Ansari was accused of ignoring "verbal and non-verbal cues" that she did not want to have sex with him.

By Toria Sheffield
January 16, 2018

On Saturday, January 13th, a story was published on Babe.net which detailed one anonymous woman’s account of her night with comedian Aziz Ansari. The woman — known only as “Grace” — said she and Ansari went on a dinner date, at which point Ansari hastily ushered her back to his apartment and proceeded to ignore countless verbal and non-verbal cues that she did not want to have sex with him. Grace noted that while he didn’t technically force himself on her, she left feeling utterly violated and pressured into unwelcome physical intimacy. “I cried the whole ride home,” she recalled.The account resonated with countless women who have found themselves in similar situations, and many are now calling Ansari out on his “faux feminism” (because you can say you respect women all you want, but the behavior described by Grace was anything but respectful).

However, Caitlin Flanagan, a writer in her mid-50s, has published an op-ed in The Atlantic entitled, “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari,” in which she all but blames Grace for what happened that night, writing that her story in Babe “destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.”

Flanagan also claimed that young women of her generation were “stronger” than young women of today.

She argued that magazines of her day— while old-fashioned in many ways — at least consistently told girls and young women to assert themselves against forceful men.

She concluded the thought with, “In so many ways, compared with today’s young women, we were weak; we were being prepared for being wives and mothers, not occupants of the C-Suite. But as far as getting away from a man who was trying to pressure us into for sex we didn’t want; we were strong.”

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here.

But let’s start with the blatant mischaracterization of days of yore. Flanagan’s account would have us believe that women of her generation lived in a near-utopia where in which women never had anything bad happen to them when they said no to a man or “slapped” him across the face; nor apparently, did women ever feel subjected to ambiguous power-dynamics that left them unsure how to act in a stressful or uncomfortable moment. (Spoiler alert: That is absolutely not the case).

And let’s make one thing clear: Women — and men — are often harassed and assaulted even when they say no or try to fight back, and to say that women who are abused just didn’t assert themselves hard enough reveals a gross misunderstanding of the nature of rape and assault.

But even more importantly, Flanagan completely misses the point of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

Advocates of this cultural moment don’t want to be taught how to fight men off when they “inevitably” “get fresh.” They don’t want to have to carry “mad money” around for when a guy gets angry for being rejected. They want to live in a world where men are taught to treat women with dignity and respect — a world where they never have to fight or feel pressured in the first place. And this is the world that every human deserves to live in.

Instead of listing all the things Grace could have done differently, Flanagan’s time would have been better spent discussing all the things Ansari should have done differently/what he failed to do. Like actually listening when a young woman told him she was uncomfortable and did not want to have sex, or recognizing the power dynamic of the situation and (respectfully, earnestly) asking for her consent.

Again, in case it isn’t clear: The onus of avoiding sexual harassment, pressure, or assault should not be placed on the victimsbut on the men who harass, pressure, and assault.

We were disheartened to read Flanegan’s misguided op-ed, and hope she takes some time to listen more and judge less when it comes to the brave women who are attempting to hold powerful men accountable for their actions. Because it’s about time.

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