I just finished reading Louis C.K's apology. I originally saw it posted by an online connection whose work and insight I greatly admire. His accompanying comment started with, "I probably shouldn't wade into this..." That's a shame. We're in a stage of the crisis when volatility is making conversation tough. Men are especially defensive because their assumptions about how to navigate our cultural landscape are being up-ended. And because toxic masculinity is being painted with broad strokes, their collective sense of identity also feels under attack. Even the white knights among them are walking on eggshells.
I see a large number of women taking a bit of glee in this, and frankly, I'm not immune. After a lifetime of street and work harassment, fear, assault, leering, comments, and endless subjection to men's sexual urges, expectations, and genitals- it can be cathartic to see them experience the level of stress women feel on a daily, lifetime basis.
But that won't get us very far. After all, an eye for an eye makes the world go blind, right? It's good that this climate is forcing people to look closely at their own behavior and do the tough work of policing themselves. Newly awakened awareness can look identical to tip-toeing at first. When we're learning how to walk on fresh ground, sometimes we have to look at our feet and step carefully before we can run. I'd like to think that's where we are today.
Certainly, as Louis CK watched the allegations against Weinstein, Spacey. Sheen, and others rolling out over the last few weeks, he must have been studying their responses. It would appear from his apology that he internalized the vulgarity of blame shifting and denial. Obviously no addiction, personal trauma, ignorance, sexual orientation, or identity crisis can justify victimizing another human being. At the end of the day, the only correct way to correct one's course is to step fully into the light.
The line from his apology that stands out most is: "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."
It's a relief to hear a man voice a small portion of the truth. He named the price women pay when powerful men are allowed to do what others should not. We walk on eggshells every day. We dread the blatant eye-raping, "accidental" touching of our hips and the sides of our breasts, and whispered comments while we go about the mundane tasks of our days. They transform simple trips across the room into miniature walks of shame, anger, fear, revulsion, and aggravation. We are always prey, calculating the risks of every action and word in the presence of men who could hurt or ruin us for noncompliance.
I'm not sorry if some men feel unnerved and recoil. From some, it's the closest we're going to get to empathy. If men can internalize that this is how women live everyday, we might be able to move on to some healing conversations eventually. But until they really feel it, and really get it- we're not there.
So I'm sorry if you're drowning in shame, fear, doubt, and self-recrimination, Louis. Sorry you have to weigh your words. Sorry you're replaying the events in your life that led you here, ruminating about what you could have done differently. You gotta feel it to heal it, buddy. You gotta feel every unpleasant emotion.
Then and only then can we move on, and maybe all heal together.