In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Congratulations on your all-male panel, BYU

A crop from a poster for BYU's "Women in Math" panel, featuring four male speakers and no women
I mean, I guess. If you say so.

I have gleefully been introduced to Congrats, you have an all-male panel!, a blog dedicated to recognizing panels, seminars, and events that bravely manage to ignore the existence of women as academics and experts. It came to my attention because of today’s panel at Brigham Young University about “Women in Math” that happens to exclude a single one of those. (But there will be treats! So that’s cool.)

One commenter noted that he’s in a class taught by one of the featured professors, and even the professor thinks it’s weird… but not weird enough, apparently, to actually push back against it or decline to participate. (BYU happens to have five women on their permanent math faculty, two adjunct professors, and one visiting, but I’m sure they were all busy that day.

Female Conference Speaker Bingo: a bingo card full of excuses for not having more female speakers at STEM conferences
I’ll just leave this right here.

Black Panther Open Thread

Shot from "Black Panther" of three women in African dress against a rocky background -- Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia, and Danai Gurira as Okoye
Ayo (Florence Kasumba), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira)


So I saw Black Panther last night. My reactions, in no particular order:

– It was visually stunning. Literally. I was stunned at the visuals.
– The story held up the whole way through. I can count one specific occasion that made me go “eh,” and it in no way interfered with its effectiveness as a conceptually striking movie.
– The action sequences were so, so cool. If you’ve seen it, you know the one with the car? That one? Damn.
– Never has there been a greater concentration of staggeringly beautiful people in a two-hour period. It’s enough to give a girl a complex.
– Never has there been a greater concentration of unapologetically strong women — by the women themselves, the movie as a whole, or Wakandan culture — demonstrating all different manifestations of strength. It’s enough to inspire a girl to… absolutely anything.

Other, more pertinent, more articulate reactions:

Sesali Bowen, Refinery 29, Black Panther Has A Message For Black Men: Trust Black Women:

In no way does Black Panther downplay the role that Black men play in Black communities. T’Challa is faced with impossible decisions that test his own morality in addition to his fealty to Wakanda and Black people everywhere. It is male warriors from an isolated Wakandan tribe that act as reinforcements at a vital moment in the story. But the film actively rejects the notion that the participation/existence of Black men in the “good fight” negates the vital necessity of Black women. Similarly, the route towards realizing our maximum potential and freedom in the real world does not require a toll of reverting back towards romanticized ideas about Black male supremacy. In this fight, Black women are the equals of Black men and should be treated as such.

Damon Young, The Root, Yet Another Reason Why Shuri From Black Panther Is The Greatest Disney Princess Ever: This one is spoiler-laden, so I’m not going to post a quote here.

Taryn Finley, Huffington Post, Danai Gurira: The Dora Milaje Reflect Real Black Women, Except They’re Respected”: Also quite spoilery.

Tre Johnson, Rolling Stone, Black Superheroes Matter: Why a ‘Black Panther’ Movie Is Revolutionary:

Coogler has set out to do something with the modern black superhero that all previous iterations have fallen short of doing: making it respectable, imaginative and powerful. The Afro-punk and Afrofuturism aesthetics, the unapologetic black swagger, the miniscule appearances from non-black characters — it’s an important resetting of a standard of what’s possible around creating a mythology for a black superhero. The trailers point to a new direction for depicting not only black superheroes, but also how we imagine our heroes. He’s not being played for laughs. He’s not a sidekick or born out of dire circumstances. His story, one of an ingrained birthright, legacy and royalty is a stark difference for how we tend to treat most black superheroes — and black superhero movies.

Luvvie Ajayi, Awesomely Luvvie, On Wakanda: My Black Panther Review: Also with the spoilers, but also with the commentary of the clothes, the men, the women, the depiction of Wakanda, the conflict, the… everything.

A lot of other reactions on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatBlackPantherMeanstoMe (and an interview with the woman who started it).

Your reactions? Seen it? Haven’t seen it? (If you’re posting spoilers, please set them off with spoiler tags — (spoiler) and (/spoiler), except with square brackets instead of parentheses. XOXO, Mgmt.)

I reject the notion that our children have to die.

Screenshot of a tweet from a student in Parkland, Florida, as he takes shelter in a classroom while a former student shoots up the high school. The tweet includes photos from inside the classroom, and the text reads, "My school is being shot up and I am locked inside. I'm fucking scared right now."

