I’m Sorry But
If you had asked me a few months ago, I couldn’t have guessed what issue could have connected Alyssa Milano, Anthony Rapp, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, the president of the country, Bill Cosby, Ben Affleck, Brett Ratner, George Takei, Anthony Edwards – and a host of other people.
Last week comedian Louis CK published a statement about his decades-long industry-known penchant for masturbating in front of subordinates, generally women. It is not the worst thing a dirtbag has publicly said this year – but that says more about what a dumpster fire this year has been than about him. His “statement” is another non-apology.
“Sorry” doesn’t make it an apology.
Here’s a rule, folks. Conditional words negate an apology. “I’m sorry if I did anything wrong” is not an apology. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology. “I’m sorry but” is not an apology.
And with CK’s statement, we have a new version of that: “I’m sorry but I didn’t realize I was in a position of power and privilege.”
This is where I get livid. Because not only is this absolute horseshit, but even if it were true, it makes no goddamn sense.
Which kind of bad are you?
Society would like us to have believed that these men of status (who, thank God, we are increasingly able to confront about their disturbing behavior) were talented, clever, worthy in some way.
But to say with a straight face that you didn’t know you shouldn’t be lewd? Let alone lewd to a professional subordinate? And that “you learned [this] later in life”? Are you a liar or are you a fool? Either way, you make it clear you should never have had whatever modicum of status you had.
We are past excuses.
I have swept behavior like this under the rug in my own life. I have been complicit in the institutional conspiracy of silence that women keep to be successful.
We know who and what to avoid. We warn each other, we make dark jokes, we keep an eye out for younger women, we are polite when we are uncomfortable, we get upset when we have the luxury to, we investigate our options, we see that confronting it is far more likely to hurt us than them, we keep our mouths shut, and we move on. That has been the status quo. It’s humiliating. It’s exhausting. And it’s wrong.
I’m angry and I’m tired. Because I’ve kept my mouth shut on my own behalf, on behalf of the women who came to me crying, and on behalf of all the other times I’ve heard these experiences recounted. Because I’ve felt lucky that nothing worse has happened to me. Because, while some of these men are being held accountable, far too many aren’t. That includes my former boss; my former coach; possibly even people with whom I’ve had relationships; and, of course, my country’s president, who remains an unabashed member of this repulsive, inadequate club.
I’m so fucking angry. Perhaps most of all at the idea that any of this could be difficult to understand, as CK implies.
Actual men are better than this.
A few years ago, I did agree with the “#yesallwomen” campaign, whose point was that men don’t realize the minefield women navigate. But I see now that that can inadvertently do an enormous disservice to competent men. To good men. (You’ll notice that, in that post I link to, I quoted CK. The irony is painfully heavy.)
I know many good men who don’t need a remedial course on how be a decent human. This is not just “what men do.” This is about what some – too many, but certainly not all – weak, broken, foul men do.
So no. You don’t get to explain that your position of power rendered you incapable of understanding. You don’t get to claim that you didn’t understand consent because you’re a man. You don’t get to not know.