#MeToo, Alexander Pope, and Our Binary World, Babe.net, Binary Thinking, Context, Either-Or, Feminism, Gender, Grace, Hypermasculinity, Intersectionality, Jade Martin, Katie Way, Larry Nassar, Maturity, Misogyny, Mrs. Buckley, Privilege, Rohingya Crisis, Sexism, Sexual Assault, The Rape of the Lock (1715), Whiteness
Part of me knows that some of you will assume that I shouldn’t be discussing this on my blog at all. I’m a man, a Black man, a middle-aged Black man, so what do I know, really? I haven’t been on a date with anyone other than my wife since 1995. And my own history with hypermasculinity and sexism combined with my exposure to patriarchy and misogyny should disqualify me from making any comments on Babe.net’s “Grace” piece, right?
But I do have a few things to say. That is, after a week of reading tweets, articles, Facebook posts, as well as conversations with my wife and a couple of friends. Most of the divide has been between those adamant that “Grace” was a #MeToo victim of some form of sexual violation and those who believed that her evening with Aziz Ansari was little more than a bad date. This is yet another time in which the American penchant for seeing the world as white or black, or in computer code, as 0s or 1s, can literally blind most from the truth. Both sides are sort of right and sort of wrong. And like an electron (which can be in two places seemingly at once), this isn’t a binary issue. It’s a both-and situation.
Ansari was a doggish pig. Period. His intent with “Grace” was purely sexual. He saw her as a piece of meat (or, really, a “piece of ass”). That would explain both Ansari’s words and actions as Katie Way wrote them last week. Does that make his sexist? Of course!
Ansari also tried to persuade “Grace” into full-blown intercourse a couple of times after she had expressed her uncomfortability with moving beyond kissing, oral sex, and other fondling. Coercive behave is also doggish, venturing toward the misogynistic. All of this is true, and is certainly part of how entitlement and patriarchy can work together in sexual relationships.
Context, however, is always important in any situation. Especially one that isn’t as cut and dry as what Way described regarding “Grace” and her Ansari date. So many have harped on the idea that questioning “Grace’s” decision-making in any form is the equivalent of what misogynists do to rape victims. Not true. Not when the power dynamic is limited and diffuse at best. Not when Ansari never used physical coercion or the threat thereof to get the sex he obviously wanted.
And certainly not when “Grace’s” actions didn’t line up with her word. Some have argued about the inability of men to read the subliminal subtext of women when they are saying “No” or “I’m leaning toward no.” And for many men, this may well be the case. For so many women, being too direct may well lead to a verbal or physical confrontation with a misogynistic man. But that negates the context of Way’s piece. “Grace’s” physical responses and cues throughout the sexual encounter either belied her words, or her words were simply unclear.
Truth is, after their first try, Ansari should’ve not only just stopped, which he did. He should’ve also immediately called “Grace” a cab and sent her home. But in even writing this, isn’t this as much a form of ceding power to patriarchy as it would be a sign of sexual maturity, at least on Ansari’s part?
Truth is, “Grace” should’ve also have been clearer with herself about what she wanted from her date. And should’ve just ended the date, rudely, discreetly, with clearer words and clearer actions, either at the restaurant or after the first sign of being uncomfortable. Because feminism is about taking charge of one’s own womanhood, and not just merely resisting patriarchy and misogyny with mealy-mouthed language.
Truth is, “Grace” had very different expectations of Ansari and that one-and-only date. The kind of expectations that are a bit immature, especially for a women who thinks that “[y]ou guys are all the same. You guys are all the fucking same.” That the main divide among women who’ve commented on “Grace” is age (with the over-under around 35 years old) is telling. Some will say that women (especially younger women) shouldn’t put up with legal yet boorish behavior, either. So don’t!
Truth is, “Grace’s” story via Way’s article is a hit piece, a sort of revenge for Ansari bursting her internalized image of him as one of the few “good guys.” “Grace” got to violate Ansari’s private life because she was enraged that Ansari saw her as little more than a piece of sexual meat. And while Ansari showed himself on this date with “Grace” to be a sexist pig, this isn’t a #MeToo moment.
Unless, of course, we distance ourselves from context, privilege, and intersectionality. Most assume that “Grace” was a 22-year-old White woman. Probably. But even if not, Way’s article about “Grace” is drowning in Whiteness. Especially when considering “Grace’s” relatively lofty expectations that Ansari would be different from other men. Especially when taking the approach that she wanted Ansari to calm her down after the awkwardness of their first sexual try. What made “Grace” think that he was so different? What made her actions as confusing as they were?
The Sturm und Drang over this hit piece reminds me of when I read Alexander Pope’s mock epic poem The Rape of the Lock in tenth grade. I might not remember much from Mrs. Buckley’s otherwise boring-ass English class in 1984-85, but I do remember the story of how a war started because a baron cut a lock of Belinda’s hair and kept it. It’s also typical of how race riots and lynchings of Black men often occurred, over perceived slights and embarrassing winks.
Speaking of intersectionality, where have all the “Grace” defenders been this week on serious #MeToo issues? Where have they been on Jade Martin for the past week, as a video of her assault at the hands of a Pizza Milano manager in Pittsburgh went viral, an instance of both racism and misogyny? Where have they been on the sentencing phase for Larry Nassar, a man who sexually assault over 100 young women and girls over decades? Where are they on the Rohingya, as the Myanmar security forces have admitted killing and raping women and children while driving them out of the country?
No, for so many privileged, younger, and White American women, a bad sexual encounter with a man whose sexual sexism was obvious is more important that the felony assault of a Black women for wanting to use the bathroom. The last week has shown yet again the racial, ethnic, class, and even age divide that has plagued #MeToo ever since it became more about White women and less about marginalized women and people.