When I first heard of the idea of reparations, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. In principle, I believed the reasons why reparations would be just, but I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around how it would work, and frankly, I was a little concerned about how it would affect me if I took it seriously. Over the last few years, I’ve come to better understand and support systemic and personal reparations. The answer to that question about whether it would affect me personally, by the way, is yes. I’m part of an online community now that holds each other accountable to participate in reparations on a personal level.
I’d like to propose reparations as a model for Louis C.K., and other successful men who have harassed, abused, and assaulted women, minors, and other subordinates.
Louis C.K. published a statement about the accusations against him. On the positive side, he admitted what he had done, which differentiates him from the crowd of those who have denied their actions or blurred them by trying to throw their own coming out party (I’m looking at you, Kevin Spacey). But before we throw a parade, let’s consider what he actually said. He did not apologize to the women he harassed and abused. He seemed most sorry about how it was making him feel, and about the trouble it caused his manager – which in case you missed it means his manager was complicit in all of this. He continues to be very impressed by himself, mentioning multiple times that people admire him. It’s not admiration that kept those women in the room, it was their livelihood (and sometimes the fact that he locked them in, but I digress). Finally, he says he’s going to take a long time to listen. Well, good for him, slinking off into a silence supported by the wealth he’s gained as an exploiter and abuser of women. I have another idea.
I propose a further step. There is something he is able to do that goes beyond an apology (although an actual apology would be a nice start, too). He can pay reparations.
I propose that for every bit in which he acted like someone who respects women, who understands how dangerous men can be to women, he pay back his earnings from that show in reparations to the women he harassed and assaulted.
I propose that for every time he cashed in on the work of women who he also sexually objectified, he pay reparations.
I propose that for every time he went on stage or screen bolstered by the power boost he got from an unwilling woman, he pay reparations.
I propose that every man who has gained wealth, fame, and power while harassing, abusing, and assaulting others go beyond saying “oops.” I propose that they pay reparations. I propose that they build up the careers they’ve torn down, and return autonomy to the people from whom they’ve stolen it. Their wallets have made them feel they were invincible, so let’s see some weakening of that wall. Then maybe their apologies will mean something.