A friend shared an article from the Opinion section of The New York Times
written by Bari Weiss this week which resonated deeply with me. Ms. Weiss
entitled the article, “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I think without seeming to espouse
disbelief or failing to support both my gender and those who have been
victimized. Having treated many women who are survivors of sexual abuse, I am
extremely sensitive to all the damage, as well as the difficulties for repair and efforts necessary for recovery. I would never want to suggest otherwise.
That said, being a woman, I am keenly aware of the role we women may play in instances when we do have the freedom to take care of ourselves when fear of danger or repercussions is not present, yet we do not feel on a fundamental level that we have the right to do so. We are severely hampered by our ingrained instinct to protect a man’s ego, even at our own expense. I’ve seen this repeatedly and have even experienced some degree of it myself, especially when I was younger. So I speak from personal as well as professional
It is not only men who need to be educated-it is women, as well. Ms. Weiss suggests that a woman’s inability to speak up “transforms what ought to be a movement for women’s empowerment into an emblem for female helplessness.” She asks the question, “Shouldn’t we try to change our broken sexual culture?
And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes.”
She goes on to say, “But the solution to these problems does not begin with women
torching men for failing to understand their ‘nonverbal cues’. It is for women to be
more verbal. It’s to say: ‘This is what turns me on.’ It’s to say ‘I don’t want to do that’.
And, yes, sometimes it means saying good-bye.” I completely agree with her statement
that “The single most distressing thing to me about Grace’s story is that the only person
with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. Grace is merely acted upon.”
She continues, “To judge from social media reaction to Grace’s story, they also
see a flagrant abuse of power in this sexual encounter. Yes, Mr. Ansari is a
wealthy celebrity with a Netflix show. But he had no actual power over Grace —
professionally or otherwise. And lumping him in with the same movement that
brought down men who ran movie studios and forced themselves on actresses, or
the factory floor supervisors who demanded sex from women workers, trivializes
what #MeToo first stood for.”
I believe that we must learn the distinction between “learned helplessness” and true victimization, and that discerning that is not often an easy task, but is an essential one in achieving true equality.
Weiss states that “The feminist answer is to push for a culture in which boys and
young men are taught that sex does not have to be pursued like they’re in a porn
film, and one in which girls and young women are (Parentheses mine-‘entitled
and’) empowered to be bolder, braver and louder about what they want.“
Interpreting male behavior as predatory when a woman has not made a clear verbal
statement of what’s okay with her and what’s not, serves to perpetuate a model of victim/victimizer. It interferes with and inhibits a healthy conviction that we are all deserving of respect, understanding and clear communication. The recognition of the difference between someone’s actual power/desire to harm us and our own power to resist when possible is an essential component in any interaction between two adults, not only in the sexual realm. Failure to learn these things moves us all backwards in the quest for achieving both a healthy sexual culture and true gender equality.