Yesterday, a 19-year-old former student entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and pulled the fire alarm, drawing students and faculty outside so they could become easy targets for his semi-automatic rifle. He killed 17 people and sent another 14 to area hospitals with injuries. Students took shelter in barricaded classrooms, texting messages of love to their families while listening to their classmates and teachers getting gunned down in the hallways. The gunman was taken alive; the families of 17 children and adults weren’t so lucky. This was a tragedy and an atrocity, but I reject any notion that it was a mystery or an unpreventable inevitability.

I reject the notion that the price of liberty is living in eternal fear of what your neighbors are going to do with their constitutional rights.

I reject the notion that 183 dead and injured children between 2013 and 2015 are the price of liberty.

I reject the notion that any of our truly sacred rights are so very sacred that they must stand completely unregulated.

I reject the notion that adults should have unchecked freedom to make decisions that endanger the lives of kids who don’t have the power to speak on their own behalf.

I reject the notion that the only solution to school shootings is to arm art teachers and assign them the task of minimizing body counts.

I reject the notion that public school teachers get paid enough to be expected to act as human shields, no matter how willing they might be to give their life for their students.

I reject the notion that teachers should be given the responsibility of stocking their go-bags with tampons of the correct size to plug bullet holes in children.

I reject the notion that the world has changed so very much in the past twenty years that active shooter training is now a perfectly natural part of the school curriculum and not a terrifying sign of things gone horribly wrong.

I reject the notion that any “sportsman” would be excessively burdened by having to fill out a little bit of extra paperwork and waiting a couple of extra days to receive a device designed for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

I reject the notion that because things like trigger locks, gun safety laws, background checks, and other restrictions won’t eliminate mass shootings entirely, they shouldn’t be enacted at all.

I reject the notion that 18 school shootings in 2018 alone are the result of some mass epidemic of undiagnosed mental illness.

I reject the notion that our country devotes sufficient attention and resources to mental illness, and I equally reject the notion that that has anything to do with what happened 346 times just last year.

I reject the notion that politicians who accept millions and millions of dollars from the gun lobby have the right to offer their thoughts and prayers when children get gunned down in schools.

I reject the notion that a parent’s last contact with their child should take place on Twitter while the child cowers from a gunman in their school.

I reject the notion that it’s ever too early to start talking about these atrocities. I reject the notion that the only way to honor the victims’ lives is to never discuss how they could have been saved, and I reject the notion that such discussion is worth more than the empty air it’s spoken into if it doesn’t lead to action.

I reject the notion that no one knows why this happens or what do to do about it.

I reject the notion that we don’t know why this happens or what to do about it.

I reject the notion that we can pretend children’s lives are anything but expendable to us if we make noise about how tragic it is and then forget about it until the next mysterious, unpreventable tragedy occurs. I reject the notion that we can pretend their lives are important to us if we’re willing to sacrifice them to money and political pressure. I reject the notion that we escape culpability if we continue to elect and reelect legislators who bow to such pressure.

I reject the notion that wanton, unchecked death and destruction is just our new way of life.

I reject the notion that we have to live like this and our children have to die like this.

While We Were Out: Ivanka Trump “All Lives Matter”-ed Black History Month

Jared Kushner, in a tux, and Ivanka Trump, in a floor-length silver gown, pose in front of a mirror the day after Donald Trump issued his Muslim ban
Ivanka Trump shown here in the $5,000 Carolina Herrera gown she wore for Date Night as protesters swamped airports following the signing and immediate shitstorm enactment of her dad’s Muslim ban.

Feministe was recently down with technical issues, so of course that’s when Ivanka Trump would unload the dual Twitter turd of underscoring her father’s flat-out incompetence and super-duper racism in issues relating to equality, dignity, opportunity, and/or race whilst negating the “Black” part of Black History Month. In celebration of Black History Month, of course.

Good job name-dropping all the black history figures she could name off the top of her head. (Except for Frederick Douglass, who apparently gets no credit for the amazing job he’s done.) Just from an optics standpoint, she might have done better to shy away from subjects that called to mind the equality and dignity her father has afforded to John Lewis, the Central Park Five, black NFL players, La David and Myeshia Johnson, Frederica Wilson, April Ryan, everyone in Charlottesville not carrying a tiki torch, sorry, I need to go get a drink of water.

The more salient point, of course, is that black history gets ONE MONTH, and it’s the SHORTEST MONTH, and Ivanka Trump COULDN’T EVEN GIVE BLACK PEOPLE THAT. To paraphrase my mom when I asked why there’s no Children’s Day: SISTER, EVERY DAY IS IVANKA DAY.

