On Friday, November 10th, Louis C.K. issued an apology in response to sexual harassment allegations made by five women. People often don’t appreciate public figures apologizing only after they discover their careers are on the line. Rose McGowan, who had come forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein, tweeted that rumors surrounding Louis C.K.’s sexual advancements have been known for a while and that she heard about it two years ago while not even being a part of the comedy scene, but of course it got swept under the rug until now.
Even an alleged apology is better than denying the allegations altogether, which is what most of the men accused have been doing. Louis C.K. is one of the first of the men to come out and apologize for his behavior, but this does not take away from the things he did. We must remember that Louis C.K. and other accused men are predators and their behaviors cannot be forgiven. Actor Dustin Hoffman, producer Chris Savino, and New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier have all apologized as well.
Most of the men accused, such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore, and so many others, have either refused to acknowledge what they had done or they have completely denied all allegations. C.K. could have used this apology to really make a difference and express his guilt for what he had done, but this was not the case, as analyzed by the responses to his statement. Fans of his were expecting something more serious, but were disappointed to see that his apology was self-centered and unapologetic.
What made this scandal such a surprise to many fans was C.K.’s notable reputation of standing up for women and addressing the dangers that women face every day in his stand-up comedy acts, to the extent that he was labeled a male feminist. He has even publicly and financially endorsed female writers and comedians. Following C.K.’s statement, fans expressed feelings of shock and betrayal. This revelation presents us with a puzzling conundrum that predators can be anyone, no matter how good they seem to be.
Louis C.K.’s standup often contains the subject of masturbation, by talking about it and also imitating the movements. Little did we know that these acts had a disgusting connection to his real-life behaviors; the five victims of C.K’s harassment have told the New York Times that he either masturbated in front of them, asked if he could, or would do it over the phone. Chicago comedians Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov have stated that after a performance in 2002, they were invited to C.K.’s hotel room, where he asked them if he could take out his penis. They thought he was joking until he actually did and started to masturbate in front of them. Abby Schachner says that in 2003, C.K. masturbated on the phone while they were speaking. In 2005, C.K. also asked Rebecca Corey if he could masturbate in front of her.
As horrifying as this is, we must take a look at American culture as a whole, which allows and encourages these men to act in this way. The dominant ideologies of our culture promote overly masculine behavior, which includes power over women. Advertisements, movies, music, video games, and all other media outlets motivate men to be as powerful, dominant, and aggressive as possible. When something like this is constantly shown to an audience, it becomes a norm and the assumed behavior for all men; likewise, women also see this as expected and just something to put up with in their daily lives. This is not an individual problem, but rather, a cultural problem that needs to be addressed and changed so that more men don’t continue to believe these behaviors are acceptable.
This is not an excuse for the men who enact these behaviors because we know that there are plenty of men who do not participate in this behavior. However, as a culture, we need to recognize that this is a societal issue, one that allows men to believe high positions power and privilege make their horrific actions excusable and, sometimes, even unnoticed. These Hollywood accusations are finally bringing to light the cultural behaviors of men in society, and for the first time, there is hope that this ideology can be altered.
Since the allegations, C.K.’s movie, I Love You, Daddy, has been canceled. Critics that were part of the preview screening found the movie grossly mirrored the actor’s own sexual misconduct. HBO even pulled C.K.’s work in a comedy benefit, “Night of Too Many Stars,” along with his other works on the service. Netflix had a deal with C.K. to create two stand-up specials but decided to not go through with the second one since the first one had already been released before the women came forward. This is a huge step in changing the culture we live in compared to just five years ago when this kind of consequence would be unheard of. Normally, Hollywood would let these predators continue working without repercussions, but now they are taking initiative to get rid of these men.
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