#MeToo Needs a List to Light the Way

By Chandra Bozelko

January 4, 2019 5 min read

Last weekend, audio of one of disgraced and discarded comic Louis C.K.'s recent comedy shows was leaked and went viral. The comedian — who was shunned by the world after it was revealed that he had masturbated in front of multiple female colleagues — is heard on tape making fun of transgender individuals, and the Parkland shooting's surviving victims and their mothers' genitals.

Discussion of Louis C.K.'s latest flub can't devolve into a debate over political correctness; that's not what's at issue. Nor should it cause us to further shut him out.

Instead, we need to take this moment to see how #MeToo can achieve even more justice — by leading men and women who've engaged in sexual misconduct to respectful and honorable behavior that becomes routine for them.

Louis' words on that tape are an example of what happens when we condemn people and consequently don't show them what improved behavior looks like or light a clear path to redemption.

#MeToo and the criminal justice system ride parallel rails. So aligned are they that the similarity would scare me if I were one of the movement's engineers.

While both provide needed focus on consequences for bad, often unconscionable, acts, both believe that preventing future transgressions can only be achieved through punishment and ostracization.

And they're both wrong.

This country is the biggest punisher in the world, and we can't even get that right. About two-thirds of people who are released from their penalty are re-arrested in three years. Why? Mostly because we've set up a society where the only way to condemn an offense is to ostracize the offender, making him radioactive so no one will ever interact with him.

That is, we don't interact with him until he does — or, in this case, says — something bad again and we put our tsk! tsk! on repeat.

To me, Louis C.K.'s shameful set is analogous to recidivism. No, he didn't masturbate in front of more women, but he did try to denigrate the humanity of certain groups for his own satisfaction. The jokes and the jerks are the same thing.

But this must be what the #MeToo movement and its supporters want. There's no other explanation for why it overflows with anti-redemption rhetoric and messages that people like Louis C.K. will — and should — never get better.

In an op-ed entitled "Should sexual harassers Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. be given a second chance?" Suzanne Moore, a columnist for The Guardian, answered her own question: "Sadly, history tells us they will be." California Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted about Weinstein: "If rape allegations are true, Weinstein should not be given a second chance."

No one wanted Louis C.K. — or any other harasser for that matter — to do anything more than to doubly earn the "creep" label we pinned on him. Now we're both glad and mad that he did.

One of #MeToo's biggest contributions to society, after vindicating victims, would be to change the expectations for a transgressor so he knows what he must do to reform himself. #MeToo should create a list of activities and growth points that harassers need to meet, benchmarks like how much time away from employment needs to elapse before he can come back. Does he need sensitivity training? Supervision? A proportional prison sentence that's followed by re-entry support? The movement gets to choose.

If he chooses not to comply, then the shunning is appropriate and protective of others.

When an accused person meets #MeToo's requirements, they should be deemed reformed and readmitted in our midst so that associating with them, even supporting them in their recovery, doesn't become a liability.

But the movement can't require that someone evaporate into stigma and erase himself from society. The criminal justice system taught us that this doesn't work.

I can't say that a thinking adult should need to be instructed not to make fun of kids who hid under dead bodies to protect themselves from a mass murder. Louis C.K. owns those jokes, not the movement.

But I also can't say it's defensible that there's no list to learn from. That's ultimately why Louis C.K. needed to be checked twice.

To find out more about Chandra Bozelko and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

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