Quick Hit: The biological realities of bad sex and really bad sex

Eggplant lying against a white background, with little protrusions that look like shrugging arms
Yeah, eggplant, I don’t get it either

A famous quote from Margaret Atwood lays out one of the big divides that stands between women’s and men’s life experiences: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” At The Week, Lili Loofbourow gives us a bad-sex corollary: Men think sex is bad when she’s just lying there, and women think it’s bad when we come away bleeding.

The real problem isn’t that we — as a culture — don’t sufficiently consider men’s biological reality. The problem is rather that theirs is literally the only biological reality we ever bother to consider.

So let’s actually talk bodies. Let’s take bodies and the facts of sex seriously for a change. And let’s allow some women back into the equation, shall we? Because if you’re going to wax poetic about male pleasure, you had better be ready to talk about its secret, unpleasant, ubiquitous cousin: female pain.


The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss “bad sex” suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. (Here’s a very unscientific Twitter poll I did that found just that.) But when most women talk about “bad sex,” they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. “When it comes to ‘good sex,'” she told me, “women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms.”

A complicating factor in the discussion of women and heterosexual sex, casual het sex, good sex, bad sex, leaving when we’re uncomfortable, is that woman are led to believe that being uncomfortable is just part of the deal. Fake orgasms are a pop-culture punchline and a subject for public debate, but usually the conversation centers around whether she’s being dishonest — not whether she’s encouraging him to wrap it up because, for a variety of reasons, “This hurts, please stop” is just something that frequently doesn’t make it into our vocabularies.

Women are constantly and specifically trained out of noticing or responding to their bodily discomfort, particularly if they want to be sexually “viable.” Have you looked at how women are “supposed” to present themselves as sexually attractive? High heels? Trainers? Spanx? These are things designed to wrench bodies. Men can be appealing in comfy clothes. They walk in shoes that don’t shorten their Achilles tendons. They don’t need to get the hair ripped off their genitals or take needles to the face to be perceived as “conventionally” attractive. They can — just as women can — opt out of all this, but the baseline expectations are simply different, and it’s ludicrous to pretend they aren’t.


In the real world, the very first lesson the typical woman learns about what to expect from sex is that losing her virginity is going to hurt. She’s supposed to grit her teeth and get through it. Think about how that initiation into sex might thwart your ability to recognize “discomfort” as something that’s not supposed to happen. When sex keeps hurting long after virginity is lost, as it did for many of my friends, many a woman assumes she’s the one with the problem. And, well, if you were supposed to grit your teeth and get through it the first time, why not the second? At what point does sex magically transform from enduring someone doing something to you that you don’t like — but remember: everyone agrees you’re supposed to tolerate it — to the mutually pleasurable experience everyone else seems to think it is?

More than 150 young women sent Larry Nassar to prison for life

Kyle Stephens was the first person to testify last week during Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing in Michigan. The former USA Gymnastics team doctor has admitted to having sexual contact with minors.
“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” – Kyle Stephens (Photo credit Geoff Robins/AP/Getty)

[Trigger warning for child sexual abuse, in this post and at all links]

Larry Nassar, a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing seven girls under the age of 15, with more charges to be addressed in coming weeks. (He was already in prison on a 60-year sentence for child pornography when this trial started.) But before sentencing, the judge heard victim impact statements from every accuser who chose to speak out. Originally, 88 women were expected to speak over four days. At final count, 156 women — empowered by what gymnast Aly Raisman called an “army of survivors” — gave statements over seven days, condemning Nassar and the systems at Michigan State, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic Committee that failed to protect them.

Almost universally, the women — most of them just girls, one as young as six years old, when the abuse started — came to him for sports injuries, and he took advantage of that trust by molesting them and calling it treatment. And then the adults they went to for help victimized them again, saying that he wasn’t the type of person to do things like that or that it was probably a legitimate treatment and they just didn’t understand, or acknowledging that it was a violation and then just not doing anything about it.

(The NCAA is currently investigating Michigan State over its mishandling of Nassar’s abuse. USA Gymnastics has cut ties with the training center where much of the abuse took place and suspended a coach with ties to Nassar, and the top three board members have resigned. The USOC has said it will launch a third-party investigation to figure out how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long.)

