Roxane Gay Addresses Why Louis C.K.’s Comeback Is So Problematic


The #MeToo moment which was originally created by black activist Tarana Burke, has been around years before it was popularized because of sexual assault and rape allegations made against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. It gave not only women in Hollywood the courage to break their silence against their perpetrators but it also helped women across the country—even around the world—share their painful stories and out their assaulters. While this movement did a lot to empower women and victims of sexual violence, there are still quite a few folks out there who feel the need to defend and try to protect the predators in all this, which would explain why comedian Louis C.K.who admitted to sexual misconduct late last year, suddenly thinks it’s okay to make his comeback. But Roxane Gay, writer and author of “Bed Feminist, “Hunger” and “Not That Bad” is so not having it.

In case you already forgot—which lord I hope you haven’t—Comedian Louis C.K. admitted to behaving inappropriately by exposing his penis and masturbating in front of women without their consent. He even released a statement shortly after the allegations hit the news that he had used his power “irresponsibly. But now nine months later, C.K. seems to think enough time as passed for him to make his comeback. According to the NY Times he performed Sunday night at the Comedy Cellar in New York, and it was his first performance—unscheduled by the way—since his disappearance from the public. Roxane Gay reports that he even received “a standing ovation” for his 15 minute performance, while also mentioning some of the other powerful accused men like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Mario Batali, who supposedly are also working on re-entering the public eye.

In each instance, it has been less than a year since the allegations against these men surfaced, and in each instance, the men have done little in the way of public contrition. When they have apologized, they have done so with carefully worded, legally vetted statements,” Gay writes. “They have deflected responsibility. They have demonstrated that they don’t really think they’ve done anything wrong. And worse, people have asked for the #MeToo movement to provide a path to redemption for these men, as if it is the primary responsibility of the victimized to help their victimizers to redemption.”

She also poses the question: “Should a man pay for his misdeeds for the rest of his life?” A question a lot of people have had since the #MeToo movement began to take off. Some argue that it doesn’t leave room for some of these perpetrators to be remorseful and change, which is valid depending on what the action was. We can’t compare Junot Diaz’s misconduct with serial rapists like Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby. But I do agree with Gay in that nine months out of the public eye—like in the case of Louis C.K.—really isn’t enough time for justice. It’s not even enough time for someone to truly transform. Let’s just be honest about that.

I have to believe there is a path to redemption for people who have done wrong, but nine months of self-imposed exile in financial comfort is not a point along that path. It is far too soon for any of the men who have faced the marginal consequences born of the #MeToo movement to think about redemption,” she writes. “People love a comeback narrative, and all too often they yearn for this narrative at the expense of victims who are only beginning to reconcile with their suffering.”

Gay brings up a pretty good point here. People get so focused on giving these perpetrators another chance and an opportunity to change their ways and make a comeback but we often ignore the severe effects and trauma their misconduct leaves on victims. For many of victims, it’s years—sometimes even a lifetime of trauma along with mental and emotional distress. Why are we putting powerful problematic men before humanity and what’s right? And has C.K. once stopped to think about how the women he harassed are currently doing?

The Cut recently did a story on how the female comedians have been doing career wise since publicly accusing C.K. of harassment and it’s certainly not great. For starters, Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov claim they immediately started to feel backlash and distance from men. The Times reports that both women’s managers were also contacted by C.K.’s manager Dave Becky, who threatened them to stop sharing the story. It’s even affected them getting work as they’ve had to pass out on a lot of projects that Becky has run. Comedian Rebecca Corry received literal death threats after coming out with her story against C.K.

The idea that C.K. reentering the public would ever be considered a ‘comeback’ story is disturbing. The guy exploited his position of power to abuse women,” she said. “Everyone deserves to do their job without fear of being forced into an impossible situation. And no one should ever be attacked or judged for standing up for themselves.”

As far as how long C.K. should wait to make a comeback? Gay has a suggestion. “At least as long as he worked to silence the women he assaulted and at least as long as he allowed them to doubt themselves and suffer in the wake of his predation and at least as long as the comedy world protected him even though there were very loud whispers about his behavior for decades,” she writes. “He should pay until he demonstrates some measure of understanding of what he has done wrong and the extent of the harm he has caused. He should attempt to financially compensate his victims for all the work they did not work they did not get to do because of his efforts to silence them. He should facilitate their getting the professional opportunities they should have been able to take advantage of all these years. He should finance their mental health care as long as they may need it. He should donate to nonprofit organizations that work with sexual harassment and assault victims. He should publicly admit what he did and why it was wrong without excuses and legalese and deflection. Every perpetrator of sexual violence should follow suit.”

I could not agree more! Can we make this a requirement for any perpetrator trying to make a comeback moving forward?

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