On Sunday night, Louis CK returned to the stage unannounced at the Comedy Cellar in New York City and delivered a 15 minute stand-up routine after months of self-imposed exile following his sexual harassment scandal. Despite this scandal, he received rapturous applause after completing his routine. This incident clearly indicates that Louis CK intends to make a comeback, but it also raises an important question; is this okay? Should the victims of his harassment be content with his nine month absence from the public eye?
According to two victims of CK’s harassment, Julia Wolov and Dana Min Goodman, they felt that their careers were threatened when they started openly talking about CK’s behavior (which included masturbating in front of them involuntarily). Another anonymous woman who faced this same behavior felt that it was an abuse of power. The owner of the venue CK performed at, Noam Dworman, defended the performance, saying that “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong”. Now, it might be wrong to exile someone completely for the rest of their life because of sexual harassment. However, accepting them back into the fold of society should be predicated by growth, realizing what they did was wrong, and making real amends for it. Simply going away for less than a year and coming back acting like nothing happened is not grounds for accepting Louis CK back into the public eye. He should instead make genuine efforts to apologize and let other people know that what he did was unacceptable. Louis CK did make one important step in his apology back in November when the allegations first appeared; he admitted to his behavior and accepted responsibility. Still, this was an apology forced from media backlash, which makes it seem less genuine. Louis mentions how he wishes he was a good example of a man to the women he harassed instead; he still has the power to be a good example. CK is still admired by many and has many fans; he could use this power to spread the message that sexual harassment is never okay. He is able to reach many people because of his popularity, so he could easily make a genuine effort to rectify his past wrongs and more importantly, let other men know that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
It seems like many men who faced allegations of sexual harassment think that spending a few months out of the public eye will be enough to pay for their behavior. For instance, there are reports that Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Mario Batali are planning similar comebacks. This is unacceptable however, for the same reason why Louis CK should not be accepted back quite yet: if they continue on with their careers like nothing happened, it disregards the victims of their harassment and no lasting change will come from the backlash. These men have the power to truly spread a message of change and try to stop this kind of behavior from happening again, if they were genuinely regretful. Simply letting them restart their careers and forgetting that they were ever gone sends the message that sexual harassment is bad-until everyone forgets about it in a few weeks. Men like Louis CK must be held accountable, even when the story is not quite relevant anymore.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.