When someone tries to positively reemerge in the spotlight, everyone looks to the rich and famous for a good story. In wake of the #MeToo Movement, I have not seen actions that warrant such a comeback, especially in the case of comedian Louis C.K.
C.K. gave one of his first public performances at New York’s famous Comedy Cellar since admitting to sexual misconduct with multiple women. Now he’s ended his self-imposed exile after announcing months ago that he would “step back and take a long time to listen.”
I guess that he’s done listening, and it seems like he learned nothing in his short time away. With male comedy club owners, fans and patrons acting as gatekeepers that allow for C.K. to show up on stage at this point in time, they simultaneously ignore and perpetuate the damage that he has done. C.K. has stayed tight-lipped on his own misconduct since his written statement in November. Shortly put, he shouldn’t get to profit from a proverbial comeback tour when he has done absolutely nothing for atonement. He never even said sorry.
After C.K. ended his set at Comedy Cellar, he received a standing ovation, but a number of women in the crowd said they were uncomfortable, especially after a rape whistle joke was made. Bad taste aside, has he learned nothing?
Instead of focusing on the victims and the harm that was caused, a lot of public discourse has centered on whether the #MeToo movement has gone too far in its accusations. Instead, we should be talking about the prevalence of powerful men’s sexual violence against women and lack of real consequences. People put stress on the #MeToo movement to outline what men should do for redemption. I will shout this from the rooftops until everyone can hear: “It is not the job of survivors to help their abusers find redemption!”
Instead of people expending their energy on thinking about the men who harm others, we should be thinking about justice for the victims. So many people are victimized and receive no closure or compensation for the parts of their lives stripped bare and put under a microscope by the public. On top of being attacked, many victims of powerful people who come forward are jeered at by faceless people online. No one can heal when violence is perpetuated, whether it be verbally or physically. We worry about what will become of the abusers after the other shoe drops. It is easier for some to sympathize with public figures that they thought that they knew, like C.K. or Kevin Spacey, instead of men and women they have never seen or met.
I have to believe that redemption is possible for those who have done wrong, to a point, but C.K. hasn’t done nearly enough to warrant any type of positive emotions on my end. He should pay for his misdeeds for as long as he discredited the women he hurt. If he shows up on stage again, then I think that his audience should walk out or ask for someone else to perform instead of giving him recognition. If he makes women uncomfortable with jokes about rape whistles, then he has learned nothing. This isn’t about tone policing comedy, but about an abuse of power by a man onstage who does not deserve applause.