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    • Terrible things have happened. At long last, quite literally after lifetimes of injustice, the balance is being redressed.

      Men have gotten away with acting atrociously forever. Finally, they are being made to pay for it. Given the history and the extent of sexual harassment, the deeply personal nature of it, it can hardly come as a surprise that there's a lot of anger out there.

      Is it stifling our ability to say anything that's not orthodoxy?

      Here's a quote from Noam Drowman, who owns the Comedy Cellar, where Louis CK controversially resurfaced a couple of nights ago, nine months after admitting he used his status to force women to watch him masturbate.

      "I hate to say this, but there is a difference in what people will say, the nuance of a situation in private and what they feel they're allowed to say in a black-and-white way in public. We're living in the dark ages of people having things they believe that they know they can't say out loud and feeling that you have to come to a conversation with already the correct point of view. You're not allowed to discuss it, be wrong, be informed by someone else's opinion."

      Michael Ian Black, a cuddly, liberal-as-you-like comedian, podcast interviewer and twitter addict, felt forced to apologize after opining that "people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives." He was buried in an avalanche of criticism.

      This post isn't about whether or not CK handled his reemergence correctly, with enough contrition.

      I hope it doesn't devolve into that discussion.

      The question is, is whether the outrage over rape, sexual assault, harassment, robbing women of their sense of self-worth and the derailing of an untold number of careers in all walks of life, whether that outrage is being used as a hammer to bash anyone who dares to express an opinion that is not in line with the current orthodoxy, no matter how well-intentioned the speaker may be?

    • Noam Dworman, the owner of the club, gave a thoughtful interview on the topic.

      For me, this quote addresses your question, at least in part.

      "It's a dangerous time where you have to come to the conversation already holding the correct opinion. We can all have thoughts that we have privately, and some may be very insightful and some may be very dumb and wrong. But you don't know unless you can talk to somebody about them. As a man or woman who has not had the life experience, you may not understand everything about sexual harassment. So you may come out with an opinion on it that's ignorant in a way. But you can't have a conversation about it, you can't even have someone explain it to you. They'll immediately brand you as the enemy. "

    • I confess I haven't read the whole interview, just what you quoted from it. It's utterly untruthful that you can't have a conversation about sexual harassment - there have been and still are plenty, online, in the media, TV, everywhere. There have been AMPLE opportunities to learn and understand if one is truly willing to. If, on the other hand, one is merely interested in being loud and inflammatory just for the sake of being loud and inflammatory, then its hard to see the value in it. And it's not the same as being controversial. At one point in history, we all agreed that slavery was bad. The members of the KKK were not poor victims of social abuse and public misunderstanding, they were evil. People who defend sexual predators aren't edgy or controversial, they're astonishingly ignorant at best and arrogant and predatory themselves, at worst.

    • As I see it, the issue isn't what constitutes sexual harassment or outright assault (although I can see an argument being made about opportunism, which may or may not be happening to Asia Argento right now.)

      The issue at hand is what punishment is fit for the offenders. And whether we're allowed to disagree on it.

      It feels like we're not. The sense is that they should be shunned from society for... well, nobody's saying. And that's where it gets a bit thorny

    • It should get thorny. Countless women's lives have been destroyed but we're still prioritizing men's feelings or public images over it?

      Social change is never 100% perfect and 100% just. It needs to happen regardless.

    • Is it reasonable to assume you can ever express any opinion without somebody thinking you're a jerk? You don't need permission, but if you notice that most people you respect think you're being a jerk, well, you might need to reconsider your position.

      I don't think we have figured out yet what's appropriate punishment for people who have not actually been charged criminally. I don't know much about Louis C.K's case, but I'll go out on a limb and say that staying off stage for a year is probably not sufficient. But if you ask me what is sufficient, I'd have to say that I don't really know, and I wouldn't chastise you for disagreeing.

    • Richard makes great points. I also don't think staying off stage a year, or even your starring film's having its theatrical release cancelled, is necessarily adequate 'punishment' for treating women the way he did and using his professional power, through his agent, to control and suppress their response to that treatment.

      I definitely agree, wxwax, that punishments short of life prison sentences *should* have end dates. In your post, you said, "The sense is that they should be shunned from society for... well, nobody's saying." That 'nobody's saying' I take to refer to the lack of clarity about timeframes. As I said, I agree, we can't 'cancel' people forever. Actually, our society already does that, however: it's called the sex offender registry, and depending on your state, it keeps you from living -- or at least sleeping -- almost anywhere. People on the registry literally sleep in their cars in unsafe parking lots in some states because it's illegal for them to live in any apartment or house they can currently afford. That's open-ended for-life social punishment -- akin to 'shunning' -- and it certainly seems unjust, even for people who've committed crimes that make me want to breathe fire in sheer wrath.

