There has been an outpouring of sexual harassment and assault claims in the media from women across generations against men of all races, careers, and ages. Some of the most talked about have been against men in all genres in the arts: Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Peter Martins. These men have been put under investigation, removed from their positions, and in some cases, fired completely. After they are gone, however, a question stands: should their art remain?
Can an artist and performer really be considered separately from his or her body of work? In my own personal experience as a performing artist, I have found that every project I work on has a little piece of myself in it, even if I am portraying a character with an entirely different personality. If this assumption is true, that a piece of art has at least a small part of an artist, then does art made by people who have been found guilty of sexual harassment and assault deserve to be easily accessible and shown?
One might say that what these men have done in their own personal lives does not reflect their work. It is true that each of these men and other accused have contributed a great deal to each of their fields respectively as well as the arts world as a whole. The argument could be made, then, that their art is still important, regardless of what the artist did. Their art deserves to be seen and heard and listened to because it is a stand-alone entity in of itself. And what of the other people that might have been involved in the work—in removing, say, one of Louis C.K.’s movies from a popular streaming database, the goal of not supporting a sexual predator would be achieved, but at the cost of other artists whose work was also important in the movie.
On the other hand, it could be considered impossible to separate the artist from the art: how do you tell the difference between the dancer and the dance, the actor and the monologue, the musician and the music? In allowing art by men who have admitted to or found guilty of sexual harassment and assault, the message that these men’s voices still deserve to be heard through their work. The arts are a universal language, and one that should be utilized as such. But is it worth it to let an already loud voice perpetuate the arts world at the cost of silencing other voices out of fear, shame, or sheer volume? Or should the arts be a vehicle for quiet voices to finally be heard?