Image: Slodak Photography

I‘ve been thinking about the Aziz Ansari babe.net article since I first read it. I initially went through a roller coaster of feelings and opinions after reading (disappointment in an actor I liked, anger at the normalcy of the situation described, flustered by my changing feelings on the right/wrong/moral implications of it), and then came the texts, the Facebook threads and tweets. Throughout this entire #MeToo reckoning, I can hands down say that this Aziz article has spurred the most personal debate. I think we can all (dear god I hope) agree that what Weinstein did was legally and morally wrong. However, it seems there is an extremely wide gap on peoples’ feelings on what went down in the Aziz situation.

So naturally, I had to write about it.

Whenever something like this happens my first inclination is to take to the interwebs to read ALL of the accounts. And lucky for me, there were a TON of pieces written (and still being written) in the aftermath of this article. My second inclination is to tweet about it and share articles I think capture my views via Facebook (if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know this). But after a few likes or responses, the conversation likely fades and we’re onto the next topic. But this was NOT the case this time – I started getting texts, emails, and gchats from friends wanting my take, wanting to express their opinions, and wanting to dive into this entire account further.

Out of all of this, I will say that this is the MOST positive thing coming from the Aziz article: how much conversation and debate it has started. I was surprised by some of my girlfriends’ views (siding more with the “why didn’t she just leave?” Bari Weisses), I was not surprised by some of my guy friends’ views (isn’t this just a bad hookup?), but overall I was just damn enthralled to be having these critical and necessary conversations. As I said to every friend I texted or messaged with, no matter what side of this you stand on, I welcome open, respectful dialogue – how else are we going to grow and learn from all this?

From all my conversations and readings, I couldn’t stop coming back to this series of questions:

  • Why do we expect women to do all the changing here?
  • Why can’t we expect more of men?
  • Why do we have a society where two people go through a sexual experience such as this and one leaves in tears/feeling assaulted and one leaves thinking it was just a bad hookup?

To me, nothing else matters in this situation. Aziz Ansari’s career is far from ruined (so please spare me the “bombshells, expose, and *groan* revenge porn” speak in articles), while I think journalistic integrity (especially in this day and age) is critical, I think criticizing babe.net’s ‘horrible’ journalism detracts from the overall points made & discussion, and I’m not sure I can handle one more woman or person telling me “she should have just walked away.” Because that last point brings me right to my first question: why do we expect women to have to do all of the changing here?

It’s ALWAYS the women that are at fault, non? Just don’t work with that guy, don’t be an actress (yes a thing my male coworker actually said to me), just walk away, just don’t wear a low-cut shirt, just just just just …. Let’s not spend too much time delving into what actually happens when women reject men but instead, ask the question: why is it always the women that have to change our actions and behaviors?

Which leads directly to the next question, why can’t we expect more of men? One of my all-time favorite Michelle Obama interviews had Michelle (much more eloquently) speaking on this topic. She said:

“It’s like the problem in the world today is we love our boys, and we raise our girls. you know. We raise them to be strong, and sometimes we take care not to hurt men and I think we pay for that a little bit and that’s a ‘we’ thing because we raise them,” Obama said about raising boys into men.

“It’s powerful to have strong men but what does that strength mean?” she asked. “You know, does it mean respect? Does it mean responsibility? Does it mean compassion? Or are we protecting our men too much so they feel a little entitled and a little, you know, a little self-righteous sometimes? But, that’s kind of on us too as women and mothers, you know, as we nurture men and push girls to be perfect.” [via Real Clear Politics]

The Aziz situation is a gendered, societal problem. Not a legal one, and maybe not even a moral one, it’s a societal one. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to change. It desperately needs to. It hurt my soul to hear/read people say things like “shouldn’t Grace have just expected this to happen? She showed up at his apartment … she started hooking up with him, what did she expect?”

UGHHHH I DON’T KNOW? MAYBE SHE EXPECTED A DECENT GUY THAT DOES AN ENTIRE STANDUP BIT ON NONVERBAL CUES TO UNDERSTAND HER NONVERBAL CUES.

Maybe she expected that she could go on a date and even though things went down one path, she wanted to change her mind once things started happening.

 : Hey, sexually active humans. Just wanted to remind ALL of you that you should be able to go to someone’s apartment after a date without the expectation of sex, and you should be able to CHANGE YOUR MIND at any time once there. This shouldn’t be so hard to understand.

I asked friends, haven’t you ever been in a situation where you acted one way or did something and then later wondered why the heck you didn’t do x,y,or z? There is a reason why you didn’t act, or couldn’t act. It’s called the patriarchy and it’s called societal norms and it’s what Meghan Murphy tells us, directly leads to rape culture (this whole thread is a must read). One of the things that has made the Aziz situation stay with me so long is how freaking NORMAL the whole thing seemed/felt. I think 99.9% of people have experience what happened. As Megan tweets:

 : We all see this behaviour as ‘normal’ BECAUSE IT IS NORMAL. It is completely normal for men to push and prod and pester and whine and coerce women into sex. The goal is to ‘get’ sex regardless of what she wants. Men have learned this is an acceptable way to relate to.

So last question, why do men and women (people?) seem to have such different views of the bad hook-up scenario. Well, we’ve already touched on society and gender roles and the way we raise men and women, but the end all and be all of this is consent. This whole situation is really about consent and the conversation needs to shift from only teaching that “no means no” and more that we should “ask for a yes”. As Lainey Gossip columnist Sarah puts it, “[Aziz] was waiting for a no … he never asked for a yes. … The burden must shift from waiting for a “no” to asking for a “yes”. “No” is a word so inherently dangerous many women do everything in their power to avoid saying it outright anyway. But “yes” is a word everyone likes. It’s a word of action, it’s not lack of resistance but willful engagement.”

Jameela Jamil offers something similar with her take, “But it has indeed sparked an interesting conversation about consent, both technical and more importantly, emotional, and how vital it is to read the room and make sure the other person is not just willing, but damn well enthusiastic.”

And so where does all of this leave us? I agree with my friend Katie, that nothing about the babe.net article made me think Aziz is a sexual abuser or molestor or bad guy – he’s just sadly, a very normal guy, but, I don’t think guys realize how their normal makes women feel like utter garbage ALL THE TIME.

 : I don’t think Aziz Ansari is a bad guy. I do think he and a lot of other not-bad-guys don’t realize that they make women feel like shit on the regular.

So we need to continue having these (tough, hard, emotional) conversations. We need to talk about consent. We need to ask questions, demand more of men, and look to future generations of how we can change our society. Because I’ll be damned if my daughter has to still be feeling these feels, dealing with these “normal” situations, that too many women deal with today.

For an even better take on my opinions on this whole topic, this article on The Cut is EVERYTHING I have felt/thought/decided upon. I just had to share it too. Thanks for reading!

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