Over the past month, as more and more victims of sexual assault and harassment come forward to name their celebrity accusers, we’ve grown oddly accustomed to the pattern of these particular news stories: Someone accuses a celebrity of something terrible, we express shock/disappointment/lack of surprise, the celebrity in question issues a half-hearted apology, and we debate whether or not the apology was good enough. One potential problem with this process is that, after that first step, the alleged abuser seems to be in control of the narrative. The public becomes much more interested in their guilt or innocence and the tone of their apology than with the victims left in their wake. As The Daily Dot reports, poet Isobel O’Hare has been spending the last week addressing this fact by transforming these sterilized and unsatisfactory apologies into short poems that serve to reclaim the language of abusers.
“The Louis CK statement in particular, to me, seemed like it was Louis CK’s last chance to make everyone look at his dick one more time,” says O’Hare, who believes CK’s use of the phrase “my dick” and the recurrence of the phrase “these women” in many of the apologies are just further symptoms of the systemic sexism and narcissism that caused these incidents in the first place.
By redacting the bulk of these PR-finessed mea culpas, O’Hare draws out nuggets of truth and insight that the original author had no intention of revealing. “I came of age in a culture of demons I respect more than women,” reads O’Hare’s particularly scathing deconstruction of Harvey Weinstein’s apology letter.
“A lot of people don’t want to admit that George Takei could have done something because he’s been such an advocate,” O’Hare tells The Daily Dot in a warning to readers about the instinct to forgive or shrug off the actions of a celebrity just because you admire them. “What I was trying to say with my erasure of his statement was it’s not right for anyone in a position of power to ask to be trusted completely.”
Sadly, these accusations and their perfunctory apologies are likely only to become more numerous, and if survivors can use this technique to heal or empower themselves, as some have already done with a letter of support for Roy Moore, then O’Hare thinks “that’s fantastic.”