“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months” (Flanagan 3).
This quote came at the end of the article The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari by Caitlin Flanagan. She had previously been examining the story given by the anonymous woman Grace and how it was used to attack the actor. She based it in the magazines and stories she had read years ago, and how women should recognize power that they have to say no. She ended with this idea that it was Ansari’s race that was the main reason why people were so eager to go after him.
I really have a bone to pick with this quote, but likely not for the reason Flanagan was intending. I had previously been bothered by her rant about girls knowing better and saying no, because it felt to me like victim-blaming. Especially when she went after the woman Grace. But this last bit really and truly bothered me, because it implies that the so-called ‘PC culture’ would lead people to look the other way when a person of color was accused of a crime. That powerful white men must be the only perpetrators of assault.
I recognize that this is likely a throwaway line, that I should focus more on that previous content where there was more clear evidence of ignorance. In a sense I do get what she is trying to say, because it links back to a previous QCQ of mine about how it’s important to consider the implications of who you are accusing. Ansari is, after all, a Muslim man and therefore more open to attacks. But I never once tried to claim that those considerations should prevent one from coming forward, and it disturbs me that a published author would.
In Disgrace, it’s impossible to ignore the time and place of the situation. The characters are exiting Apartheid South Africa, where life is still very difficult for black men and women. It is also true that wanting to remain silent is considering the climate of the area. Flash forward to here and now. Racism is certainly alive and well in America, despite it being years since slavery or the Jim Crow laws. It might be easy to say, ‘Well, that proves that this was an attack on the man’s race, and that white women are trying to take power away from him.’ I won’t try to claim that race is not a factor, that there aren’t still problems to consider with how easy it was to target Ansari. But I’m also not ‘so caught up in PC culture’ that I would ever try to say that one’s identity should excuse the actions they take.
It’s undeniable that, as an influential man, Ansari still had power over Grace. He still felt the need to disregard what she may have truly wanted. He also happened to be a man of color. Well, abuse of power is not unique to one race, even if it might be more common. Bill Crosby also happened to be a man of color. It’s hard for people to deny that what he did deserved punishment. Yes, intersectionality is important. Recognizing oppression is important. But it doesn’t matter that both of these men are of marginalized populations; they both did something wrong. It’s just as important to recognize that who you are doesn’t matter. What you do does.
What are some situations where considering race or other marginalized identities is important?
Class Discussion and Impact:
My contributions: I spoke more today than last class. I talked about potential victim-blaming in the first article, wondered if Grace had stayed because she wanted the night to go well since Aziz was this famous person, whether he thought the end result was always supposed to be sex, and how consent can change halfway through an act. I also clarified some of my feelings about this still being an assault and that it wasn’t Grace’s job to prove how it was, and shared an example of my friend who didn’t want to come forward about an assault because of disclosing trauma repeatedly. I had a bit of a back and forth with Maeve about how ‘ruining careers’ shouldn’t be a barrier to coming forward, where we both acknowledged that we weren’t trying to defend any perpetrators rather just to have a conversation. Finally, I talked about my uncertainties with Aziz’s apology, sharing a quote from Disgrace about apologies.
Others’ contributions: Me, Anna, and Maeve certainly spoke a lot, but other notable contributions were Hayley, who made sure to clarify that no one has the right to take control of another person and that assault is assault no matter who did it. Josh shared that he had always been taught that it’s up to men to be paying attention during a sexual act and that Aziz really should have known better. Saying that consent must be earned at every stage, even among close people, was very important as well. Koren spoke up a lot too, noting the importance of education for both men and women, but especially men. She also clarified about clear communication and the role of fame in this particular situation.
I enjoyed this conversation because we were all able to talk and share and be open about our perspectives. I was noting all the times I took issue with certain statements, but realized that I was still interested in hearing what others said and totally understood that they weren’t trying to hurt anyone just by speaking. This rang true with me and Maeve; I knew that she was passionate about women’s rights and that she wasn’t trying to cause harm, I just wanted to hop in and challenge a particular thought about ‘destroying careers’. I like that we resolved any potential issues right afterward as well. I think online it’s easy to dismiss these kinds of perspectives as trying to go against victims and women in general, but I was happy that I did not easily take offense as I normally might’ve.