Feminist Utopia Podcast
Transcript for Episode 4
Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a podcast that explores what a world would like if there were no gender roles, where all people are equally valued and respected in society. We believe that if you dream it, you can achieve it. Hi I’m Benita Malone.
Debby: And I’m Debby Williams
Benita: And on episode 4 of Feminist Utopia, we are going to imagine a utopia…
Debby: …where men actually take responsibility for earning forgiveness and redemption. Benita: So we talked last episode about apology, or rather the lack thereof… that men are really bad at apologies. And they’re really good at expecting forgiveness without taking any responsibility for their actions.
Debby: And not only, not taking responsibility for their actions, not taking responsibility for changing them moving forward. That somehow the damaged caused is the fault of the victim, which I think we saw especially with Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein and several other people from “Me Too.” The problem for them was that “I’ve lost my endorsements and these women have ruined me.”
Benita: Or it wasn’t my fault these women misunderstood my innocent actions, is the case with Aziz Ansari and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Debby: Oh especially Neil de Grasse Tyson! ‘Why is she skeeved out by me rubbing the inside of her wrist?! What’s wrong with that? That’s what Native Americans do!’ Well dude, neither of you are Native American, so why don’t you just not do it!
Debby: But today we’re talking about forgiveness. And we’ve already talked about the art of the good apology and how a bad apology makes this next step seemingly impossible. It’s so important because so many of the people in the “Me Too” movement saying well, how am I ever supposed to come back from this? Meanwhile they’re still on tv and all these other things. But Benita found some really good resources about forgiveness and there’s some cultural diﬀerences that haven’t been explored. I’m really interested to… disagree with you Benita.
Benita: Oh! Okay. That wouldn’t be the ﬁrst time.
Benita: But I was raised in a Catholic household where our sins were forgiven by priests simply by stating them out loud. You went into the little confessional in the dark with a partition. You confessed your sins and you were absolved. Maybe you had to say a few Hail Marys, but there was not the expectation of any real work that needed to be done to be forgiven. You just had to confess your sins to the priest and then you were washed clean.
Debby: So I have a question about that. Say you went to the priest and confessed that you had stolen your sister’s lipstick for example. Would he say something to you like “Have you asked your sister for forgiveness? Have you made amends with your sister?” Or is it like go say your Hail Marys? I don’t know, I’m asking. I’ve never done this.
Benita: Well, probably the last time I went to confession was over 30 years ago.
Debby: Oh! Okay.
Benita: And every priest had their own methods. But I remember getting the “don’t do it again, say some prayers.” But I don’t actually recall ever having to publicly declare my sin. It was just between me and the priest in the confessional.
Debby: Oh wow!
Benita: And if I stole Julie’s lipstick, and she didn’t know… I could confess and be forgiven, and she would be none the wiser.
Debby: Oh my goodness! That’s a real get-out-of-jail-free card! Because I’ve heard stories, especially in certain Baptist communities where for example there was a young woman of 16, a young girl who was accused of having an aﬀair with a pastor. And they made her get up and confess her sin and apology to the pastor’s wife for her sin, so there was a public shaming aspect to it. Meanwhile it was a criminal act committed against her. Forgiveness in the United States is usually discussed in a Christian context. Jewish theology, and I’m going to be really simplifying here… I’m sure I’m going to get some Jew who will say, “Well, that’s not exactly…” Five Jews, ten opinions. The idea is that you get forgiveness from the person or deity that you’ve oﬀended. So, if I’ve done something to oﬀend God, then I would make my apologies to God. But if I stole my sister’s lipstick, I would have to make it right with her. God can’t forgive me for what I did to my nonexistent sister. It forces you to make it right within the community. There’s a Jewish religious holiday called Yom Kippur. It starts with the beginning of the New Year with Rosh Hashanah and then there’s the days of awe. You’re supposed to work your butt oﬀ in that time to make sure you have made it right with everybody you’ve harmed. You’ll see Jewish people on facebook saying “if I have unintentionally oﬀended you, I’m sorry.” Because the whole point is you’ve got to clean the slate for the next year. I think that cheapens the concept of forgiveness by saying I can make a facebook post and get it all over with… But some people take it seriously! And the point is you can ask for forgiveness, but you’re not entitled to get it back from that person. Now there’s some community pressure on the person to accept the apology. But there’s never any pressure to say “I stole my sister’s lipstick” and now I still have to let her into my room all the time. It doesn’t work that way. So it’s a diﬀerent concept when we discuss the “Me Too” stuﬀ… I think in many ways that people are approaching it with this all or nothing blast, like they need to be cast oﬀ into the lake of ﬁre? And I’m interested in exploring, what does forgiveness look like for the women of “Me Too” and what does forgiveness and redemption look like… for the dumpster ﬁres that we’ve found so far?
