The Overwhelming Power of Men

Both the blurred lines and Aziz Ansari articles deal with the overwhelming power of men, even though we have made huge strides as a society to stray away from it. In the blurred lines article, Gay shows the sexual assault done by Thicke with his disgusting lyrics of having a sex with a girl, when she says no. Thicke is implying that when a girl says no, she really means yes. Because it’s such a catchy song, many people know the lyrics and only reinforces the male dominance in an unacceptable way against women. Even Gay says that she has to lighten up and realize that it’s part of the culture, and that some parts of the pop society have ventured into those jokes.

 

The Aziz Ansari article shows the similar power in a different way. In this article, Ansari shows his power with many people tending to believe him and dismiss the victim’s case as nothing. This case is more complex because it isn’t blatant sexual assault. It seemed that there was fault on both sides, where Ansari seemed to not pick up the signals of the other. However, the power shows when many people discredited Grace’s story and felt it was silly that she couldn’t speak up and leave when she was uncomfortable. They put too much blame on the victim without looking at the other side as carefully, and shows how women and their stories tend to be stooped to a lower level, even though there has been movement to stray away from that for years.

The Power of “Manhood”

In these two readings “Blurred Lines, Indeed” by Roxanne Gay and “Babe.net’s Aziz Ansari Story, explained,” the normativity of sexual harassment and assault against women is discussed.

Through her analysis of the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, Gay explains how this hit song implies that “when a woman says no she really means yes” (187). She also discusses how incredibly problematic this is, and how messages like this being perpetuated by pop culture can only reinforce the disturbing trend of male dominance and abuse in our current society. In the Vox article addressing the Aziz Ansari scandal, there is a similar factor of influence from popularized culture. Aziz Ansari, who was accused of sexual assault in an article published by Babe.net, is an incredibly prominent and well-liked actor. He has also made efforts to popularize the feminist movement, and has openly said that he believes everyone should be a feminist. I personally find it very interesting to look at these two cases of successful and famous men in the media, and how they seem to be excused from inappropriate behavior towards women, even when one of them claims to be in complete support of women and publicly denounces perpetrators of sexual assault.

In the chapter from her book, Gay talks about how “so much of our culture caters to giving men what they want” (189). This is clearly present in the discussion about Robin Thicke’s hit song, as he made statements claiming that “men want what they want” in regard to the way that he talks about and views women (187). clearly, this is an example of misogyny, as Thicke blatantly objectifies women and emphasizes their purpose as bringing pleasure to men. It’s hard, then, to compare him to someone like Aziz Ansari, who is so beloved in popular culture and who was supposedly one of the good guys. Yet, he has still demonstrated an alarming amount of disrespect towards women, especially in the context of him deriving pleasure from them. In the story from Babe.net, he is characterized as someone who does not pay attention to signals that he should stop what he’s doing, and who forcefully attempts to get women to perform in favor of his own sexual pleasure. Whether or not one chooses to interpret the behavior of these men as sexual assault, the fact remains that they are still placed in a social position where they are able to be dominant over women, and where they can use women to get what they want with little regard to their existence as human beings.

A Man’s World

In both Roxanne Gay’s essay, “Blurred Lines,” and Caroline Framke’s article, “The controversy around Babe.net’s Aziz Ansari story, explained,” the subject of implicit versus explicit sexual consent is explored.

Through her analysis of both Robin Thicke’s hit single, “Blurred Lines,” and legislation regarding abortions, Gay asserts that in this current society and culture, “women exist to satisfy the whims of men… [and a] woman’s worth is consistently diminished or entirely ignored” (Gay, 189). In Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” many of the lyrics suggest that when a woman says no, she actually means yes or maybe. When lyrics like this are expressed in a song that is so widely accepted by society, the undertones of sexual assault and violence are absorbed by society and no longer seen as taboo, but are accepted. Though the subject of sexual assault and consent are serious, it is often difficult to address them as such because of how they are often cast aside as jokes. Gay continues to argue that this way of thinking is not only limited to artists but is also reflected in the judgments and decisions made by our lawmakers. The controversy surrounding abortion rights often stem from men in the government and often interfere with women’s abilities to make decisions that are personal. Much like the “Blurred Lines” mindset, this school of thought again demonstrates how many men tend to make decisions for women without first consulting them with the assumption that they know what women want more than the women know themselves.

