Women Are Free to Speak About What Happens to Them in Private
My entire, very liberal news feed is plastered with stories about how what Aziz Ansari did with some woman wasn’t sexual assault, how #MeToo has gone to far, and how this women was irresponsible because she might “get a man fired.”
But, let’s get clear on this; she won’t be the person who fired him. It will be whatever type of boss, or network executive, wanted to avoid controversy and fired him instead of dealing with the nuance of his situation. Yet, somehow, the people who actually have the power never get blamed; it’s generally the less powerful who end up taking the hit.
I remember once, in my zen group, a female student complained to the abbott about some sexual misconduct she’d experienced with one of the teachers. The misconduct would have seemed mild by society’s standards, but the Zen Center was particularly strict on these issues (which I think is reasonable, because religious community has a much stronger built in power imbalance than other places in society.) The abbot asked the teacher to take a several month break from teaching.
There was *so much rage* directed at the young woman from many people in the group, both male and female. But, it was all bullshit — the woman had told the truth. Even the teacher in question admitted that she hadn’t lied about anything; the only problem was that many of the students thought the punishment was too severe for what the teacher had done.
Thing is, the young woman didn’t set the punishment. The abbott had. Yet, no one blamed the abbot, no one said “the abbott has come down too hard on our teacher.” Everyone blamed the woman for having the nerve to speak out.
This same thing is happening now; it should never be inappropriate for women to speak honestly about the things they experience in private. It should never be inappropriate for anyone to speak honestly about any aspect of their lives — or, that’s what I believe anyway. If men are embarrassed when they way they treat women behind closed doors becomes public, they should re-evaluate how they treat women.
The problem, is that our culture has “trial by twitter.” The problem, is that there is no way for men to atone for the mistakes they have made. The problem is that we live in a culture that prioritizes punishment over reform.
That is where people need to direct their energy. This woman simply spoke honestly about an experience she had with Ansari, she did not set the punishment. If you think Ansari will be punished too severely for what he did, bring it up with the people who have power over him, don’t blame this woman for telling her (honest) story.
Our sexual culture is so problematic, probably most of us have done things we regret — I know I certainly have. Many of us are both victims and perpetrators of sexual practices that have put people in pain. We need a way of handling these less obvious cases of sexual misconduct, and we also need to help people heal from these kind of things. Right now, we’re failing pretty hard at both.