Male, female, both or neither, it was incredibly difficult not to apply our own experiences to the ones being picked apart and analysed in a 24-hour news cycle last year. Even if I didn’t know it at the time, Louis signified for me a man – or men – who had hurt me. Me, too. The woman whose account of her now-infamous evening with Aziz Ansari published on Babe.net was me, too, and by this I mean that every instance was held up – individually and collectively – in comparison to one’s own. More, or less traumatic. Similar, or different. Lighter, or more grave, but always side by side; me, too. More than this, the stories – our own and others’ – are compared to a kind of composite, a grand narrative at once assembled from all of them and representing no single experience. On the one hand, it was empowering to finally find a language for a dynamic so insidious that it can still seem impossible to describe. A whole arena of experience, suddenly articulatable! On the other, these accounts were often so detailed as to feel like those shared over a bottle of wine with a friend, and invited all the same equivalences and probing questions. In the court of public – and private – opinion, people inserted versions of themselves into the shoes of the characters at hand, like they were reading for a part in a play.
For many men I spoke to at the time, an initial disgust with #MeToo’s villains often gave way to a sheepish admission that the stories they were hearing made them worry about their own behaviour. So – if the women in that New York club stayed quiet and the men applauded, I can see why. In broad strokes: the women in the audience, identifying with those treated as C. K.’s masturbatory aides, were confronted with his return and forced to reckon with their parallel relegation to that old position of powerlessness. The men were stars returning to the stage, finally forgiven and back in good(ish) standing. Me, too! However wildly off the mark, ethically speaking, the voice of dissent that sputtered how #notallmen are predators, that lamented the fallen careers and tattered reputations, it was a voice which occupied the space of discourse like a low hum: status quo as backing vocals. When my friend asked “how could he do that?” of Louis C. K., he asked of himself: could I do that? Have I? The drone underpinned everything above it, prompting answers to questions unasked but swimming beneath the surface commentary. Why all the articles defending a victim’s right to come forward, or justifying the demolition of a man’s reputation if not to counter the background drone of questions implicit? Questions ancient? Questions written into the fabric of our collective consciousness, which sees men as human, women as less than?