For his part, Nassar spent his time whining about how hard and unfair it all was, complaining in a letter to the judge that four days of statements would be emotionally taxing for him. The judge later read another letter of his from earlier in the trial in which he insisted, “I was a good doctor,” but “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Rachael Denhollander, who was the first woman to come forward about Nassar’s abuse, gave the final impact statement.

This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable

This is what it looks like. It looks like a courtroom full of survivors who carry deep wounds. Women and girls who have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it. Women and girls who carry scars that will never fully heal but who have made the choice to place the guilt and shame on the only person to whom it belongs, the abuser. But may the horror expressed in this courtroom over the last seven days be motivation for anyone and everyone no matter the context to take responsibility if they have failed in protecting a child, to understand the incredible failures that led to this week and to do it better the next time.

Judge Aquilina, I plead with you as you deliberate the sentence to give Larry, send a message that these victims are worth everything. In order to meet both the goals of this court. I plead with you to impose the maximum sentence under the plea agreement because everything is what these survivors are worth.

In the words of survivor Brooke Hylek, “I’m happy you will be spending the rest of your life in prison. Enjoy hell, by the way.”

ESPN has videos of and excerpts from some of their statements: Gwen Anderson, Jamie Dantzscher; Rachael Denhollander, Mattie Larson, Tiffany Thomas Lopez, McKayla Maroney (in a written statement), Emma Ann Miller, Maggie Nichols (in a statement read by her mother), Aly Raisman, Jessica Smith, Kyle Stephens, Amanda Thomashow, and Jordyn Wieber.

Y’all, Don’t Do This: Put a Pussyhat on Harriet Tubman

"Swing Low" statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem, with a pink knitted Pussyhat on her head
Just because you’re liberating your fellow enslaved people and infiltrating Confederate camps under cover of darkness doesn’t mean you can’t be cozy and adorbs. (Photo credit Twitter/Corey Townsend)

Someone put a Pussyhat on Harriet Tubman.

It was the memorial to in Harlem, the one with the roots of slavery trying to hold her back as she strides determinedly toward freedom, and someone knitted a Harriet-Tubman-statue-sized pink Pussyhat and then put it on her.

No one, to my knowledge, knows this person’s motivations. Maybe they were trying to be cute. Maybe they felt that were Harriet Tubman still alive today, she’d be wearing a Pussyhat and marching in the march. Maybe it’s an attempted show of solidarity, reaching back through the centuries to show that we are all one in our struggles or something or whatever. Maybe they felt a strong emotional connection to their own hat and felt that this was leaving a tribute to Tubman. Maybe they believed themselves to be a modern-day Harriet Tubman in their pink-hatted daylight march past a total of seven Starbuckses and felt that they should both have Pussyhats. I don’t even know.

But y’all, don’t do that.

Don’t put a cutesy pink hat on the enslaved woman who ventured back into the South 19 times to guide more than 300 other slaves to freedom all while being a cook, a nurse, a spy, and a gun-toting badass.

I get that you love your hat. For a lot of women, it feels empowering — it’s a reminder of a very special time when women all came together in a truly spectacular way. If wearing your hat makes you feel strong, makes you remember that day that you marched side by spiritual side with five million women around the entire world, I’m sincerely happy for you. It’s powerful to have something like that. (And hey, Pussyhats made it into Missoni’s runway show for Fall 2017, so you know your empowerment is tres chic.)

But not everyone feels that way, about the hats or, for that matter, the march. Trans women have said that the hats, and accompanying pussy-centric messaging, make them feel excluded because their lack of pussies has been a source of oppression for them by feminists. Black women have said that the hats are a symbol of a march and a movement that excludes them — a march organized in part by women of color and that then forgot about them, ignored them, shouted over them, and appropriated their history of oppression. A pink Pussyhat on Harriet Tubman is pretty much the sartorial equivalent of white feminists yelling, “Ooh, we want this one, too!”

Considering that mainstream feminism has been centering white women at the expense of everyone else since before Susan B. Anthony back-burnered black suffrage because it should be given to “the most intelligent first” and black women were pushed to the back of the Women’s Suffrage Parade, maybe don’t — even if you mean well, y’all, even if you’re trying to be nice — put a Pussyhat on Harriet Tubman.

Comparative lit professor Brigitte Fielder, Swing Low, White Woman.

