By Amy McCarthy | Women and Hollywood July 19, 2012 at 10:00AM
This week, comedian Louis CK (of Louie fame) appeared on The Daily Show. I was actually watching The Daily Show for a change, and was excited to see Louis CK interviewed – he’s always funny and authentic.
If you’ll recall, CK stepped into the big pile of poo that is Toshgate. Sending him a tweet that read “I like your show. You have pretty eyes,” CK was apparently oblivious to the shit-show that Tosh had created in the blogosphere.
Which is easy to believe. Louis CK isn’t exactly web-savvy, and doesn’t Tweet like other comedians like Patton Oswalt or Paula Pell. He’s not a “social media guru” who’s used social media to cultivate an audience. He’s using the web for an inventive ticketing and content distribution strategy, but that’s about it.
His appearance on The Daily Show certainly didn’t have to center around the Tosh controversy, he didn’t have to explain himself to the audience. He could’ve told Stewart to stay entirely away from the subject and just talk about his new show and upcoming tour. But because Louis CK is generally a decent human being, he thought that some clarification was in order.
CK says initially that he was in vacationing in Vermont and was laughing at Tosh.0 on TV. He wasn’t “reading the Internet.” When he came back from vacation, he realized that he was in the middle of the Tosh controversy. He was being called a “rape apologist just for saying “hi” to a guy.” Rape apologism is a pretty serious accusation – but is it necessarily true?
So, in true “debate nerd” fashion, let’s go line-by-line on the interview:
1. “It was all coming from comedians and bloggers, and nothing but garbage and hyperbole comes from those two groups.”
I don’t think anyone would argue that the vast majority of blogs (and comics) are terrible (Jezebel, anyone?). There are also some amazing, incredible blogs (like Feminists For Choice, obviously). Starting a blog doesn’t mean that your opinion is valid or that everyone should listen to you and take you seriously. You hope that they do, but it’s not always the case. Fortunately, both comedians and bloggers are pretty up front with how terrible or good they are. There are terrible asshole comics, and there are terrible asshole bloggers. Nothing about what Louis CK said was inherently untrue.
2. “It’s also a fight between comedians and feminists – they’re natural enemies. Stereotypically speaking, feminists can’t take a joke, and comedians can’t take criticism – they’re big pussies.”
When CK made this remark, especially about the feminists, boos from the crowd began to drown him out. To which he replied, “see?” And he’s got a damn good point. I don’t know why I have to break this down, but the beginning of the joke is “stereotypically speaking.” Is the humorless feminist not a stereotype? Why can’t we laugh at the idea of feminists who can’t take a joke? As Serena Freewomyn said, time to “grow some ovaries and get a life.” If someone poking fun at feminism is uncomfortable for you, then you need to work on that thin skin. Especially if you’re involving yourself in an online dialogue – time to lady up and not take yourself (or your blog or stupid Twitter account) so damn seriously. That goes for comedians and bloggers.
3. “To me, all dialogue is positive.”
Well, he was wrong on this one. Not all dialogue is positive, but inherently, dialogue is positive. When we have male comedians talking about why it might not be OK to make rape jokes, we are making progress! I saw one feminist remark “If you are 44 years old and this is your first introduction to the rape culture, where have you been?”
Um, a part of it? We’re all ignorant to and participants in the rape culture until we actively make a choice to stand against it. Louis CK is someone who didn’t understand the importance of supporting rape victims – and why would he? Unless a he, a close friend or relative had been sexually assaulted, what would his frame of reference be? He’s a wealthy, straight white dude, for Chrissakes.
When would this have come up in conversation? Now that CK is a father, I think that these revelations will continue – he will see those little girls growing up and that there are a lot of really shitty guys who could try to take advantage of them. I don’t think we ever realize the levity of sexual assault until it smacks us in the face. I’ve always been an advocate for rape survivors, but recently a friend told me that she’d been raped and it almost brought me to my knees. She was just a kid. It’s those types of gut-checks that Louis CK probably hasn’t experienced too many times in his life, just based on his white dude privilege. Should he acknowledge it? Yes. Is it entirely his fault? No.
4. “If someone has the opposite opinion than mine, I want to hear it. For me, any joke about anything bad (rape, Holocaust, The Mets – ahhhh!) is a positive thing. But now, I’ve read some blogs that have enlightened me to things I didn’t know – this woman said that rape is something that polices women’s lives. That’s part of me now.”
That last sentence is the key point of this conversation. Like I said, CK has a minimal frame of reference when it comes to rape and the rape culture. Now that he’s raising two girls, he’ll learn more than he ever wanted to. He’ll worry that they’ll be in bad situations and that the threat of rape will be there for them. And that changes people. The fact that he’s even to read the dialogue instead of just dismissing the concerns of feminists is particularly telling. Feminists and comics have always clashed, so when a comic takes time to legitimately understand the concerns of women on this issue – that is progress. It may not be a revolution, but it is progress. And that’s really all we can expect. We can always demand a revolution, but we should never spit in the face of progress.