It sucks to write this. Aziz Ansari was praised for his feminism. And yet, here we are — reading an account of Aziz allegedly taking advantage of a woman. Given how pervasive and normalized sexual assault is, I’m not surprised at where we find ourselves. What’s also not shocking is the buzz that this encounter was just an average date. This is NOT normal. This is sexual assault and it feels normal because we’ve all experienced this exact scenario without realizing its true nature. As this account spreads, differentiating between what’s healthy sexual behavior and what isn’t is crucial to helping women and young girls unlearn the messages they’ve received about how they should be treated.
This news about Ansari highlights an important part of #MeToo and #TimesUp: ensuring we hold all men — especially men deemed as “feminists” — accountable for their words. In 2018, it can be attractive and profitable to wear a pin on your suit, rock some black, or be seen at a rally. However, feminism and the fight to be treated equally is not a trend you can wear on the red carpet and take off at home. You can’t be crying feminist by day and be snuggling up with the patriarchy at night. Equality is not a PR or marketing campaign. It’s not empty words. It’s a lifestyle or nothing. And in 2018, you won’t get away with the knock-off brand of feminism.
If you’re a man and you’re not prepared to embed equality into your life, both on small and large levels, then you’re not helping. Stay home and do some inner work. What good is your feminism trending on Twitter if you’re treating women IRL, on an everyday basis, as objects? What good are your social media posts about how to treat women if you treat one woman like a queen and another one like crap?
I’ve witnessed many men self-proclaim themselves as feminists without realizing that you become an ally by invitation. Act. Show up. Prove it. Then, let us call you a feminist. In my personal experience, the men who self-proclaim that they are “feminist” are often blind to the times in which they undermine women because they feel they are immune. Owning your privilege means recognizing that you don’t own the space in which the fight against privilege is fought on. That also means recognizing we shouldn’t be expected to make you feel comfortable on this turf — it will challenge every message you’ve ever been told as a male. Be prepared to sit down and be humble (as Kendrick Lamar would say). Your ground here is earned.
If you’re showing up for the Women’s March but you’re not showing up for Black Lives Matter, that’s not feminism. If you’re speaking out against sexual assault but you miss the point about mansplaining or the wage gap then please, get your ears checked. If you’re not outraged about immigrants and transgender individuals being stripped of their rights then take a seat. Selective feminism has no place here. Being a feminist means you hustle and speak out for the rights of all women and not just a few of your choosing.
No matter who you are, with male privilege comes responsibility. You have a responsibility to be a feminist in public and in private on that date. You have a responsibility to use that power for good. You have a responsibility to actively listen and to pave the way for equality. And most of all, you have the responsibility to show up as an all-around, real feminist — not a faux one.