An attempt to vest a nineteenth-century radical black woman with the accoutrement of twenty-first century mainstream white feminism misses the mark by evoking a false comparison. The statue of Tubman depicts her in the act of one of her several emancipatory journeys. In her dress we see embedded the faces of enslaved people she helped to free, at personal risk to herself. Behind her are the “roots of slavery” attempting to drag her back. Women’s March attendees generally occupy a place that is safe enough that they voluntarily bring their children with them. The vast majority of participants (myself included) are privileged in one or more ways, and extremely so by comparison. While not explicit, the image brings up the comparison of white women’s oppression to slavery — an argument resurrected from white liberalism’s antislavery past. Then and now, the too-easy comparison of Tubman’s struggle to that of free white women elides black women’s presence and activism.

Demetria Irwin, Why a white woman was dead wrong for defiling Harriet Tubman statue with a ‘pink pussy hat’ in Harlem:

Tubman was a true freedom fighter. Her objective was to get Black people free and she dedicated her life and her own liberty to that singular goal. The pink pussy hat brigade is a feminist lite reaction to real problems. Donning a stupid hat, retweeting a clever quip, and marching once a year does not make one a freedom fighter.

To put that piece of zeitgeist garbage on the head of a legend is profoundly disrespectful and shows a lack of understanding about intersectionality. Putting a hat on Tubman does not link these movements. It does not bring Black women into this fight.

Gender studies professor Treva Lindsey to Broadly:

“The pink pussy hat reduces contemporary social justice struggles to a very narrow vision of who and what people are fighting for in 2018,” Lindsey explains. “Symbolically, it centers white cisgender women. Most of these women were nowhere to be found at Black Lives Matter Marches or for undocumented people or for workers fighting for a living wage. The hat, for many, represents a continuation of a historical pattern in which white women center themselves and co-opt movements and justice work of more vulnerable groups.”

Sociologist Eve Ewing on Twitter:

Other people talk about Babe, Grace, Aziz Ansari, and consent (Updated)

A college student protests with a cardboard sign reading "#MeaningfulConsent"
Neither “next time” nor “slow down” nor just freaking lying there means “yes.” (Photo credit Tony Cairns/Flickr Creative Commons)

On Tuesday, I dismantled Caitlin Flanagan’s steaming hot pile of take on the moral failings of Grace — the woman who talked about her horrible date with Aziz Ansari — and feminism and modern women. Here are women who are also speaking on the matter and who aren’t just the worst person ever. (I have my own thoughts to come — and, like, lots of them, seriously, you’re going to be hearing about it, and it’s my blog, so I get to, so there, brace yourself.)

At The Guardian, Jill Filipovic (you might remember her) explains why this exposé was the wrong entry point into an important discussion about “sex, consent, pleasure and power.” The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity:

It seems to have been reported only because there was a celebrity name attached, and not even because the celebrity broke the law or leveraged his power to do wrong, but because he was sexist and sexually entitled – while despicable, that’s shaky grounds for broadcasting an individual’s sexual play-by-play.

As a result, we’re arguing about whether Aziz Ansari is a sexual assailant, and missing the more relevant conversation about sex, male entitlement and misogyny in the bedroom.


Journalistic integrity aside, this story missed the boat in a much more important way. It was only a matter of time before the focus of the #MeToo movement turned to sexist sexual experiences more generally. And here is where there remains much feminist work to be done.

At Jezebel, Julianna Escobedo Shepherd takes on Babe for using Grace’s story as a salacious, sensationalist entrée into the #MeToo conversation, sacrificing her best interests for clicks and exposing her to public judgment and abuse. Babe, What Are You Doing?:

Prestige incentivizes reporting, and although this is a positive development, it also means that more and more of these stories are botched. The revelation that Grace didn’t come to Babe, Babe came to Grace raises questions about the website’s eagerness to tell this kind of story and why. Reporting on sexual violence and misconduct is an incredibly delicate undertaking that requires a working understanding about how best to do it. At its most basic level, this means that reporters must be careful not to re-traumatize subjects, which includes consideration of the ways that their reports will be received — that is, often with skepticism and disbelief — and account for that with journalists’ sharpest tools: fidelity to confirmable facts, thorough arguments, and an abiding lack of sensationalism.


At its core, Babe’s piece about Grace is important, but the inexperience evident in the execution of the piece did a disservice to the topic—and it’s a shame, because its execution obscures an extremely valuable, timely conversation at a time when it seems finally possible to have it in a public forum… The areas in the account that feel clear to some readers and fogged to others are worthy of serious and good-faith interrogation, and yet just two days on, we are having arguments about bad faith thinkpieces and grotesque attempts to belittle Grace’s experience, rather than actually talking about the socially ingrained cultural and political disparity that shows itself in dating scenarios.

