OKAY!
Last week, five women accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct. C.K., who has refused to comment on these rumours for several years, released an apology a few days after these victims came forward.
“These stories are true,” he opens. A promising start.
“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was OK because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true,” he continues.
“But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.”
This is where the apology quickly starts to unravel. As a responsible adult human, C.K. should know that consent is not optional and that asking someone to look at your dick isn’t a “predicament”, it’s abuse.
C.K. then deflects responsibility by emphasising that his victims admired him and ALMOST says the word sorry.
“The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly. I have been remorseful of my actions. And I’ve tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position. I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn’t want to hear it.”
Again, he does not directly accept responsibility for his actions, blaming his circumstances.
“I didn’t think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it. There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.”
The only good part of the whole thing is this finishing statement:
“I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.”
C.K.’s non-apology reads more like: “I know I’m supposed to say I’m sorry” than “I am sorry” and the ‘S’ word isn’t mentioned once. These are the words of a man who thought his actions were okay at one point, not a man who thinks they were and are bad. This is the attitude that needs to be stamped out if we ever hope to make actual progress on this issue.