I’ve been thinking so much about this whole #metoo #timesup and its many faces and now the #azizansari story and what I want to say about it that I’ve become almost paralysed by it. Perhaps that’s how “Grace” felt while she propped herself up on the kitchen counter and began sharing intimate parts of herself with a man she barely knew but desperately wanted to meet, carefully considering the exact dress she thought would be best for the date. Paralysed by the ambivalence of what she wanted and kind of didn’t really want all at the same time. And not quite sure how to either voice this to him or just show him with her actions or was just so confused that she kept it to herself until she had an epiphany right in the middle of what they both apparently agreed to was acceptable for a first date. Cutting out any meaningless banter for a first date night and leaving just a little more to the imagination isn’t too important to “Grace” since it appears she’d been in a similar situation before, evidenced by her own admission as she walked out the door crying, “You guys are all the fucking same,”.
That’s the problem with us women. I’m a little like that too sometimes if I think about it. We’re complicated creatures. It’s really hard sometimes to communicate precisely and accurately how we feel about something and we can we feel aggrieved or upset if not properly understood. Often we sulk and that’s no good either. But as Caitlin Flanagan reminded me in her Atlantic article (https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/the-humiliation-of-aziz-ansari/550541/?utm_source=fbb)
I was taught that if I didn’t like what someone was doing to my body, I had to get out of that situation fast! Slap him if necessary. Isn’t that what you were taught?
So there remains still one of the primary issues between men and women: ineffective and insufficient communication between us. Yes I know. Social workers go grey trying to work out best methods but clearly we still have a long way to go in this.
But there’s another big problem here and this concerns our young girls even more because it’s also about self-respect and social media; it’s about understanding corresponding rights and obligations and a sense of justice which to me is always preferable to raw revenge; it’s about trying to get to some sort of standard in the #timesup debate in a silent, respectful way because shouting was never as effective as whispering to get someone to listen. That’s what I was once told though that doesn’t mean I’m any good in practice, does it?
Maybe I’m just getting a little out of touch but it appears even Jessica Valenti, the outspoken and liberal feminist writer agrees that the ‘currently normal sexual’ behaviour of women is sometimes harmful. We need to start making some changes then, not so? What we maybe need to tell our teens and new twenty -something daughters is that it’s not such a bad thing to be a little more discreet with how we act and what we want and how much we should reveal to the outside world. Even in mainstream media, the messages seem to me too flippant, too crass, too raw. In the Huffington article (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/entry/aziz-ansari-sex-violating-but-not-criminal_us_5a5e445de4b0106b7f65b346
the author (who happens to be the executive editor of the magazine) relates a similar story to “Grace’s” and I am thinking to myself, hang on a minute, are you sure you want to tell us all that? WHY?
The crux of her message is of course that she too realizes that we need to have ‘complicated conversations about sex that is violating but not criminal’.
Because somehow it feels like the only way to get attention and show how strong and capable we are is to act with free abandon and inconsequential intimacy because then we can be cool chicks. (And I’m talking specifically about our young ones here) But then if we don’t like it, we can just haul it all out on social media and create a big stink and make-believe that we had nothing to do with why we were there and what we really wanted and where we are in the world. And where we are, as women, is that we are trying so hard to get to equality that we have conveniently forgotten, that men have rights too. The older I get, the more I realize that ‘fairness’ is not an often used expression in the prospectus of school curriculums or in dealing with the prevalent patterns of patriarchy. More than that though, is that because the structures of ‘social conformity’ are regulated by a slow and expensive and often ‘unjust’ justice system, many believe it’s okay to use the world’s online stage as your own courtroom where you can stand as accuser and judge in the exact same line of #Twitter.
But perhaps this is NOT the way to get the mess of men and women to live happily ever after. Sometimes we need to recoil a little, be the tortoise in its beautifully geometric shell and think more carefully about how we want to be. And then creep slowly and quietly in the world.
Of course the pendulum always swings further than it should when it comes to big issues. And #metoo is a BIG ISSUE. I just wonder whether when it stops, it’ll still have a solid base from which to start swinging again.
There are far greater and more eloquent writers weighing in on all this. It must be so satisfying when you know that everyone is waiting to hear what you think about things; what you think and what you say and how your words can be copied around the globe. But now’s the time to be giving more woman a voice.
I agree with what Barbara Kingsolver says. We are indeed complicated creatures. “Men and women alike find ourselves disoriented, wondering what the rules are. Women know perfectly well that we hate unsolicited sexual attention, but navigate a minefield of male thinking on what “solicit” might mean. We’ve spent so much life-force on looking good but not too good, being professional but not unapproachable, while the guys just got on with life.” (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/16/metoo-women-daughters-harassment-powerful-men)
In the end though, we all come from different places, different perspectives. What’s vital now is to show our young girls that with youth and the privilege of opportunity on their side, they have the power to choose how they will conduct themselves in this intricate pattern of pleasure and pain they are sure to experience in a world full of men. For they are not alone in it.
Listen to the options our young women have. As Barbara says: “Women who wish to be more than bodies can use our brains to discern context and the need for cultural education. In lieu of beguiling we can be rational, which means giving the accused a fair hearing and a sentence that fits the crime …..Polarisation is as obstructive in gender politics as in any other forum.”
So let harmony and fairness outweigh hostility in every possible outcome.