Shepherd also highlights some of the worst takes on the subjects:

[W]ithin hours, neoliberal icon Caitlin Flanagan had written a confused, disingenuous essay in The Atlantic using Ansari’s race as a rhetorical device for her disdain for #MeToo; within days, hardline carceral-state cheerleader Ashleigh Banfield was accusing Grace of harming the entire #MeToo movement. To no one’s surprise, The New York Times‘s Bari Weiss weighed in on Monday night, rolling her eyes at what she considered to be Grace’s requirement that Ansari be “a mind-reader.”

At KatyKatiKate, Kate offers one reason that many women are so quick to dismiss Grace’s experience as just “bad sex”: because a lot of women have been through that kind of thing themselves and don’t want to acknowledge that it might have been more than just bad sex. not that bad:

As a woman, I am supposed to take what’s given to me, to shrink my pain, ignore my bad feelings about what just happened, and generally be FINE WITH EVERYTHING! Also I have to have a good banana bread recipe.

What I’m realizing now, after reading Grace’s story and the responses to it, is that when I shrink my own pain, I also shrink my empathy for women who feel the same pain and feel it full-size. I resent Grace for talking about her hookup as if it’s an assault. I’m mad at her for talking about it at all.

But that’s not because she was wrong to talk about it. And it’s for sure not because she was wrong to go on a date, drink wine, or try to have a pleasurable sexual encounter. She wasn’t. She wasn’t wrong.

It’s because if what happened to her is a violation, then we are all violated. And everyone is a violator. And that’s a scary fucking world to live in. I don’t want that to be the world I live in.

At the New York Times, Lindy West outlines four decades of activism that have given men plenty of opportunities to understand how consent works. Aziz, We Tried to Warn You:

In 1975, 42 years before the comedian Aziz Ansari reportedly brought a date home to his apartment and repeatedly tried to initiate sex with her after she told him “next time” and “I don’t want to feel forced,” Susan Brownmiller published “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.”


There is a reflexive tendency, when grappling with stories of sexual misconduct like the accusations leveled at Ansari this past weekend — incidents that seem to exist in that vast gray area between assault and a skewed power dynamic — to point out that sexual norms have changed. This is true. The line between seduction and coercion has shifted, and shifted quickly, over the past few years (the past few months, even). When I was in my 20s, a decade ago, sex was something of a melee. “No means no” was the only rule, and it was still solidly acceptable in mainstream social circles to bother somebody until they agreed to have sex with you. (At the movies, this was called romantic comedy.)

What’s not true is the suggestion that complex conversations about consent are new territory, or that men weren’t given ample opportunity to catch up.

And at the Mary Sue, Teresa Jusino notes that Anzari’s statement didn’t give an indication that he actually understood what he needed to be apologizing for — and that it’s something that all men need to understand. What Aziz Ansari’s “Apology” Says About How Men View Their Encounters With Women:

First, in his original apology, he talks about “misreading things.” According to “Grace’s” account, she didn’t just rely on visual cues. She asked him to slow down, and he said he would…before immediately trying again. If that is true, then there’s nothing to “misread.” He simply wasn’t true to his word. If a woman asks a man to slow down, and the guy agrees to slow down, but his version of “slowing down” is trying for sex again two minutes later, and then proceeding to engage continually, that’s a problem. That’s him not really registering what she wants or needs.


The second thing that stood out to me is that, in his subsequent statement, Ansari says that everything “seemed okay” during their encounter, so he was “surprised” and “concerned” when she said that wasn’t the case. Her flat-out asking him to stop aside, it’s highly disturbing that, if she was even half as unenthusiastic about the goings-on in his apartment as she says, to him everything “seemed okay.”


Men are grown-ass adults who have work to do. If they suck at non-verbal cues, the answer isn’t “well, she didn’t say no, so…” The answer is for men to learn how to pay goddamn attention and get good at it. Women aren’t inherently better at reading non-verbal cues. It’s something we’ve been socialized and trained to do over centuries to better care for children and husbands.

I’m sure this conversation isn’t anywhere close to done — and honestly, I hope it isn’t, because despite this being a really shitty situation, it has the potential, at least, to open the door for important discussions. (The danger will be if it doesn’t open that door and remains a pointless exchange about Grace’s failings and Ansari’s reputation and why #MeToo is, like, totally bullshit.) Feel free to link to other pieces below, including your own, if you have something to say.

