Louis CK Sets An Example?

TW: discussions of sexual assault, harassment, rape, pedosadism, abuse, the fucking patriarchy

As I start writing this, I’m feeling rather… odd. My best friend from college and I are texting about Louis CK’s apology in the New York Times.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or low on energy, stories recently came out about his sexual misconduct. There are several other men who have recently been shown to be serial sexual predators in one way or another. Before getting into Louis’ apology, let’s explore the other most recent high-profile apology – Kevin Spacey.

Kevin Spacey

I had some weird initial feelings about this. I used to like Spacey’s work. When I read what had happened, though, it became clear to me that this was the truth – and a horrifying one at that. I’ve since tossed anything and everything I have with him in it.

on left, photo of a white appearing person with an angular haircut, heavy eye makeup, and wearing a white top; on right, a blue box with light blue quotation mark, white text "There is only one you for all time" - yellow text "fearlessly be yourself" and at bottom middle white text "Anthony Rapp"

Anthony Rapp is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever seen. What he’s most famous for right now is being on the newest Star Trek show. However, he’s been acting since before he hit double digits. He is highly respected due to his Broadway cred, especially having been a part of the OBC of Rent.

Rapp’s conversation with Buzzfeed where he shares a scary underage interaction with Spacey is incredibly raw. As a survivor myself, I absolutely understand the concerns he shares in the piece as well as the empowering feeling many of us have since more and more stories of famous abusers have come out. While we all obviously wish this wasn’t the case, it feels like progress is happening – like we are finally ripping apart some of the privilege white men hold, especially in the entertainment industry. While not the focus of the piece, Rapp shares some signs of PTSD – well, at least signs that I experience. I won’t armchair diagnose, but simply say this is so familiar – and so common – for survivors.

Spacey’s response… There is so much wrong with his statement. I don’t even know where to begin. The victim blaming of Rapp’s feels? It’s something I’ve experienced so much that I literally threw up in my mouth the first time I read this.

Don’t weaponize your sexual orientation, Kevin. You could’ve come out any other time, but only did so in order to distract from these issues. Stars from Billy Eichner to Zachary Quinto called bullshit on this quickly, and they weren’t alone. Organizations including GLAAD decried the situation, angry that many news agencies focused on Spacey’s sexuality rather than his pedosadistic actions… especially as more of Spacey’s victims and their families – like Heather Unruh and her son – come forward.

Spacey is now ‘seeking treatment’ of some sort of nature, though the exact thing is undisclosed. If he thinks dealing with alcoholism or pedosadist tendencies 30 years later will fix this, he’s sorely mistaken.

This statement just played into age-old myths equating all gay men to pedosadists. It’s absolutely disgusting for the queer community. I, for one, refuse to wrap him in our rainbow flag as a gay sibling. Anthony Rapp, on the other hand, will always be welcome in our community.

Back to Louis C.K….

photo of a person silhouetted against a starry sky - white text "THESE STORIES ARE TRUE. Louis C.K."

If you haven’t read Louis’ statement, I highly suggest doing so. I want to preface all this by saying I don’t believe this absolves Louis of his actions nor should it. This apology, though, is far better than any we’ve seen so far – especially in comparison to Spacey’s kinda-BS-statement-thing.

Unlike Spacey and others, Louis acknowledges that the actions he took were not okay. In addition, the sexual advances he made towards these women put them in an impossible situation. He admits that he abused both his power and his fame in his actions, something no other apology I’ve read takes into account.

Something that I’m especially grateful to see is Louis acknowledging his privileges: “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.” It feels like he’s been reading a variety of articles on how to respond to being called out – and acting based on them.

I won’t say that this statement is the best possible one. However, it’s the best one I’ve seen thus far… The recognition of abused power, harm done to many people in the process, and more is something we need to see. I’m sad that it takes people going through horrible experiences for us to see what apologetic behavior should look like. That said, it’s only good in comparison to the shittastic statements like Spacey has made. Louis spent years avoiding these allegations and hiding from them. Clearly, he knew then that these actions were wrong… so why apologize now? Is an apology enough, especially when he doesn’t even actually say he’s sorry?

I just don’t know.

What’s next?

The only people who can accept an apology are those harmed. I can’t say, as someone outside the specific situation, whether or not Louis’ statement does the trick. Regardless of how anyone feels about it, the proof is in the pudding, right? It won’t be until people see sustained changed behavior that the apology becomes fully recognized.

Apologetic words mean next to nothing if you don’t institute the changes to back them up. When confronted about their actions, many abusers will show sorrow or remorse. Frankly, that sorrow is more related to being caught than the harm itself. Each time I staged an intervention for my abusive mother, for instance, tears would flow and hugs would be freely given. Things would change for approximately two weeks. After that, though, the harm started creeping back in.

Most abusers, like C.K., commit harmful acts because of a power trip. That’s why we must constantly keep power in check using intersectional means. The more we work to dismantle what power like this can do, the more people we can protect from serial abusers.

Speak out. Say something when you see something inappropriate. Raise some hell.

Last minute addition:

I found Ellen Page’s recent post on things she’s been through incredibly moving. Please go read it. My favorite part is that she acknowledges her privilege while recognizing the disproportionate amount of abuse BIPOC endure:

Let’s remember the epidemic of violence against women in our society disproportionately affects low income women, particularly women of color, trans and queer women and indigenous women, who are silenced by their economic circumstances and profound mistrust of a justice system that acquits the guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence and continues to oppress people of color. I have the means to hire security if I feel threatened. I have the wealth and insurance to receive mental health care. I have the privilege of having a platform that enables me to write this and have it published, while the most marginalized do not have access to such resources. The reality is, women of color, trans and queer and indigenous women have been leading this fight for decades (forever actually). Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Winona LaDuke, Miss Major, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, to name a few.

Further reading:

2 Responses

  1. Robin
    Reply
    10 November 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I’ll be curious to see if he sticks with his commitment to stay quiet and listen now. One of the troubling things I’ve seen in abusers who start trying to be accountable is that they then start to talk loudly and often about themselves, which ends up just looking and feeling like another power trip.

    It’s morbidly amusing to me that so many people are surprised, even shocked, by all these revelations. Those of us in the know have known for a long time that sexual power dynamics are seriousl y messed up, in general, and especially when we’re talking about people who have other types of power (like fame and money).

    • Kirsten Schultz
      Reply
      11 November 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Definitely agree, dear one. My hope is that this helps people start understanding privilege and power better – but I’m also not holding my breath!

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