Similarly, in her article, Framke also highlights society’s tendency to dismiss and belittle the prejudices that women face through examining the story of Grace and her date with famed comedian, Aziz Ansari. Although there were many elements in this case that made it difficult to legally consider Grace’s date experience as sexual assault and the careless reporting by Babe, many critics dismiss her story by saying that Grace was just “making something out of nothing, a bad date in which Grace failed to speak up and physically leave when she felt uncomfortable” (Framke). Regardless of what actually transpired on Grace’s and Ansari’s date, it is yet another demonstration of how many women’s stories are disregarded and belittled.

Themes and controversies

I really enjoyed reading Roxanne Gay’s piece on pop culture and women’s sexuality being taken advantage of. What especially struck me in the piece was her shift between topics. Her discussion ranges in topics, from music, to abortion, to male persistence. It was very refreshing to read such a wholly encapsulating piece that seemed to summarize the majority of problems that women face in the US lately. However, I was hoping for a deeper analysis of the song in the title – Blurred Lines. In my sophomore year of high school I analyzed the lyrics of Adam Levine’s “Animals” to find more and more oppressive language and become horrified about the reality of the song’s message. Although it was not clear that Gay would be doing the same with Blurred Lines, this was still implied.

Aside from this, I was very impressed by Gay’s writing. Specifically, her discussion about abortion resonated with me. Growing up in Dubai, questions to pro-choice vs pro-life were not ever debated, unless behind closed doors and only within the company of liberal-minded people. This is because the UAE follows Sharia law, therefore abortions are illegal and not discussed further. It was very refreshing to read about the topic in more detail with a clear example of why being pro-choice is not a bad thing. Overall, her argument was sarcastic and fun to read, but slightly convoluted because she discussed many topics in a short space.

When reading the Aziz Ansari article, I was very interested in finding out about why the conflict about the scandal was prevalent. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I would think that most allegations would be taken seriously, however it was pertinent in the article that there was more controversy about the scandal than I thought. I was especially struck by the mention of Ansari’s private vs public persona, which I would definitely like to analyze further in day-to-day social groups.

Male Entitlement: Will We Ever Catch a Break?

I saw many similarities in Roxane Gay’s piece about Robin Thicke and Aziz Ansari’s alleged behavior outlined in the Vox article. Both men think it’s okay to dictate what a woman wants. It is odd that men think they can discern whether a woman is okay with their advances. This probably rooted in their inherent misogyny and entitlement, but when I was finished reading both pieces, my main takeaway was that we’re in too deep and nothing we do will solve our problems because they’re ingrained so deeply in everyone’s psyches that even if we did work to change the way we speak about consent and what not, we wouldn’t be able to see the tangible results of our work in our lifetime. I could be wrong though. As I was reading the Vox article, I asked myself questions like (though many of them were answered later on in the article) : Is it worse in Aziz’s case because he touts himself as a liberal feminist ally while not practicing what he preaches? Why does he do this? Entitlement? Fame? Is he really making a difference if he is preaching to people who probably already agree with the sentiments he’s expressed?

 

Blurred Lines in Society

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.

The Call of the Oppressor

In both Roxane Gay’s “Blurred Lines, Indeed” and Caroline Framke’s explanation of the Aziz Ansari scandal, both authors reference the efforts of men and women (though mostly men) to tell women to shut up about sexual assault and harassment. The examples of these incidents occur frequently on a large spectrum, from the literal (such as Donald Trump literally telling his accusers to shut up), to the more figurative. Both articles, however, introduce the issue in slightly different ways.

In Framke’s piece, she describes the silencing of women as a process of denial. Framke describes part of the backlash against the Babe.net article as a retaliation of people who believe that the #MeToo movement has gone too far. Regardless of your thoughts on Aziz Ansari and his actions, the #MeToo movement has undeniably uncovered countless powerful men who have abused their power to harass and assault women without consequence. The backlash then strikes a blow to those wishing to change power structures, as they are essentially denying the actions of more powerful men.

For Roxane Gay,  the call of the oppressor for quiet comes in the form of diminishing the experience itself; in her words, they tell women to “lighten up.” Here, the men do not deny that the allegations of sexual misconduct, but rather claim that it doesn’t matter. For many, this is almost more dangerous than the other kind; to assert that the actions of men upon women simply do not matter is not a debate that can be easily fought, since it is not based on any logic. Thus, there is no way to stop such rhetoric, which very well may lead to more assault and misconduct in the future.

 

The Blurred Lines Analogies

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.

Acceptance of implied sexual violence in media is dangerous

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.

Multiple narratives

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.

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