LOUIS C.K’S WORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN ANTI-FEMINIST AT ITS CORE
By Anna Tingley
My reactions towards each new headline amidst the seemingly never-ending sexual assault allegations within Hollywood had become routine.
From the New York Times’ initial expose of Harvey Weinsten on October 5th to word of the sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey that began spreading in mid-November, to the stories about former Alabama senator Roy Moore who pursued a 14-year old girl.
Soon enough, the headlines changed from reporting individual cases to proclaiming them as a phenomenon. Democratic Senator Al Franken, actors Ed Westwick and Jeffrey Tambor, director James Toback, former NBC anchor Matt Lauer. The list carries upwards of 100 names, cuts a swath through every industry, and is growing as we speak.
The eruption of women talking about their uncomfortable, gross, and sometimes traumatizing interactions with prominent men in their respective industries has become formulaic: much like a nuclear explosion, years’ worth of suppressed memories are finally reaching their broiling point until they are released into the world in the form of alarming headlines. My reactions followed this formula: first came my surprise, then my realization that I shouldn’t be surprised, and then finally the depressing but inevitable normalization of something that should never be normalized.
In fact, it seemed the more assault allegations that became exposed, the less affected I became. I mean, why should any of us be surprised when a man who condones and participates in sexual assault, holds the highest public office in the country?
But Louis C.K was different.
I denied and denied and denied until I couldn’t morally and logically deny any longer. I dismissed each brave victim as a liar, as confused, and as money-hungry attention-seekers feeding off of the Post-Weinstein reckoning for their own gain. While it only took one read-through of Weinstein’s expose, and one view of CNN’s segment on Kevin Spacey’s allegations to stand in solidarity with their victims, I couldn’t initially do the same for those of Louis C.K.
Because I knew Louis. I didn’t know Dana Goodman or Julia Wolov or Abby Schachner, three of the five women who bravely told the NY Times their parallel stories about C.K either asking to or successfully masturbating in front of them for his own pleasure.
While Louis and I had never met, I knew him. Or, at least, I thought I did. I thought I knew him when he empathized with the justified fear women hold of men. Or when he highlighted his own white privilege in a world where racism and sexism pervade. Or when he mocked others for their sex-obsessed narcissism.
I didn’t just know him, but farther than that, I respected him as a feminist. I saw him as a representation of what feminism looks like in the body of a white, rich, male. He gave me hope that it’s possible to empathize with a group of people you’ll never be like.
Nothing made me laugh harder than when he hyperbolized the insanity of women going on dates with men.
“A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane. And ill-advised. And the whole species’ existence counts on them doing it. And I don’t know how they do it,” he says to a packed audience. “How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the #1 threat to women. Globally and historically, we’re the #1 cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that’s happened to them, that’s true.”
I laughed equally as hard when he made fun of men’s perverted minds.
“And then we wonder why women aren’t like really aggressive about sex,” he says. “We think it’s because they don’t have as much desire as we do, that’s how stupid men are. That we think ‘They’re just weird. Women are like fucked up in the head ‘cause they don’t want to fuck all the time. If I was a woman I’d just fuck everybody. Why don’t they wanna fuck all the time? I do.,’ he says in his foolish impression that's a staple of his shows. “Of course you do, because when you fuck, you get to fuck a woman. When she fucks, she has to fuck a guy,” he says as a scathing punchline.
But, in re-watching these skits, it becomes obvious far too quickly where these jokes originated.
For the longest time, I thought his self-deprecation and man-hating was the form of feminism he chose to take on as a person in a white male body. Now I realize that these jokes are anti-feminist at their core. He doesn’t believe in a man’s ability to control himself in the presence of a woman. Nor does he believe in a woman’s ability to protect herself, both serving to justify every lewd action taken against women and as a way to highlight a woman’s single sexual purpose in the presence of men.
That’s why the news about Louis C.K hit me the hardest. The truth behind his creepy predation on women transformed C.K from a man who respected me to someone who thought I didn’t deserve a stage aside from one on the tip-end of his penis.
As tempted as I am to compartmentalize the news, and separate his work from his being, it’s impossible. C.K uses his sex-driven, self-deprecating shows as a way to justify his actions. His experiences are inherent in his work, and convey messages that are the anthesis of my own values as a woman.
Anna Tingley is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tough to Tame, and an advocate for all things feminist, politics, or ramen-related. Her writing can be found at Teen Vogue, Billboard Magazine, Her Agenda, The Daily Bruin, and The Richmond Pulse. But for all the dirt, check her out on Instagram @annatationz and Twitter @annatingley.