After the allegations against Aziz Ansari came out, it blurred lines in the #MeToo Movement. Though most people believe Grace’s story, it was unlike much of the rest of the #MeToo movement, which Framke points out in her explanation. From less extensive journalism procedures, to the history of Ansari, to the situation Grace expressed, more fervent critics arose and the movement became divided. Expressing the movement had moved to “too much”, critics began wanting to the end the unique movement as it crossed a line. This line, essentially, is that incidents like this are far too common. By crossing this line arises a huge question for all of society- what should these consequences be? Should there be any?
This question remains a suppressed one. In a male dominated society of “Men want[ing] what they want”, they don’t want consequences. Gay analyzes this in “Blurred Lines, Indeed”. Men dominate, and those who question this need to “lighten up”. Pop Culture and government are just two examples of this, but it describes society as a whole- viewable in the #TimesUp Movement and Hollywood. Though we finally are questioning it, some people are going through the same dilemma Gay faced. Unsure of the blurred line between lightening up and taking action, this is what drove the #MeToo Movement to be long overdue.
In her essay, “Blurred Lines,” Gay makes her argument against restrictive legislation for reproductive rights by comparing the government’s misogynistic behavior to that of popular music. Gay argues that if we continue to ignore pop music’s prejudiced messages against women, which reduce them to merely objects, then it’s no wonder we’re finding it so easy to also ignore the government’s encroachment on women’s rights. Gay ties this analogy together with the repeated phrases, “Men want what they want,” and “Lighten up,” to represent the similarities between prejudiced music and prejudiced legislation, arguing that in the end, they both cater to the desires of men and the consideration of women’s judgement as practically worthless. The “men want what they want” argument feels strikingly similar to the “boys will be boys,” “locker-room talk” justifications behind Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes, so Gay’s argument feels very relevant—we don’t only have congresspeople who disrespect women, but a president who does as well.
In the Ansari piece, Framke makes several points that relate to the “blurred lines” Gay mentions. Because the Ansari story had several elements that made it difficult to identify as “sexual assault”—the arguably careless reporting by Babe.net and the fact that the allegations weren’t nearly as incriminating as those of the Weinstein scandal—reveals the blurred lines between the sides of the #MeToo movement. At what point should an allegation be taken as a case of sexual assault, at what point can it merely be indicative of a larger social tendency to disrespect women, and at what point can it just be written off as a misunderstanding? I agree with Framke that Babe.net’s reporting made it difficult to judge the Ansari story; however, it appears as though the Ansari story does address many of the assumptions men make about dating and what women want without really realizing it.
In both “Blurred Lines, Indeed” by Roxane Gay and “The controversy around Babe.net’s Aziz Ansari story, explained” by Caroline Framke they explore the culture of implicit or unclear sexual assault.
Gay discusses how many artists often “blur” the lines between implicit and explicit sexual violence. Often there are “undertones” of sexual violence which in ways can be more dangerous because they are more readily accepted or dismissed by society. After being called out for his song, “Blurred Lines” Robert Thicke addressed this issues (or didn’t address it) by saying that “Men want what they want” which implies that a women’s opinion is marginal in decision making around sex which isn’t consensual. These attitudes are reflected often in both music and comedy which makes them harder to address because they are cast aside as just being jokes. She argues that this attitude isn’t just a pop culture phenomena but is also reflected in the decision making of our lawmakers. Controversial decisions around reproductive freedom often stem from men in government inhibiting women from having the autonomy to make personal choices around their reproductive health such as access to birth control and especially abortions. This stems from the same culture reflected in “Blurred Lines” where men make decisions for women without consulting them or without their best interest in mind.
This “Blurred Lines” attitude is also related to the themes discussed in The controversy around Babe.net’s Aziz Ansari story, explained”. A women who went on a date with Aziz Ansari and went back to his house afterwards felt deeply uncomfortable with his sexual advances and later told the story to Babes.net. Framke argues that men like Ansari “focus on their own desires without recognizing what their partner wants” which creates a reality for women where sex is a “gray area between pleasure and pain”. Aziz Ansari’s in his public image and show “Master of None” were commended for addressing issues such as sexism and sexual assault. This made the woman’s story that much more surprising but also concerning. Though the woman didn’t experience explicit, extreme sexual violence, she was very uncomfortable with the events that happened.
Something that stood out to me in Sullivan’s “Wolfpack” was her transition into different scenes. On page 8, Sullivan describes the kiss between Arya and Margina, which is a very happy and lighthearted scene in the extract. However, this is immediately followed by a negative tone discussing the man who showed up, which was a very difficult part of the story to read about. I felt very upset while reading this extract, as Sullivan described the emotional and physical vulnerability of the characters through the multiple narrators, making the images powerful and illustrative of the reality that Sullivan wanted to portray. This is also shown through Verniece’s story, which had themes of strength, which contrasted with the encounter with the man, which came across as more vulnerable and terrifying – the threats of sexual harassment and derogatory terminology definitely put her in the victim’s position, making the audience sympathize with her.
Through the multiple viewpoints, Sullivan presented the power of words, as many of us have already highlighted, and the way she caters her writing to suit these different perspectives allows the reader to have a holistic interpretation of the experiences of the different characters. In doing so, Sullivan almost forces the reader to empathize with the incarcerated women in the story.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s Wolfpack revolves around a group of girls who experience both a verbal and physical attack that leaves them feeling extremely vulnerable. I honestly had a difficult time reading the story. Sullivan did a really good job of infusing her words with the characters’ emotions— more specifically, their pain and suffering. One theme I thought to be especially apparent was the power of words and the effects they have on the “Lesbian Wolfpack.”
On the night of their attack, the man verbally abuses them, calling Verniece a “goddamn elephant,” saying TaRonne “look[s] like a fucking man,” and threatening to “fuck [Sha] straight” (13). His verbal abuse leaves the women speechless and unable to defend themselves against him. Earlier on in the story, Luna differentiates animals from humans by saying, “the only real difference between people and animals is people talk. That’s it” (9). Through verbally assaulting the women and taking away their words, the man dehumanizes them and “[tears] the person out of [each of them]” (14). Even in court when the women are placed on trial, the judge again strips them of their words and minimizes the significance of the event through saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones,” alluding to the saying that “words will never hurt me” (16).
This story demonstrates just how powerful one’s words can be and the magnitude of the effects it has on a person. Being a person and an individual means being able to express oneself freely through using words, and these women were not able to do that. In addition to emphasizing the power of words, this story also highlights how many women’s experiences are often disregarded and deemed unimportant. It made me really sad to think about this, but also made me realize that many women are often mistreated and not taken seriously.