Tamblyn urges us to keep the focus on the victims
Many people have been wondering “what’s next” for the powerful, famous men who have seen their careers come to a screeching halt because they’ve been outed as sexual harassers, abusers, coercers, and assaulters. Are they just done now, never to be heard from again? Isn’t that what they deserve? Amber Tamblyn is here to let us all know that yes, that’s exactly what they deserve.
In a scathing, powerfully written op-ed for The New York Times, Tamblyn steers the focus from the consequences of the atrocious actions of these men and places it where it belongs: on atonement. For the victims.
She notes she was inspired to pen this essay after engaging in conversation with “two influential, Emmy-winning writers, one a man and one a woman.” She says they were discussing the consequences that come with the recent influx of sexual misconduct allegations. The male acquaintance of Tamblyn’s focused on the difference between Louis C.K’s misconduct (whipping out his penis and masturbating in front of and next to multiple female colleagues) and Harvey Weinstein‘s (masturbation in addition to rape, assault, coercion, and harassment).
“‘We shouldn’t lump them all together,’ he insisted. The woman was firm with her response: ‘Yes, we can and we will. Choosing consequences doesn’t belong to you anymore.’” Tamblyn says the two went back and forth for awhile before the man asked, “Do you believe in redemption?”
To which Tamblyn writes the most epic response: “It’s a valid question. But it’s also a question that makes me deeply suspicious of its timing. Why do we need to talk about the redemption of men when we are right in the middle of the salvation of women? Not even the middle, but the very beginning? Why are we obligated to care about salvaging male careers when we have just begun to tell the stories that have plagued us for lifetimes? It seems some men like a revolution only when it’s their kind of war.”
Pardon me, I just fainted from an overdose of relief and admiration. YES, Amber Tamblyn, YES. Why is anyone worried about what will happen to the careers and lives of these men right now? Women are just at the very tip of the iceberg here; we haven’t even crossed the threshold into what this movement will produce in terms of, as she puts it, our “salvation.”
“We’ve been silent because we’ve been silenced,” she writes. “But women now feel comfortable telling such stories. And maybe even more important, we are seeing consequences for those actions. This is more than a watershed moment — it’s a flash-flood point.”
Women are finally taking down the Weinsteins and the Louis and the Lauers without fear. This is just the beginning.
Tamblyn says not everyone in her industry is happy with the way things are panning out. “There’s a lot of collateral-damage dread, a cloud of unease that has covered the industry lately with talk of potentially harmful side effects of such decisive actions.”
Which is true. Matt Lauer is a prime example of “here Today, making a cool $25 million a year, gone tomorrow.” That’s it, caput. Done. Finished. Don’t want a swift punishment? Don’t be an abusive asshole.
“The only way to enforce seismic, cultural change in the way men relate to women is to draw a line deep in the sand and say: This is what we will no longer tolerate. You’re either with our bodies or against our bodies. The punishment for harassment is you disappear. The punishment for rape is you disappear. The punishment for masturbation in front of us is you disappear. The punishment for coercion is you disappear.”
The discouraging truth about these consequences is that almost any one of these men could come back a year or two from now, spouting any number of bullshit apologies and lessons learned. And many people would be quick to forgive and forget and line up outside whatever giant venue Louis C.K. ends up headlining. But, as Tamblyn’s female friend put it, he’ll have to “find a new power” if he ever wants to make a comeback.
Perhaps that’s what we should be focusing on right now. Can there even be a “new power” for these men? Do they deserve redemption — in any form — for what they’ve done?
“We’re in the midst of a reckoning. It’s what toxic masculinity’s own medicine tastes like,” Tamblyn writes. “And people should allow the consequences to unfold, regardless of how it affects those they consider to be friends.”
“Redemption must be preceded by atonement,” Tamblyn concludes. “It is earned, not offered. If you want amends, you have to make them. You have to acknowledge the line in the sand. Once you do this, the next step is simple: Pick a side. Choose us.”