When I read the babe article by Katie Way about Aziz Ansari, it brought to mind the very small number of men I have met at NYU. While NYU is a great school aimed at nourishing the creative souls of entrepreneurs like Aziz, the article brought to mind the smug smiles of other Sternies like alum Ansari himself.
Many of the men I interact with proceed to ask me the same questions. Why do you care about something that’s not unified? Why do you care about something that is microscopic on the scale of global issues and the political climate and Trump and sh*thole countries?
Why do you give a sh*thole? They desperately want to know, searching in my eyes for the fleeting hope that this girl they once thought might be attractive might be tainted by the f-word. The f-word that conjures images of hairy woman who sulk unhappily with their foster cats. F-word, she’s a feminist. He rolls his eyes and walks away.
“Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry,” sounded vaguely familiar. It sounded like something I had been told before, and it was usually in response to being overtly clear about not wanting something.
The thing is that many Sternies have a common goal—money. With money comes power and with power comes confidence. The confidence to pretend that the signs of consent are missing. For all of you who think that I’m generalizing about the men at NYU’s Stern School of Business, I just want to say: clearly I’m misreading something and I’m truly sorry.
I didn’t want to write this article to discuss whether I think laser hair removal is empowering or to disclose if I shave my armpits because frankly, it’s none of your business. The media coverage around what is or is not feminist has becoming overwhelmingly disappointing. Bari Weiss’ opinion piece “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader” made me chuckle. Weiss graduated in 2007, so it’s likely that she didn’t have to sit through the mandatory consent training that universities are now implementing in American schools. Your friend turns to you and yawns. Who doesn’t know what consent is? The answer seems obvious until it isn’t.
“Most of my discomfort was expressed in me pulling away and mumbling. I know that my hand stopped moving at some points,” Grace said in babe. “I stopped moving my lips and turned cold.”
The babe essay was moving but also extremely sad. It is sad to imagine someone I once loved and admired as a typical Sternie. It’s strange to consider that maybe Ansari isn’t just a comedian, best-selling author and filmmaker, but he’s also a person. He’s a son and a self-identified feminist. It’s sad, but it also reminds me of why I didn’t post #MeToo on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m sure “Grace” decided to remain anonymous because she was scared of the trolls under the social media bridge. Same.
There are always trolls like “Abo” from Paris lurking in the comments section:
“Aren’t the rules important here? If it’s No means No, then Mr. Ansari sounds to be in the clear. But if it’s Yes means Yes, then Mr. Ansari is at fault, since apparently Grace didn’t apparently say Yes. Of course, if Mr. Ansari is following No means No and Grace expects Yes means Yes, the result will be miscommunication.”
Clearly, Abo slept through the part of the consent demo where there are the deliberate gray areas, at which point everybody starts looking around the room. Clarifying questions become imperative. Do you mean that adults still function on a “No means No” basis of communication where we are too emotionally unintelligent to miss nonverbal cues?
No means no! I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever said that was in kindergarten when most communication consists of things you’ve learned to repeat verbatim.
Another insightful troll notes, “No wonder she wants to remain anonymous.” Grace wanted to remain anonymous for the same reason I didn’t post a #MeToo. I didn’t want my experience with sexual harassment to seem illegitimate. A hashtag didn’t feel like enough, and I knew that it would appear on the news feeds of my friends and family, and they would scroll past with questions that I couldn’t provide answers to.
I was sexually assaulted in a bathroom stall on my 21st birthday. Fortunately, I was coherent enough to express that I wanted to get out and was too drunk to do so of my own will. He politely opened the door. If I were slightly more drunk, I may not have been able to say anything. If my friends weren’t looking for me, he may not have let me leave. There are a lot of what ifs that I have become an expert in not thinking about. I also know that this isn’t just about me. According to the results from an ABC News-Washington Post poll, “More than half of U.S. women have experienced unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from men, three in 10 have put up with unwanted advances from male co-workers and a quarter have endured them from men who had influence over their work situation.”
I didn’t want to post a #MeToo because, like Grace, I consider myself to be a realist. The truth is that the majority does not give a shit. They will forget the meaning behind the hashtag by the subsequent post about my awesome vacation (follow me on the ‘Gram if you’re curious). But I think the troll is wrong about why Grace remained anonymous. She remained anonymous because the key thing to remember is that we have a choice. A choice to agree. A right to disagree. When you read this headline, you probably thought, oh, great another feminist who is ready to discredit the #MeToo movement, and that’s exactly what I wanted you to think. I am inspired by Grace’s bravery that I may one day possess.
Marsha Maria Ranieri is a student at New York University. She is marsha_maria on Instagram.