#MeToo & Aziz Ansari reading list

Actor Aziz Ansari

Actor Aziz Ansari (Photo: David Shankbone/Flickr/cc)

Hi, Internet friends…

As #MeToo started to take off last October, I volunteered to cover it for the website that I write for daily, Common Dreams. Since then, our site has published multiple stories, some of which I have contributed to or written.

But in the aftermath of Babe.net‘s recent viral piece about Aziz Ansari, I have been struggling with some seemingly contradictory feelings about the courses that the #MeToo movement and the articles about it have taken.

Although I am not yet ready to publicly hash out my complex reactions, I have compiled a reading list of pieces—plus a video response. Please feel free to comment or direct message me with your article suggestions about Grace’s story or the #MeToo movement more broadly.

I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” by Katie Way for Babe.net

tl;dr: “Grace is a 23-year-old Brooklyn-based photographer, then aged 22. We are not using her real name to protect her identity because she is not a public figure…. The date didn’t go as planned. The night would end with Grace in an Uber home, in tears, messaging her friends about how Ansari behaved. Babe spoke to the first friends she told about it, and reviewed the messages on her phone.” The story provides a play-by-play of their sexual encounter, during which Grace “says she used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was.” Ansari responded with a statement that Babe.net published in full. He acknowledged the “sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” as well as a text message exchange that occurred following their date, and expressed his continued support for the movement.

The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity” Jill Filipovic for The Guardian

tl;dr: “It was bound to happen. In the midst of women sharing stories of harassment and assault via the #MeToo movement, and a brewing backlash of hand-wringers wondering if women have perhaps gone too far, it was only a matter of time before a publication did us the disservice of publishing a sensational story of a badly behaved man who was nonetheless not a sexual assailant…. we need to talk more about how pervasive power imbalances benefit men and make sex worse for women. But instead of telling this particular story with the care it called for, it was jammed into a pre-existing movement grounded in the language of assault and illegality…. The language of “a bad hookup” fails to capture the unequal power dynamics and the deep sense of disorientation and betrayal that comes when someone treats you as a hole rather than a person. Nor does it adequately measure the weight of centuries of misogyny that have shaped our most intimate moments…. it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist.”

Babe, What Are You Doing?” by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd for Jezebel

tl;dr: “[A] side effect of the tidal wave of sexual assault and harassment reporting since October is that, having been long confined to explicitly feminist outlets, reporting about sexual impropriety is, all of a sudden, considered general-interest prestige reporting…. Because of the amateurish way the Babe report was handled (her wine choices; her outfit), and the way it was written with an almost prurient and unnecessarily macabre interest in the minute details of their interaction (“the claw”), it left the subject open to further attacks, the kind that are entirely, exhaustingly predictable…. At its core, Babe’s piece about Grace is important, but the inexperience evident in the execution of the piece did a disservice to the topic—and it’s a shame, because its execution obscures an extremely valuable, timely conversation at a time when it seems finally possible to have it in a public forum.”

On Aziz Ansari And ‘Bad Sex’” by Katie Anthony for Bust

tl;dr: “The allegations against Ansari open up the next, harder, messier chapter in the #MeToo movement…. I read Grace’s story with amusement, embarrassment, and creeping unease…. Grace’s story is common. It’s so common that I don’t have to imagine it because I remember it. I laugh about it without smiling. It’s the story of so much bad sex. And when I hear that bad sex described as a sexual assault, it forces me to reexamine my own history…. I believe her; I don’t agree with her. I’m telling you this not because I think she is wrong, but because I think I am…. Women have already taken enough of a painful personal inventory to be able to say #metoo; I am not eager to go back over what I’ve come to comfortably accept as “crappy hookups,” or “shitty sex,” and come to realize that yes, that was sexual assault, too…. People are quick to label sex crimes as deviant or aberrant, but the truth is that sexual violence is socialized into us. Men are socialized to fuck hard and often, and women are socialized to get fucked, look happy, and keep quiet about it. Aziz Ansari has been socialized. And if we don’t like the way socialized men do sex, then we need to take a hard look at our society, friend.” [emphasis added by Katie Anthony]

