He got a standing ovation. He walked into a comedy club, unannounced, was allowed to take the stage, did a fifteen minute set, and they stood for him. Who’s standing for Dana Min Goodman, Julia Wolov, Abby Schachner or Rebecca Corry? Time’s Up they say. Guess not.
I believe in second chances, and that people can change and learn the error of their ways. But what work has Louis CK put in over the nine months since the New York Times article outed him as the sexual predator he had so long been rumored to be? I’m a cynic, and I predicted five years before Louis was welcomed back with open arms. But nine months? The ink isn’t dry on his out of touch, self-aggrandizing apology letter, and we’re already welcoming him back in with standing ovations. Will his next stand up special use his trademark self-deprecating humor to poke fun at the women whose careers were ruined by his assault? I’m sure I won’t have to wait long to find out.
I spent most of Tuesday morning gutted by the news that a comedian performed stand-up comedy. It is confirmation that our stories are not actually being listened to and addressed – as we have been so assured. It’s news one day, and then lost in the shuffle of a 24-hour news cycle of unrelenting heartbreak. A loud chorus of powerful voices are screaming for change, and still workplaces are littered with misogyny we don’t have the power to stop.
Men were supposed to be afraid that their actions finally had consequences. Louis returned and shot it all to hell.
The transgressions just become quieter – more subtle. Dipping their sexist toes in the water with a mildly offensive joke no one can complain about because it’s only a joke and not worth a discussion. Men are afraid of being #metoo-ed so they make #metoo jokes. If they make it funny, we will lose the power to make it serious. We're afraid of becoming the office buzzkills. The jokes get worse. Sexist opinions more freely spoken. The safer they feel, the bigger the transgressions become. The men wax nostalgic on the old days. When a racist remark or passing comment about domestic abuse wasn't flagged as offensive. Now people are too sensitive. We don't understand the spirit in which the men meant their joke. They hate Trump and racism and sexism so long as no one challenges their own. They support these women's movements as long as the consequences don't penetrate their own halls. It doesn’t take Louis CK doing stand-up to realize this problem isn’t nearly fixed. It doesn’t take a man masturbating in front of you to feel the unrelenting power of misogyny at work.
Women’s fear of being harassed, assaulted and subjected to misogyny far outweighs men’s fear of being caught. We’re afraid of becoming the pushy women powerful men tell us about. The ones who just wouldn't be quiet. The feminazis. The ones they won’t work with again. These men still have power. They’re still working in every facet of our society. Time’s not up for them, and it’s not up for Louis CK. He proved that in fifteen short minutes earlier this week. So we close our mouths. And in a short time, when he commits another transgression, his name will be added, yet again, to the Whisper Network. We will go through it all again.
We’ll blast Beyonce and Fiona Apple in our cars as we drive to meetings with our fellow women, where we’ll vent and scream and make sure other women know their names. We’ll make private lists, men to never hire should we ever have that choice. We’ll warn the new girls with furtive glances and coded emails. They may still be far too powerful and have yet to commit a transgression egregious enough to face consequences. But we know who they are. We know what they think of us. Maybe they’re winning. But we’re still fighting.