Aziz Ansari is the latest Hollywood guy to be thrust under the “Me Too” microscope, after a woman’s blistering account of (what I would consider) a terrible date/hookup with him that ended in shame, regret, and a pervasive feeling of violation.
I’m not here to minimize whatever this woman went through, nor am I downplaying what his actions were that night. I’m simply stating my thoughts about this. Of course, in this climate we’re simmering in, you’ll hear tons of different opinions about what really went down, from calling what Ansari did “sexual assault,” to propagating that the #MeToo movement is a “witch hunt” against men.
I’m frankly surprised at how all this has unfurled, especially regarding someone who is as outspoken a feminist like Ansari is.
What I took away from this account is a tale of misreading the room. Ansari allegedly did not respect this woman’s wishes to take it slow, though she did relent and eventually regret what transpired. No one is in the right, choices-wise, and what we’re left with is a whole bunch of people online trying to vicariously fix what went wrong. You get swaths of people saying “Well she did this so she obviously wanted it!” or “Well she should have just left!” or “She should have called 911!” or “She shouldn’t have said anything!”
What should she have done? It’s becoming more of a rhetorical question the more we discuss things, since we can’t change what was done or how past situations unfolded.
In any story like this, we can’t help but think back to our own experiences and tie it to this one. And, like many of us, I’ve had my share of bad hookups. Things that I knew in the moment I didn’t feel like doing anymore, but instead of stopping I just rolled my eyes and waited until it was over. But I do think it’s important to point out that just because it was consensual doesn’t mean I liked it. Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy to earmark what I should have done, namely saying “This isn’t working, let’s knock it off.” But I can’t change the past. And none of you online can either.
Alas, my experiences are not universal. People online are not shy about telling you that. Unfortunately, some of those same people have not yet learned that because a situation unfolded for you in a certain way, that doesn’t mean that it was like that for everyone else, or will continue to be like that for everyone else. And it’s much easier to tell another person what they should have done, especially when you think your reactions and world views are the be-all-end-all.
Everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s experiences are different. The best we can do for ourselves is not let one account define us as a species. Instead, we should perhaps learn from other people’s experiences, and know what we can do differently, should we find ourselves in another uncomfortable situation.
This story is certainly a cause for concern on many different levels for both men and women alike. In the end, I find it’s about the lack of respect we sometimes have for one another when our own desires take the reins. Finding the courage to tell someone when you’ve had enough and knowing when to back off are two important takeaways here.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s time for those we define as ‘woke’ to stop hitting the snooze alarm on their own wake-up calls. Here’s hoping 2018 will change that.