No one has been convicted of anything yet, but the sentence of the mob has been swift and brutal. An onlooker might wonder why the same folks who cry sad tears for convicted prisoners who have paid their debt to society, say Matthew Charles, are so mindlessly harsh to the unconvicted prisoners of their hatred, but the answer is plain: the concern isn’t with burdens of proof or evidence, process or proportionality. They are every bit as harsh as the other tribe, but just focus their hatred on a different group.
“Right now, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with these men’s future careers at all. If there’s a time for that, it hasn’t come yet. We should be worried first about the careers of the women they harassed.” https://t.co/uKTkEw30Un #MeToo #TimesUp
— NARAL (@NARAL) May 31, 2018
Should Louis CK be given another chance? What about Charlie Rose, or Matt Lauer? Or should they be doomed to spend the rest of their lives as sexual pariahs?
The bad men of American media are ready for their comebacks. Yes, already.
A number of the sexual harassers who lost their jobs and projects are now trying to orchestrate their returns, hoping that we’re ready to forgive and forget, and fork over our money to them.
They are bad. They are men. What more needs to be said?
Perhaps it’s inevitable. But we shouldn’t give them any space, nor make any accommodations, for their comebacks. Certainly not yet. Not before we do so first and foremost for the people they victimized, who have already almost certainly suffered financial and professional consequences for the mere misfortune of crossing these men’s paths.
Before we let any of the bad men return, we have to make sure the women whose suffering they caused are made whole.
Made whole sounds of restitution, which would be entirely appropriate as a remedy in court, but there is no mention of courts, of lawsuits. There will be a few criminal cases, but most of the claims aren’t criminal. So what sort of “made whole” could that mean?
So the question we should really ask right now is not, “How can these men be redeemed and returned to television?” but, “What we can do to make up for the punishment these women had to suffer because of their own victimization?” Hiring managers, producers, editors, casting agents and executives of all stripes and in all industries need to take a look at these women and think hard about what potential was smothered by abuse. What talent have we lost at the hands of sexual harassers? What talent can we still recover if we put these women’s needs before the attention cravings of their high-profile predators?
This is both the call and the threat, to replace men with women to compensate for their suffering. But neither of these “questions” is really a question at all. If there is a call for the talents of these men, given what’s been said about them and what they’ve conceded about themselves or not, then they will find their ways back. And if the women who suffered have the talent, they too should get that chance. But that’s not at all the point.
By posing the argument by a rhetorical question, “what potential was smothered by abuse?” obscures the question of talent. Maybe no potential. Maybe they never had what it took to succeed. Being abused doesn’t make one a great actress, a funny comedian or a brilliant chef. Being abused doesn’t mean anyone wants to watch you, listen to you, eat whatever you prepare.
Do these women deserve to be made whole? Maybe. Sure, some of the complaints hidden under the vagary of “harassment” when what they’re really talking about it “he looked at me weird and I felt dirty” or “he told a dirty joke and I heard it” fall short of anything compensation-worthy. It may be inappropriate. It may be intolerable under the norms du jour, but de minimis non curat lex. No, words are not violence. No, not everything that hurts your feelings requires either punishment or compensation.
These are the people who deserve second chances. Not the men whose violence and misogyny were exposed, but the women who had to suffer it, either in silence while making career changes to escape them or by speaking out and suffering the professional consequences. These are the people whose comebacks I’m rooting for.
Root for the women all you want. That’s entirely up to you, and absolutely fine. For all I care, root for the Philadelphia Eagles. But if you want the mob to back your calls to make sure the dead stay dead, make sure they are never given a chance to come back until the women who have accused them become stars, then there are two things that need to come first: Prove their offense and prove your entitlement to restitution.
If crimes have been committed, they should be prosecuted. If torts have been committed, the plaintiff should be compensated. But we have a mechanism for these, where it’s not enough to accuse and enjoy the bobbing heads of the mob. Bring your case. Prove your case. Get money. Be made whole. But not by threat of the mob.
Of course, there is a role for the mob in deciding whether they want to laugh at Louis CK, hear Matt Lauer’s banter or eat Mario Batali’s food. If the mob doesn’t want to, then there is nothing they can do to make themselves into stars again. And if they prefer Samantha Bee’s witty comic insights, then maybe she will find her way to a network show. Or Rose McGowan will play Dr. Xavier in the all-female remake and it will be huge smash when women everywhere pay exorbitant ticket prices to see it.
The mob gets its say, but not by substituting their storming the castle for the legal system. If you want to be “made whole,” then do what’s required to be entitled to restitution. And it’s not mutually exclusive that accusers and accused receive whatever they deserve, whether that’s restitution or the chance to make a comeback.