Benita: It’s a really good question, and I think we need to take just a minute at this point. Forgiveness is really complicated. And some believe that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. And it doesn’t demand anything from the person who harmed you. That kind of forgiveness isn’t what we’re getting at here. The deﬁnition of forgiveness that we’re working with today is… in order to oﬀer forgiveness, the other person has to know what was done wrong, feel bad for doing it, apologize for it sincerely, and the work to make it better.
Debby: I think that last part’s key!
Benita: Yeah, and those are the terms the women in “Me Too” are asking for. When people are demanding forgiveness from them, they need to go through these steps at a bare minimum before that forgiveness is granted.
Debby: When we’ve created a culture where women are told it’s a gift that you give to yourself, these guys in the Me Too movement feel like they don’t have to do the work. And like you said, it takes work, it takes time. And it’s not as simple as saying, “Well, I’m sorry. It’s already over with. I don’t have to do any work.” How do you create this expectation of work for these guys in Me Too? And I think Dan Harmon did some stuﬀ right. He has said I will never be in a position where I can do that to another woman who works for me. And he has created boundaries, and I respect that! These guys getting called out by Me Too, what can they do work-wise to move towards forgiveness to the women they’ve harmed?
Benita: Well, I think a lot of them failed as we stated before in the whole apology. Some women have brought up the idea of monetary compensation, and I think that is completely legitimate, especially for people like Louis C.K. He ruined their careers!
Benita: Oh. That’s really disappointing.
Debby: Reparations aren’t just an abstract idea. I think that we can discuss reparations in terms of slavery, we can discuss reparations in terms of Louis C.K. I think that’s an actual eﬀective, concrete way of trying to ﬁx what was done to a person or people…
Benita: I think that one of the beneﬁts is that it brings the focus back onto the victim, the person who was harmed.
Benita: There are some really good reasons why you might not want to forgive somebody right away. And one of those is: If you forgive too quickly, it suppresses that anger and there’s a power in anger. If you learn to stand up for yourself and make future entry less likely… and anger can help you to do that. Build a sense of empowerment and self conﬁdence by having that power of the anger. And if you’re forced to deny that emotion by forgiving too quickly, you can lose that. Some anger can be healing and productive!
Debby: Oh I know! Some of the best work I’ve ever done was when I was pissed oﬀ. I completely agree with that. And I do think that when you are pressured to forgive too early, and then when the anger comes (and it will!), then people say “Well you can’t be angry about it, you said you forgave so-and-so.” And that’s a problem.
Benita: It is a problem. And oftentimes, that anger again is internalized and it shows up elsewhere as pain, self-criticism, depression, relationship diﬀiculties, or health problems like high blood pressure, headaches! If it isn’t allowed to be released naturally and you’re trying to suppress that anger, it just does come out in other ways, in other places.
Debby: It can be very self-destructive! There’s a reason a large number of domestic violence victims end up with some sort of substance abuse problem. Because they’re trying to deal with stuﬀ, and they’re told that they’re supposed to forgive their abuser and whatever. And you see this with “Me Too,” a lot of people are like “She’s being so irrational. She’s so angry. Why is she so upset about this? It happened two years ago!” She’s upset about it because she’s never been able to deal with it. She ﬁnally gets someone to listen to her, and she’s supposed to say. But it was three years ago, and now I forgave him when he hasn’t done anything. And that’s the emotional labor that we’re expecting the women of Me Too absorb, once again!
Benita: Right, and everybody goes through emotions at their own rate! And it depends on the severity of the injury and the reactions of the other people with whom they share their pain. When you’re asking people to forgive when an injury is still painful, it dismisses the victim. It dismisses the pain that people are going through.
Debby: Yes, for especially the women of Me Too. You see some of the most front and center people have gone through career problems and stuﬀ. For some of the actresses for example with Harvey Weinstein. It was more that they became internalized – their anger was internalized. They spent years being invalidated! We see this with domestic violence survivors, we see this with sexual abuse survivors, sexual assault survivors. And they’re told, well it happened x months ago or x years ago, why aren’t you over it yet? Well because they weren’t allowed to deal with it. They were told they had to keep quiet. If they wanted to keep their job in Hollywood, they still had to pretend nothing happened. They still needed to take pictures with their abuser. Every single time it’s another act of emotional violence!
Debby: By putting them at risk! And so we’re supposed to say, “Oh but you know, he’s changed now.” How is that helpful?!
Benita: There’s an interesting study done by James McNulty and he found that forgiving too quickly, makes it more likely that those who hurt you, will hurt you again. If you’re in a domestic violence situation and you forgive your partner too easily, they’re almost twice as likely to be mistreated again soon afterwards.
