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The Reckoning Of Men In The Time Of Rape Culture

There is a power imbalance and there needs to be a shift. This shift isn’t just about prosecuting men guilty of sexual assault, but also about changing the culture of sex and dating.
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Aziz Ansari

I am a feminist. I also love men. I respect men. I am inspired by men. As a woman … or rather, as a human of this world, I don’t want our culture to turn into a constant questioning and side-eying all all men. I fully understand that mistakes are made in life. No one is exempt from this. I’ve had experiences where men have hurt me in the physical, emotional, and mental sense and I was able to forgive. But forgiveness needs to come with accountability, and a deep-thinking dissection of a situation. It’s a layered resolution, one that doesn’t get patched up with a “sorry” stitch secured by a #TimesUp pin.

There is a power imbalance and there needs to be a shift. This shift isn’t just about prosecuting men guilty of sexual assault, but also about changing the culture of sex and dating. True change will only come if we look at every layer. Backlash over the #MeToo movement is bullshit. I'm not a fan of curse words, but in this case I need to call it. Change is painful. It's hard. It's messy. But it has to happen, and we have to build on this momentum of change. And that’s why the recent comments from Alec Baldwin, Liam Neeson, Aziz Ansari, and Catherine Deneuve can set us back. We need to process all of this and have an open dialogue.

Alec Baldwin spoke out last year about his past indiscretions and let the world know that he had “ treated women in a very sexist way.” He went on to say, “I’ve bullied women. I’ve overlooked women. I’ve underestimated women. We’ve got to be vigilant in a new way to make sure that everybody is comfortable and that we get the job done together that we’re there to do.” It was refreshing, at that time, for him to own up to his wrongdoings. We can forgive.

But earlier this week, Baldwin went on to defend Woody Allen, calling the spotlight on Woody’s longstanding accusations “unfair” and “sad.” He essentially was trying to silence Dylan Farrow, Allen’s adopted daughter who accused him of sexual abuse.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for Woody Allen? Has Woody Allen really faced unfairness in this life so far?

Another to disappoint is Liam Neeson who called the #MeToo movement “a bit of a witch hunt." He also referenced Dustin Hoffman’s touching of “some girls’ breasts” and called it “childhood stuff.”

Is he saying that unwanted breast touching is okay because you do it when you’re 10? It’s this message that is particularly dangerous. It’s that old fall back of “locker room talk” we all know so well. We are not going to tolerate that anymore. Children, in particular, need to be taught about consent or they may grow up never knowing what it really means. They may grow up to think it’s okay to continuously put pressure on women to do things they said they don’t want to do.

A great example of this is the situation involving Aziz Ansari. While on a date with “Grace,” Ansari ignored verbal and non-verbal cues to stop sexual activity. Let’s remember that Ansari wrote a book about dating. He is a comedian and knows how to read a crowd. And yet he blundered. His statement on the matter isn’t terrible. He believed their encounter was “consensual” but did say that he responded to Grace privately upon learning she was uncomfortable and said that caused him “concern.” He added, “I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”

It’s experiences like these that are dehumanizing. It’s experiences like these that continue to happen because some feel it’s “sad” to call out a man’s bad behavior and that it’s just “childhood stuff” or “locker room talk.”

Also hurtful was the fact Catherine Deneuve signed a letter that said the #MeToo movement is a “media lynching” of men that has gone too far. Deneuve later apologized calling it a misunderstanding and felt that articles on the letter were “distorting the spirit of the text.”

All of this is distorting the mission of the #MeToo movement. We can't let it.

To quote Ansari, this movement is “long overdue.” It is nuanced, but we have to look at every part of it to institute change. This is rape culture, so deeply embedded in childhood games, teenage dating, adult romances, and workplace imbalances. The culture isn’t going to change unless we uncover all of it, even the parts that seem benign. Because they’re really not -- they are all experiences that hurt and perpetuate the imbalance.

Entitled masculinity is a culprit in Hollywood and with the rich and famous. But it’s also seen on college campuses (Brock Turner is just one case that comes to mind), big cities, and small towns -- it knows no boundaries. It’s a learned behavior, set forward by our culture that didn’t allow women the right to vote until 1920.

Women know far too well the persecution we have faced for simply having a vagina. If anyone’s been hunted, it’s women. We have been men’s prey for far too long. We witches are simply hunting for equal pay and equal rights. We refuse to be viewed as conquests or achievements. But that doesn’t mean we hate all men. We just don’t want to police your actions; that’s your job. It is in these actions where you should put your power, to see this movement as an achievement in humanity.

I don’t want us to look at all men in a negative light, or wonder if they belong in the Weinstein or Ansari category. Though we might have to for a bit. We are sorting through experiences, wading through the pain and mess of centuries. To make change happen, you have to get through the hard parts. And that’s why openly discussing why any injustice -- illegal or morally wrong -- needs to be a part of this conversation. We can hold these men accountable and not want to burn them in Salem. We can accept that mistakes are made provided there is accountability. We have to sift through every layer to get the issue at its core. The power issue. The power only becomes equal through change.

Words are obviously important here -- and everywhere really. The #MeToo movement should not go away, and so we need to be mindful when we discuss it. We need to listen to each other -- fully hear and take in what others are saying -- and be open to expanding our way of thinking. It’s okay to have it wrong, to say the wrong thing. This needs to happen so we can create change. We can help each other see experiences, understand them, empathize. The dialogue is happening now so we all get on the same page and move forward in a positive way.

It may seem we are all walking on shards of glass (especially men) and we are. That glass ceiling is raining down. This is the precise moment we need to see the reckoning of men, of women, of all of us. Those shards of glass at our feet are like mirrors. Let's all take a hard look at ourselves.