Eh. I’m on Team Aziz in believing that what happened between him and “Grace” wasn’t a #MeToo incident, just a clumsy seduction by a celebrity in a hurry, but it’s too pat to say Grace should have threatened to kick him in the nuts, as Whoopi does below. One grand lesson of the Pervnado stories that have emerged over the last four months is that sometimes you don’t know who is and isn’t a Weinstein until it’s too late. (Many of Weinstein’s own victims, like Annabella Sciorra, claim they had no idea he was a monster until he was barging through their door.) Kick the wrong man in the nuts when he gets “handsy” and God help you. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them,” wrote Margaret Atwood. That’s one reason, I assume, why some women resort to “non-verbal cues” to signal their reluctance during a sexual encounter instead of delivering a point-blank “no.” How much worse will it be if the guy on top of you hears that and gets angry?
Two words, ladies: Concealed carry.
Don’t forget either that Ansari’s famous. Another grand lesson of the Pervnado is that some famous men think they can get away with anything, with good reason. They can hire lawyers, they can pay hush money, they can pull levers of economic pressure to quiet a victim down. They have friends in high places who may be protective of them. I pause here to gently remind you that, four months on, Harvey Weinstein still hasn’t been charged with a crime. If you’re a young woman who accompanies a famous man to his apartment after a date, odds are good that he’ll expect something from you and that it’ll be extraordinarily difficult for you to prove misconduct later if it occurs. Grace didn’t mention any calculation like that in her piece about Ansari but it’s a hard reality for any woman post-Pervnado. You’re vulnerable anytime you’re alone in private with a strange man but you’re especially vulnerable if he’s rich, famous, and likely used to getting what he wants without serious repercussions. In fact, I think that’s one reason why so many people have defended Ansari: He showed more concern for Grace after she told him how uncomfortable the encounter had made her than you’d expect from the average scumbag celebrity.
There’s another Ansari-related “hot take” of the past 24 hours that I don’t understand, the Grace is killing the #MeToo movement! theory. Watch Ashleigh Banfield detonate on Ansari’s accuser last night on HLN. Quote: “[W]hat you [Grace] have done, in my opinion, is appalling. You have chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades, a movement that has finally changed an oversexed professional environment that I, too, have struggled through at times over the last 30 years.”
How is it a setback for #MeToo when it’s Grace, not Ansari, who’s getting killed in the media by people like Banfield and “The View” and Caitlin Flanagan and Bari Weiss for how their date ended up? It’d be a setback for #MeToo, potentially a movement-ending one, if they agreed with Grace that Ansari’s behavior was “sexual assault” a la Weinstein’s and Russell Simmons’s and the rest of the miscreants’. The average person would dismiss that as ludicrous, declare #MeToo a well-meaning experiment that had been captured by nutty “all sex is rape” feminists, and stop paying attention to all but the worst #MeToo stories in the papers. By going to such lengths — correctly — to defend an accused man (a celebrity man at that) and exclude Grace’s account from the #MeToo category, Banfield et al. are reassuring people that it remains the province of real misconduct. And, by extension, that real misconduct really does happen. Harvey Weinstein didn’t have a “bad date” with Annabella Sciorra. It’s night and day, and women with a media megaphone are wisely making that clear.
But even if they weren’t, it does a disservice to the average American to think that they’d write off the entire #MeToo movement because of an overcooked lament like Grace’s. People aren’t stupid about this. They’ve read the stories about Weinstein and SImmons and understand that’s serious business. Having Whoopi Goldberg turn on Aziz Ansari wouldn’t get Weinstein off the hook in the public’s imagination for a very well deserved rape charge. If you’re using Grace’s story to write off #MeToo, chances are good that you were looking for an excuse to write it off anyway. Most people aren’t.