Et Tu, Louis?
One fan finds the limits of self-awareness and feminist comedy
Woody Allen is transparent, at least to me. He’s made a career of constructing narratives that sell the idea of equitable relationships between older men and absurdly young women. A reimagining of his life without the problematic details. It’s predation and agism made palatable through cinema, with a dose of intellectual banter.
But, Louis C.K. felt like an ally. His comedy spoke to women about men, and men to women. One of my favorite bits was the one about the difference between girls and women. “When girls go wild they show their tits to people, when women go wild, they kill men, and drown their kids in a bathtub.” Has there ever been a sentence that more perfectly captured female rage?
It felt like he understood us, and liked us anyway.
“I like women women.” Louis C. K.
I’ve watched the #metoo campaign unfold with a mixture of curiosity and bewilderment. It set me on my heels. Mostly because I thought the question of caring about women’s private struggles to fend off male, sexual aggression had been asked and answered: we were on our own.
I have too many #metoo stories to accurately recount. Whole incidents lost to the murkiness of time. I coped by quickly shedding them, my reasoning being that holding on to the pain served to keep me constrained. An unbearable outcome, as I prize my freedom above all else.
The stories of the women Louis C.K. violated resonated immediately. That’s exactly how this kind of thing goes down.
I’ve been corralled for the purposes of violating me. It always begins with a sideways access, a context you didn’t imagine would end in fending off advances. The boss who kept me in the office at closing time to discuss my nipples and sexual preferences. I was seventeen, he was in his late thirties. The friend’s husband who pinned me against a sink to fondle me while I was cleaning up. The drunk man who walked into my restaurant after hours, insulting and propositioning me. These are the tamer incidents. Like I said, it goes on and on.
The attention never flattered. It was weaponized sex, the aggression lurking thinly below. My reaction each time was to get very quiet and still. Appease, appease, appease, until I could safely get away.
Then, keep it to myself. What good did it do for me to talk about it? No help or change was forthcoming. Even men who loved me listened to my stories with wide-eyed patience, and then never asked about any of it again.
Last year I went on a six-week, solo camping trip. I was excited about it and posted on Facebook I was about to “swim, bike ride, take photographs, sunbathe, snorkel, and Tinder my way down the East Coast” (I did too). The clucking from men began immediately.
We are worried for your safety! 🙄
Thanks? All my years of dating and meeting strange men haven’t produced anywhere near the problematic situations of inadvertently crossing paths with a man who uses implicit trust as a vehicle to inflict abuse.
The #metoo stories coming to light bear this out. One after another the men had access to the women through work, social situations, friends, coaching. They inflicted themselves on stunned women, and girls too young to know what was happening (Roy Moore, looking at you).
These men subvert the very social constructs we use to do business, make friends, and rely on one another to violate women, or as we found out with Kevin Spacey, young men too. That is what is meant by hiding in plain sight. It’s also what makes young people such a delicious target. They have little awareness of the sort of red flags I see a mile away.
My act of rebellion is keeping myself intact through all of it. I go where I like, wear what I like, meet who I like, and do as I please. To be free in the world and enjoy my body is my birthright, and I won’t relinquish an inch.
We know that when you scare a woman’s sexuality, you dim her light. And that’s Louis CK’s greatest crime right now, whether he knows it or not. All those female comics that he smeared his smelly sexuality all over? He made them less brave, less fearless, less funny.
I’m interested to see what Louis C. K. does with this next chapter. His reckoning is upon him.
What can he tell us about male sexual entitlement by shining a spotlight on his dark places? What allows for partnering with women for work, raising daughters, and defending women’s rights while choosing to damage others in private? I’d like to know.
I don’t want him to retreat. I want him to do the painful, public, honest work of figuring out what made abusing women such a turn-on.
Let him expose himself to the good.