No, Aziz Ansari’s accuser is not breaking up #MeToo—the divisions have been there all along” by Natasha Lennard for The Intercept

tl;dr: “The rallying cry of Women’s March found expression in the so-called #MeToo movement. Women were grabbing back the narrative around sexual violence, harassment, and patriarchal oppression, grabbing back for the power that these scourges have taken from us. Now, though, in 2018, the anniversary of the Women’s March comes at a watershed moment. Questions are being raised about whether today’s would-be feminist movement grabbed back “too far.” It came to a head with this week’s fierce debates around accusations against Aziz Ansari…. This young accuser, many in the elite media said, was putting the whole #MeToo movement at risk…. #MeToo is not suddenly cracking up. Instead, the rallying cry is revealing itself to represent different and perhaps incompatible ideas of feminism and feminist strategy—not quite a united front. To frame the emergent debate as a question of whether women have gone “too far” is to gloss over deeper fractures underlying the putatively big-tent women’s movement. The Ansari accusation did not create these fissures, but the debates it birthed have revealed where the fractures lie, along ideological, generational, class, and political lines…. Invocations of “empowerment” are of little use to these women who face harassment and sexual violence in workplaces, relationships, and situations they feel structurally, emotionally, or financially unable to walk away from—something the attacks against Ansari’s accuser seem to miss.”

#MeToo Backlash” segment on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee



I have decided to discontinue my weekly roundup posts for now, but to read my recent work, check out my author page on commondreams.org.

ALSO! As many of you may know, last year I fact-checked a book. Soon, it’ll be available for purchase, but you can pre-order a copy of The Making of a Dream on Amazon. 


Life updates & articles I’ve written recently

Me, after being hit in the head with my television before a hellish 8-hour drive

In my last post — published about six months ago, because try as I might, I can’t commit to blogging consistently — I was grappling with what it meant to be successful and tackling challenges I faced as a freelance fact-checker in New York City. Since then, I’ve accepted a full-time job and moved to Portland, Maine — exciting, I know!

It has been two weeks since I moved to Maine, and today I finally finished unpacking. More than half of my possessions, which traveled from their storage unit in Chicago to me by way of a professional moving company, arrived a week late, so I spent the past week living in a maze of boxes and bins, attempting to sort through everything. The rest of my stuff was driven up here from New York City (sadly, there are no photos of the giant camo tarp and a bunch of bags strapped to my car roof). Despite many moving struggles, I am thrilled and fortunate to be living in a brand new studio apartment in downtown Portland. It was a relief to escape New York City — while also staying in my field — but I am especially lucky that this new job brought me to such a charming city.

Which brings me to my new job… I am now a staff writer at Common Dreams, a website that publishes news and views (opinion pieces/columns) for a progressive audience. It has been tricky to transition from fact-checking long-form features to writing multiple news articles per day, but I am immensely excited and grateful to be writing. I work with a small but brilliant team of writers and editors. Below, I have compiled links to all the articles I have written so far. Now that I’m writing full-time, I may enjoy blogging more, but either way I hope to post weekly roundups of my articles, for all the friends and family members who have asked how they can read my work. 🙂

xoxo, Jess

Weekly Roundup (read all my CD articles here)

(x2, because I was too busy unpacking last weekend…sorted from newest to oldest…)

Women’s March organizers and protesters marched 18 miles because of the NRA

Two awesome humans talked to each other (on video!) about politics and the world

Texas lawmakers defunded Planned Parenthood and caused more teen abortions

Environmentalists are being killed in record numbers worldwide

Sea levels are rising and will drown several U.S. cities by 2100

POTUS applauds Jr. for tweeting emails about meeting with Russian lawyer

Trump Jr. basically tweets out admission of collusion with Russian officials (*facepalm*)

More Jr. drama because apparently my new beat is the Trump spawn & their failings

Related: Labor activist arrested for investigating factory that makes Ivanka’s shoes

U.S.’s top diplomat accepts troubling award, admits he misses all his Big Oil buddies

Sanders tweets advice for POTUS re how not to be a global embarrassment at #G20

Beyond the #protestporn, G20 protesters have some solid demands for improvement

NRA makes awful videos targeting protesters; protesters announce march in D.C.

Polish environmentalists condemn POTUS for bailing on the Paris Climate Agreement

Major christian church preaches that climate change is real, calls for urgent action 

German police spray G20 protesters with a high-powered water cannon

Canada apologies to citizen for allowing U.S. to detain, torture him at Gitmo as a teen

John Oliver calls out major media company for being the Fox of local news

U.K. prepares in case POTUS tries sneak into their country and avoid protests

That’s all for now, folks! Stay tuned…