Updated 1/22. On Twitter, Bree Newsome points out pretty much everything that’s been gross for the past week:, Ashleigh Banfield, Katie Way’s email to Ashley Banfield, “derailing” #MeToo, everything. Thread:

Aziz Ansari is an asshole, and Caitlin Flanagan is also an asshole

Aziz Ansari standing against a blue background after receiving the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy at the 2018 Golden Globes
Certified Woke Bae and terrible sexual partner Aziz Ansari (Photo credit: Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock)

[Trigger warning for sexual assault]

Much of the country has been talking about the recent exposé by a woman, pseudonymously known as Grace, who went out on a date with comedian Aziz Ansari and ended up getting persistently and aggressively pursued, and aggressively kissed, fingered, and dry humped, plus a weird thing where he kept sticking his fingers down her throat, over her objections. In a statement Ansari released in response, he doesn’t dispute her account of the events of the night — he just noted that he’d thought she was into it.

Grace said she hasn’t had any contact with Ansari since the day after and had worked to process her feelings and move past it, and it was only the Golden Globes that brought it back to the front of her mind — watching him win an award, Time’s Up pin firmly in place on the lapel of his all-black tux, a “certified woke bae” and and self-described feminist who persistently shoved his hand down her pants after she specifically asked that he slow down. So she said something.

There have been a lot of analyses and responses, many of which I’ll get to later on this blog. But then Caitlin Flanagan decided to jump in — because of course she did — being, as is her way, the fucking worst. So here’s some stuff about “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari.”

The world in which it constituted an episode of sexual assault was so far from my own two experiences of near date rape (which took place, respectively, during the Carter and Reagan administrations, roughly between the kidnapping of the Iran hostages and the start of the Falklands War) that I just couldn’t pick up the tune. …

I was a teenager in the late 1970s, long past the great awakening (sexual intercourse began in 1963, which was plenty of time for me), but as far away from Girl Power as World War I was from the Tet Offensive. The great girl-shaping institutions, significantly the magazines and advice books and novels that I devoured, were decades away from being handed over to actual girls and young women to write and edit, and they were still filled with the cautionary advice and moralistic codes of the ’50s. With the exception of the explicit physical details, stories like Grace’s — which usually appeared in the form of “as told to,” and which were probably the invention of editors and the work product of middle-aged women writers — were so common as to be almost regular features of these cultural products. In fact, the bitterly disappointed girl crying in a taxi muttering, “They’re all the same,” was almost a trope. Make a few changes to Grace’s story and it would fit right into the narrative of those books and magazines, which would have dissected what happened to her in a pitiless way. …

Those magazines didn’t prepare teenage girls for sports or stem or huge careers; the kind of world-conquering, taking-numbers strength that is the common language of the most-middle-of-the road cultural products aimed at today’s girls was totally absent. But in one essential aspect they reminded us that we were strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak.

Here’s what my 40-year-old issue of Teen would have said about it. Ah, those were the days. I realize that “back when men were men and women were quiet” is kind of her brand, but it’s beyond stale all the way to gross. Her romanticization of a time when “the signal rule about dating… was that if anything bad happened to a girl on a date, it was her fault” is grotesque (and not because that’s still, in large part, a common attitude today, and something that #MeToo is having to struggle to counter). If she’d gone on to say that such an attitude is wrong and unwelcome in modern society, that would be one thing. But she only used it to accuse modern women, women who expect better behavior out of modern men, of weakness. (#MAGA)

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward — rejected yet another time, by yet another man — was regret.

Yes, how ridiculous it was for her to hope for “affection, kindness, attention” from a guy she was on a date with. Don’t most of us put on our cutest outfit to go out with a guy we have stuff in common with in hopes of getting hands in our mouth and a rough fingerbang? While Flanagan says that Ansari couldn’t read Grace’s mind, it looks like she herself isn’t so limited — she can postulate that maybe Grace was really motivated by a superficial desire for a celebrity boyfriend, and that what she really felt was rejection and regret — not, as Grace had said, discomfort and violation.