Debby: And yet those women are pushed to forgive quickly because it’s more convenient for everybody else around them!
Benita: Right, and it’s couched oftentimes in spiritual terms where you need to forgive to get yourself right with God.
Debby: Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?
Benita: No! I mean that’s a Christian thing that goes on all the time!!
Debby: Ugh, that’s awful!
Benita: It’s another good reason to take your time in forgiving someone because confronting your oﬀender with that justiﬁed anger… you can make the world safer for others simply by confronting these people and not letting them get away with it. And having them suﬀer some kind of public humiliation or consequences, maybe we can get them to understand and not be as quick to do the same to others.
Debby: You know and I think one of the things that I’ve learned from you is that forgiveness is not a synonym for reconciliation. If women are given the idea that I can forgive this person, they’ve made amends, but I’m still not going to have to be close to them. I’m still not going to have to work with them again. And my understanding is that Megan Ganz, who was involved with the Dan Harmon apology… she isn’t working on his show.
Benita: That makes me like her more! I wouldn’t expect her to!
Debby: I think the only safe thing for a victim in those situations is to say, “And my boundary is I’m not working with you again.”
Benita: Right. Or I’m not going to stay in the same house with you or… whatever it is.
Debby: Yes. and I realize that letting bygones be bygones makes it easier for everybody else around the people.
Benita: And it especially makes it easier for the perpetrator of the abuse!
Benita: So, when you’re being asked to forgive someone, it’s important to recognize who it is that’s telling you or asking you to forgive. If it’s the abuser telling the victim to forgive and let go, it isn’t the victim’s best interest that he has at heart here. It’s his! And going further if the person that’s asking you to forgive has a ﬁnancial or emotional or some kind of connection with the one who injured you, then that’s a little suspect, too! You might want to hesitate. And it could be someone like a parent, a mom asking you to forgive the dad for physical violence or worse, or the religious institution asking you to forgive the clergy!
Debby: Boy, I’ve never heard of that happening, ever!
Benita: Or even a friend who just fails to do the work.
Debby: Yes, and I want to say this and I’m not trying to co-opt the victim’s space, but I would like some of these apologies to address their fan base on some level. I’m going to be really speciﬁc here. I would like Neil deGrasse Tyson to acknowledge that he has placed himself in a position with a community of scientiﬁc oriented fans, and he did not live up to that stature that he has assumed! Dan Harmon in his apology did talk about I need to do better because I’m a public person kind of stuﬀ. What I got from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s apology was – well guess if I have to, I’ll never be alone with a woman again! And instead why doesn’t he say that – my behavior in this was a problem. So I don’t know how to reconcile the idea of consuming Neil deGrasse Tyson’s products while I feel he hasn’t acknowledged what he has done wrong.
Benita: It’s really complicated! And actually I live in Houston. Neil deGrasse Tyson came and spoke and did a program in Houston. And I shelled out my $75 bucks a ticket and went and saw him and thoroughly enjoyed the program. But you can bet if he comes back to Houston, I’m not going to give that man a dime. There’s not a lot that I can do as a fan that’s going to impact this man’s life, but I can quit giving him money! But when it comes to things like Liam Neeson and the new “Men in Black” movie coming out- which is a franchise I enjoy and I’d like to see… that one’s tougher! Because you think, he’s not the only one that’s in that ﬁlm. There’s literally thousands of people whose jobs were involved in making that ﬁlm! Am I going to not see that ﬁlm because Liam Neeson is a butthead?
Debby: I have a workaround for that. And I’m not suggesting that you should do this too. I wanted to see Ender’s Game. But I didn’t want to give Orson Scott Card (the originator of the story who wrote the screenplay) money, because he was using his money to to actively fund anti-LGBT rights initiatives. So I bought a ticket for another movie at a similar time and just went and sat (this was before assigned seating)… I went and sat and watched Ender’s Game. So he didn’t get his money!
Benita: Well, I’ll probably watch it like when it comes out on Netﬂix or something. That’s to me where the diﬀerence is. If I can avoid giving them my hard earned money, I will.
Debby: But it comes right back to: These public ﬁgures impact thousands of people when they act like buttheads. They have to accept some moral responsibility I think for that. When you take on the mantle of being a public ﬁgure, there are a lot of pluses that come with that. I’m sure Neil deGrasse Tyson gets free meals and drinks everywhere! But part of it is also he needs to be aware of what image he’s presenting when he goes home alone with a young employee who’s female and starts rubbing his ﬁnger up and down her wrist!
Benita: The other one I think of is Kevin Spacey and House of Cards.
Debby: Oh yes!
Benita: And all of those careers that were on the rise, and… halted immediately… ruined the franchise, the show!
