We see this at work in courts, in entertainment, the catholic church, silicon valley, in homes, offices…on and on.
In 2018 America women are not only defending ourselves individually against predators, we’re fighting for the men and anyone else who say they’re our advocates, to take action and hold predators accountable.
The problem we have is a cultural one where somehow it’s fine to re gift a sexual predator his career while making no effort to change the systems that welcome these men to offices of power where they vilely abuse it, show themselves to be predators and ruin the careers of men and women they abuse.
*Yes. I’m using he/him/his. I’m quite aware of the recent shes who are being uncovered as sexual predators. I treat them with the same disgust.
And, you know, we can have our week of rightfully piling on Michael Ian Black. Then we can talk about making this shit stop. The way this shit stops is by shifting away from the male perspective as the default. Michael assumed his perspective was a perspective we all should value. Where he miscalculated was in the harm his lack of concern for the women he loves would experience reading how he’d be happy to see his predator of the week take a place back on the stage.
Can men who genuinely care about stopping sexual harassment and domestic violence make huge mistakes like Michael Ian Black did?
Of course. And Michael sort of helped his followers get past it. He donated. He apologized. He stopped doubling down – once his trusted women spoke up. Of course I’m being sarcastic. There were dozens of women who told him he was mistaken, but it was his trusted women he took time to listen to. That’s good. And that’s bad. The first woman who spoke up to him should have given him pause.
Then there’s Noam Dworman. Dworman fucked up and felt much like Michael Ian Black in his thoughts on happily welcoming back by surprise, a sexual predator among his patrons, club, and comics. Noam clearly is ignorant to the stats and predilection of sexual predators – who have had no treatment – to continuing to prey. Michael might be ignorant about this too.
Dworman and Black have used their voices, their platforms, their power, to lift a sexual predator and not the women the predator has assaulted. And the world is supposed to shrug their shoulders and make way for the predator to freely walk in the room without informing the people in the room. While the predator has been happy to take a vacay and not revise his non apology to anything more than “don’t you know who I am?” His smarmy surprise is pure predatory behavior. Predators prey. They don’t stop on their own. That’s why these predators do not get to come back. Because the chances this specific predator will prey again are high. Problem is, if the predator or misogynist who runs the shop, the studio, the tech giant, the family business – if that predator’s point of view remains one of accepting assault toward women as acceptable – all the apologies or training in the world are pointless. Micheal’s predator of the week put a dirty band aid on the jagged cut in the carotid and expected it to stem the flow.
On July 30th 2018, Stephen Colbert opened his show with two monologue bits that talked about his boss’s sexual predation. Stephen talked about how many doors his boss has opened for him. He did not talk about the women he works with (no matter whether they share office space or not, the women who have accused his boss of sexual harassment are his co-workers) or how to make things better for them, let alone anything more than a coy suggestion that he understands his boss would see his monologue and please don’t pull his show for talking about it. Colbert took a step back from his absolute, unashamed, and persistent vilification of an imbecilic dolt who stole an election but drew the line at standing up for women to care for his well protected catholic white bank account.
And that’s where we are as a society. Think about how risky it is for women to speak out against powerful men who have abused them. Adult, professional women. And specifically the thousands and thousands of women who do not have the power in their own lives or work lives to risk losing everything. Why is it risky? More often than not, they’ll be maligned in some way, disbelieved, and often find themselves on the receiving end of punitive actions. Michael Ian Black defended a predator. Simple. He did. He did it without thinking about how his default feeling that the predator deserved a way back to his high status as a comedian would come across to the women Michael says he’s an advocate for. There’s a moment for cultural correction right there: when men who are genuinely in defense of women fuck up and highlight abusers, it’s time to teach them to stop and change that behavior. These men are part of a front line if you will. Behind African American women who are leading us all in the way we should have been going, and have been telling us for decades.
Can we even solve sexual harassment and domestic violence?
It’s going to take a cultural shift. And in order to make a cultural shift there has to be social pressure. There are some shifts in social pressure. Michael Ian Black’s post shows we have a long long way to go. When we pull Aziz Ansari out of the accountability pool because his abuse is that thing people blow off because it appears fuzzy only because we doubt Katie Way, but it’s not at all fuzzy when you read her account of what happened, that’s the line accountability doesn’t cross? Apparently it is. When you read the accounts of Michael Ian Black’s predator of the week alongside Way’s account of her abuse, they’re very similar in the fact that something happened that women did not consent to have happen. Why should they be treated differently?
When a man is revealed to be a sexual predator, he gets options.
He gets options the women who lost opportunities, work, contracts, and network opportunities he directly interfered with, don’t.
Clearly what’s more important than women’s accounting of harassment is, well – everything.
According to Michael Ian Black, a sexual predator’s option is to subject an audience – who did not consent to being subjected – to his presence. That sounds like a day in the life of women on a scale we have told the world is happening on a daily basis. Except it’s offering up a path to redemption not offered to the women.
Turns out Michael Ian Black and Stephen Colbert are in the “other people will handle this” camp. And when the men who present themselves as on the right side of standing up for women, step back with their hands up telling us “Nope, we draw the line at holding our revered predators accountable”, we have a real problem with who we thought were our own.
Instead of reading men’s accounts or perspectives on harassment, find and read women’s. As Hannah Gadsby tells us: “You need a good role model right now, fellas.”
Well, here you go fellas:
Watch Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette
Read Melena Ryzik’s “The Comedy-Destroying, Soul-Affirming Art of Hannah Gadsby“
Read Roxane Gay’s “Men Who Think Justice Takes As Long As They Want It To”
Read Aliza Skinner’s “Famous Dicks Are Just A Tip Of The Iceberg”
Read Kate Stone’s article “A sexual predator walked into a comedy club” Read Haley Halverson’s “What Most Current Sexual Assault Apologies Have In Common”
Read Hannah Giorgis’ article “What Redemption Really Means“
I’m not concerned with redemption. I’m concerned with stopping this bullshit at society’s cellular level where it’s grown from the beginning. Get off the fucking redemption train and be the active advocate you claim to be.