I wasn’t in a great mood today to begin with. I’m sick, one of my cats is sick, and it’s just generally been one of those weeks when it feels like nothing is going my way. But this New York Times article that came out today about Louis C.K. was really the frosting on my bad mood cupcake. It’s not that it was a surprise. After Tig Notaro turned against him, it seemed like only a matter of time until the other shoe dropped. Reading about the extent to which C.K. used his status to sexually abuse women, though, is just stomach turning.
And make no mistake about it: what he did was sexual abuse. He may not have physically assaulted the women who have come forward in the article, but the lack of consent, the implied threats, and the damage it did to those women both emotionally and career-wise puts him squarely in the realm of sexual predator. It’s gross, it’s profoundly disappointing, and it’s only the most recent in what is now a long string of revelations about powerful men in the entertainment industry using their status to abuse women.
We live in a time when a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women was still elected to the most powerful position in the country. One of America’s most beloved comedy figures turned out to have been a prolific serial rapist for decades and it was an open secret until a male comedian said something about it. (The victims themselves talking about it apparently wasn’t enough.) Then more recently there’s Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and a growing list of other Hollywood figures accused of sexual assault.
It’s not just women who have been the victims, either. Kevin Spacey’s sexual assault victims were male, a fact he used to try to gloss over the allegations by coming out as gay. Terri Crews recently revealed that he had been a victim of sexual assault as well. The common denominator is men with power–and specifically white men with power–using that power to get away with doing heinous shit. It doesn’t just happen in Hollywood, though; it happens everywhere. The recent #metoo social media campaign effectively shed a light on that fact. It’s not like this is a recent phenomenon, either. The recent phenomenon is people actually starting to care about it.
That’s the glimmer of hope I have to hold onto amidst all the recent darkness. Yes, people like Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein have been getting away with this stuff for a very long time, but now they’re finally getting called out on it, and with real consequences. Weinstein was fired from the company he co-founded and in a matter of weeks his name has become synonymous with the epidemic of sexual assault. The likelihood he’ll ever find work in Hollywood again is slim to none, even if he doesn’t end up going to prison. The premier of C.K.’s new movie was canceled in advance of the New York Times story, as was his scheduled appearance on the show hosted by his former coworker, Stephen Colbert. He has a lot to answer for, and it’s not going to get swept up under a rug this time just because his agent made some vague threats against his accusers.
We can’t let this rising tide recede back out into the ocean, though. More men might think twice about being creeps or worse toward women now that it seems like there’s a higher likelihood they will get caught, but that doesn’t mean the problem will be over tomorrow. The onus is on men not only to not participate in this sort of behavior, but to not be passive witnesses to it, either. We need to call other men out on it. When we see something, we need to say something. I don’t exempt myself from this. There have been times when I’ve remained silent when other men around me have said demeaning things about women. I’m a shy person who has a pathological aversion to conflict, and I let that be my excuse to myself for why I let it go. Not anymore, though.
When someone you admired turns out to be a gross creep, it’s depressing and demoralizing. But it can, and must, be more than that. Let’s make it a catalyst for change and do our part to make sure it doesn’t happen on our watch. Don’t make excuses for sexual abusers. Do believe women when they say they’ve been abused. Most of all, let’s as a society just not put up with this garbage anymore.