Debby: Yes, and he’s still portraying himself as the victim! The victims are individuals who worked on the show. It’s not easy to ﬁnd another show. And it’s all gone. I want men like Liam Neeson and Kevin Spacey and Neil deGrasse Tyson to think about their responsibility when they do these things or address it when they make these apologies. Because this was a betrayal in so many ways of so many people!
Debby: And so coming back to consuming Neil deGrasse Tyson’s product: When Cosmos 2 comes out, do I watch it live? Do I wait for Netﬂix? I like that compromise. I don’t know what kind of payment they get for Netﬂix.
Benita: If there’s a takeaway from our discussion about forgiveness, it is that: When you receive an apology, it’s okay not to accept it! You don’t have to forgive in response to an apology. And if you feel like you need to say something, I suppose you could say, “Thank you” as a suﬀicient response. And you don’t have to say anything else.
Debby: And if someone says to me, “Well, God forgave me. You don’t have to forgive me.” That just shows me the caliber of person, I’m dealing with. When someone says well, I know I’m forgiven because God forgave me, I think speciﬁcally again of that young 16 year old girl who had to stand up in front of the congregation and beg for forgiveness from the pastor’s wife. And the pastor from my understanding, didn’t and instead he said in court publicly God has forgiven me so I’m alright. When you say God has forgiven me, that shows so much of who that person is, that they are never really interested in forgiveness. And one thing on our way out the door, I do want to talk about is I think a lot of people conﬂate the word forgiveness with acceptance. I can accept that person is a complete dumpster ﬁre of a human, and let it go, and I’ll move on. And I’ll just avoid them like the plague. I wouldn’t call that even forgiveness!
Benita: I think we recognize that they’re behaving badly. And there’s nothing that you can do to change that behavior, so you need to remove yourself from that situation.
Debby: And I think that is so emotionally healthy.
Benita: But it’s really diﬀicult!
Debby: Yes, it sounds simple. I mean I had to do that with my dad. He was a huge alcoholic and took out fraudulent credit cards in my name and stuﬀ. And people were surprised when at the end of his life, I took him in and cared for him the last 5 years of his life. And they were like, Oh you must have forgiven him and I’m like honestly, I don’t know even to this day if I have. I accepted who he was. I accepted that his early damage was nothing he was ever going to be able to ever ﬁx or was interested in ﬁxing, and none of it was my fault and it should never be my problem. I had a therapist who told me that. It was so freeing! And maybe that’s what they meant by forgiveness. Just accepting all that… But I wouldn’t say I ever forgave him. Because he never ever apologized for any of it! So how could there have been forgiveness. He never tried to make amends. He never tried to do anything diﬀerently.
Benita: Right and I think that a good point there is that forgiveness does not mean excusing or overlooking the wrong. Trying to pretend it’s all okay is dishonest and can be more damaging.
Debby: And so I really hate that the women of Me Too, many of them are being shoved into: “Well he gave you an apology. Aren’t you going to let it go now?” And these aren’t apologies! There haven’t been amends made. “You need to forgive him now.” The hell they do!
Debby: So, I bet you think that this episode Benita and I are going to ask you to go out and forgive people. No! Fuck forgiveness! We’re going to ask you to support the women who have been damaged, by these men speciﬁcally Louis C.K. There are four women that came out, spoke out against him. Their careers in some ways are struggling, in some ways they are improving. Let’s start with Dana Goodman and Julia Wolov. They write together as a comedy duo. You can ﬁnd them on IMDB. They’re also currently involved in an upcoming Lifetime series called “American Princess” which looks interesting. And also go follow them on all their social media. The more social media followers an entertainer has, the more likely a studio or showrunner is going to take them seriously. Because the idea is that they’re popular enough to have followers. Abby Schachner is another one, I’m probably messing up her name. She is currently doing illustrations for books and pictures. We found that on her website. And you can also follow her on Twitter. Rebecca Corry is in pre-production for a movie called A Baby Shower in San Dimas. I’m actually going to probably really enjoy that because I love anything that involves San Dimas. But the one thing that’s true is: None of these women are doing impromptu sets at the Comedy Cellar and getting standing ovations from audiences, like Louis C.K. Go out, follow them on social media, we’ll have links to that on our website so you can do that. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and so on… Let’s help the people that have been hurt.
Debby: Thank you so much for joining us today at Feminist Utopia. If you like our work, please give us a review on ltunes, Stitcher, or wherever you found our podcast so others can find us as well. You may also become a Feminist Utopia patron at Patreon.com to show your appreciation. Patrons get perks! And check out our blog and other resources at our website FeministUtopia.net. Emailus your idea of what a feminist utopia would Look Like or any questions to info@feministutol)ia.net. We appreciate you taking the time to listen and grow with us!