The Help Desk: Don't call it a comeback

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

One of the Seattle authors who was #MeToo-ed last year seems to be angling for a comeback. He was seen out on the town at a reading for the first time in months recently, and rumor has it he’s been taking meetings and trying to negotiate his return. I’m not a fan anymore, and I’m not interested in his redemption tour. But I am curious about how thoughtful and deliberate it all seems.

Cienna, do you think that shitty men can improve themselves? Has any man done a good job of responding to #MeToo? Is it even possible? Or is fame a privilege that, once you abuse it by abusing women in not-illegal-but-not-right ways, you deserve to have taken from you forever?



Dear Devon,

Whenever a human girlfriend invites me to her wedding, I like to take a voodoo doll of the groom as my date. This accomplishes two things: first, I am able to get fresh hair clippings (and once a tooth!) for the doll, which increases its shit-kicking power, and second, it reminds the groom that from this moment forward, his actions are being judged by at least one human being who likes grudges and pointy things.

It's the least I can do to counter the ceaseless waves of shit women endure. I won't get into the blah blah blahs of it because anyone reading this column is familiar with them, except to say that the #metoo movement has shown that this isn't an issue of a couple of rapey apples, just as the anti-abortion movement isn't about preserving life. Both illustrate that we live in a toxic culture that pigeonholes women as powerless sidekicks, virgin/mothers, or fuck-things. In that respect, can we blame men for treating us how they've been taught?

The answer is yes. Yes we can. And we can demand more than public apologies and rehab. We should expect sincere, personal apologies to victims, not blanket statements that try to deflect, explain, or minimize abhorrent behavior. We should expect to see these men ask pivotal questions like, "what can I do to begin to make amends for my actions? Where do I start?" We should expect change – like tough sentences for men who are convicted of sexual assault.

I don't think fame can be revoked at will, and even if it was, I don't think it would be as satisfying as it sounds. But we should expect that shitty men want to improve themselves for the sake of being better people (although I haven't seen convincing evidence of it yet). It would be a shocking but welcome evolution, like watching a whale shit out chic polar fleeces from all the plastic she's ingested.