Twenty-four hours ago — this is the speed at which we are now operating — Aziz Ansari was a man whom many people admired and whose work, although very well paid, also performed a social good. He was the first exposure many young Americans had to a Muslim man who was aspirational, funny, immersed in the same culture that they are. Now he has been — in a professional sense — assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account. Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side. The feminist writer and speaker Jessica Valenti tweeted, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

Twenty-four hours ago, Aziz Ansari was still the type of guy who offered to just “chill,” because “it’s only fun if [they]’re both having fun,” and then immediately demand a blowjob. He was the kind of guy who repeatedly asked where she wanted him to fuck her after she expressed that she didn’t want him to. We just didn’t know about it yet. And we don’t know how this will affect his career — unlike other #MeToo accusations, Ansari’s doesn’t involve workplace harassment, and there hasn’t exactly been a flood of statements from the Hollywood elite giving any indication one way or the other.

We do know that many of the feminists who have spoken in support of the #MeToo movement have taken Grace’s side. But unlike so many other accusations of sexual harassment and assault, this doesn’t have the usual kind of “his side” and “her side” — he doesn’t dispute her account of their date, and she doesn’t dispute that he thought everything he did was okay. The two sides are a debate — and not an uncommon one — about whether what he did constitutes assault, whether she should be criticized for not immediately leaving, whether her objections were explicit enough to be accepted as such, what a man’s responsibility is to pay attention to a woman’s nonverbal signals, whether he should be let off the hook because of his inability to read her mind. Of any of Valenti’s tweets that Flanagan might have quoted, that one was possibly her most bizarre choice, because it was basically indisputable — a lot of men really are characterizing Ansari’s actions as everyday and reasonable, and a lot of women really are saying that society’s everyday-and-reasonable is not okay.

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.

It’s unsurprising, considering Flanagan’s self-acknowledged hatred of feminism, that she’d pull out any accusation that she could throw at feminists who are calling Ansari out and objecting to behavior like his. She can’t even bring herself to dispute the fact that feminists have been going after powerful white men for months now, but she seemed to take a certain amount of glee in pulling out “privileged” and “intersectionality and all that” to vilify criticisms, and critics, of a college-educated man with a decade-long career and a net worth estimated at $18 million and a Golden Globe that’s not two weeks old for taking “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you” as a lighted sign for the exit to beejertown.

Allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful — and very, very dangerous.

I realize that writers usually don’t get to write their own headlines, so I won’t ding Flanagan for this personally. But I can still criticize the implication that women are suddenly drunk on power and taking men down indiscriminately, but that once the Purge has ended, we’ll go back to letting our boss low-five us without complaint. That if we shelter in place for just a few more hours, it will all blow over and celebrities will once again be allowed to ignore “no,” on account of not being a mind reader, with impunity.

That it’s histrionic and vindictive to let women know that they might get unwillingly dry humped on a date with Woke Bae Aziz Ansari, and to let men know that while they’re happily oblivious to our discomfort (or pretending to be), women have been historically socialized to be polite and delicate in our objections, and that we prefer not to be raped by a man who may abruptly turn violent upon being turned down (which never happens, of course), so men would do well to maybe read the room once in a freaking while and not assume that she’s cool with it just because she’s not biting your dick off.

But don’t worry about it — women are only temporarily powerful. And dangerous. If we just ride it out, everything will go back to normal, and “no” will mean “convince me,” and only mind readers will be responsible for their actions.

Oprah won the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and her acceptance speech was everything

Oprah Winfrey delivers her acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes
Everything. (Photo credit Paul Drinkwater/NBC via AP)

Last night, Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. She started her shattering speech by recounting a moment from her own childhood, watching Sidney Poitier become the first black man to receive a Best Actor Oscar in 1964. And her speech only became more moving and heart-wrenching and inspiring from there. She talked about Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks, #MeToo and #TimesUp, women who speak their truth and women who don’t have that opportunity, and the hope for a brighter morning in a way that made you feel like it’s actually a possibility and not just some meaningless platitude people offer to make you feel better about the fact that it’s currently pitch freaking dark.

[Transcript here.]

Now, of course, the idea of “Oprah Winfrey 2020” is gaining traction, and don’t get me wrong — I like the general concept of President Oprah. But I also like the idea of not calling on a woman who’s already done so much to ride in and save our crumbling country, working actual hours and enduring attacks and going Obama-gray over eight inevitably difficult years. I want Oprah to do whatever Oprah does for fun, and when she feels inclined to stand up and deliver a life-changingly honest, inspirational message, we all sit quietly and listen.

Although I do think it would be cool if whatever experienced, knowledgeable, compassionate, intelligent non-celebrity we vote into office in 2020 would have the freedom to call Oprah for advice from time to time, like with a dedicated Oprah Phone on the Resolute Desk, because she is the best and that would be one of my favorite things.