      Louis C.K. is not being shunned, not by any standard I'm familiar with. I'm sure he's surrounded by people who talk to him and acknowledge his humanity; he still has defenders in the public sphere, let alone friends, family and employees. He's incurring some economic costs for his behavior and the public opprobrium, definitely. How is he being treated in public? Well, read about the set from an audience member: most women in the audience seemed uncomfortable and unenthusiastic, but none of them left or heckled him, possibly because they were in the minority, surrounded by enthusiastic men. A man shouted "Good to have you back!" There was applause when he appeared, and quieter applause when he left. He's hardly Hester Prynne.

      Do I personally hate Louis C.K.? No, I always liked him and had an affection for his awkward everyman persona/insights, like many other people. I hate that his actions -- and people's readiness to take him back now -- reinforce that comedy, like many other industries, is not an industry that's ready to treat women with respect. What do I think he needs to do? I'm not sure. He apologized, and took responsibility, and that's a good first step. A good second step would be doing something to substantively address the harm. I think a good policy for whatever steps 3-n are would be to honor the principle of consent even further than we expect normally, to restore trust and demonstrate good faith.

      We live in a heavily Christian society, so even those of us who aren't Christian are affected by Christian stories and values. We love redemption stories. Forgive problematic men? Heck, I've seen feminist communities give second and third chances to a guy who did WAY worse than Louis, because every time, he apologized and did a big heart-exposing chest-beating apologia that put everyone in a Christian forgiveness state of mind. Apologies will get you far. Louis's apology is pretty good -- I like that he acknowledges the power dynamics and systems that let him pretend he was doing less harm than he was. Given that there's a lot of evidence his manager did knowing career coercion/damage to these women, I do think the part about his manager is pretty weak tea. But still, it is a real, good apology! Great first step.

      But what has he substantively done to redress the harm? Has he used some of his wealth to create opportunities for female comedians and creatives? Fired anybody who retaliated against the accusers? Anything? Not that I can see. He just laid low and then, when he thought the coast was clear, popped up without warning to do a set in front of women who didn't ask to see him and are, once again, socially constrained from screaming, yelling, and getting the fuck away.

      I don't know how this should work, can work, will work, any more than anyone else. But I know that for abuses which don't rise to the level of the criminal, 'going to your room' for a few months or a year isn't sufficient. The women whose careers got set back by Louis and his manager's actions don't get to take a few months off, then walk into a world where it didn't happen, where their careers are advanced and they aren't beset with online trolls and their names aren't forever linked with this one time someone whipped his genitals out in front of them. He shouldn't get to do that either. He needs to live in the world where it happened. Which means doing something actively and transparently to make that world a little less crappy for women, because some of its crappiness is on him.

    • Let's take the first part of your of your post.

      "Is it reasonable to assume you can ever express any opinion without somebody
      thinking you're a jerk? You don't need permission, but if you notice
      that most people you respect think you're being a jerk, well, you might
      need to reconsider your position. "

      Now let's reverse it.

      Jen Kirkman was one of the first to even hint -- in public -- that was not well with Louis CK. She never named him. All she said on her podcast was that she turned down a chance to work with male comedians in the past because of allegations of sexual misconduct. She feels like she went to hell because of the fallout from that.

      "I didn’t have proof he did any of this masturbation stuff. Only rumors.
      He verbally did some sick stuff to me. I got harassed so bad for
      speaking on it with no one in my community to back me up I stopped."

      She got no support. A lot of people thought she was a jerk.

      Should she have reconsidered her position?

      Here, I shall finally point out the heat in the language being used in response to my posts. Note that these words aren't used against the sex offenders, but against people who openly wonder about the punishment. "Jerk." "Untruthful." "Arrogant." "Defending nazis."

      This is what validates what Noam Dworman was talking about. There's so much righteous anger out there that it stifles discussion.

      That's how it seems to me, at least. It's why I started the thread. (I have some thoughts about how it illustrates a broader social phenomenon which can lead to bad things, but I need to ponder if further.)

    • Wow, great post Felicity.

      Thank you. That was super thoughtful and right on the money, I think.

      I appreciate your being willing to discuss the issue like this.