Aziz Ansari is Everyman

So, by now you know that the way I usually deal with topics that frustrate and overwhelm me is to hang back and let things settle before I am able to properly express my thoughts on it. And then more often than not, after that, it feels like too much time has passed so I don’t ever say anything at all. Today’s not that day. Today I want to talk to you about the whole Aziz Ansari… situation… that is going all over the internets.

And I’m going to speak to you as though you are familiar with this story. Not because I want to alienate anyone who isn’t caught up but because I don’t want to spend all of this space waiting to get to my point. Suffice it to say that a woman who is going by Grace, told her story to a website and the internet has (surprise of all surprises) differing opinions on the matter. If you haven’t read the original article, I definitely think you should so that you’re able to draw your own conclusions.

Now, there’s so much conversation to be had about this topic and I’ll never get to it all but I’m grateful that the conversation is happening. On my best, most optimistic days, I feel like these are just the birthing pains that we will inevitably have to labor through in order to give birth to a new order, a revolution of sorts. You know, like the world Oprah talked about in her speech at The Golden Globes.

To me, the most frustrating and, frankly, surprising part of the conversation surrounding this situation is the way that people are accusing Grace of attempting to derail the #metoo movement. For reference, here’s one opinion article that I don’t understand at all. This befuddles me because, to me, this situation is the epitome of what the #metoo movement stands for. I haven’t heard a single sexual misconduct allegation that resonates more with me or my friends. No one has ever invited me up to a hotel room and asked me for a massage–implying that my career is at stake if I don’t participate. It happens–I’m not saying it doesn’t happen or it’s not vitally important to discuss. I’m just saying that story doesn’t resonate with me or my friends in the exact same ways that this one does.  And let me be clear–Grace isn’t making any legal claims against Aziz. She’s not the one who put labels on her encounter. She never called it assault. She called it a violation–which is completely valid. She’s not calling for everyone to boycott his work or for him to lose his jobs. How you want to engage with Aziz Ansari going forward is entirely up to you.

Grace saw Aziz wearing a Time’s Up pin during his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes and she was smacked in the face with memories of that night when he didn’t give even half of one shit about her comfort, safety, or pleasure. I assume that her internal monologue went something like, “Oh hell no! He doesn’t get to pretend he’s a good guy!” I understand this feeling. I, too, have swallowed that rage every time a person who coerced my friend into having sex with them posts something on Facebook about what a good feminist they are. It’s white-hot. It makes me want to claw their eyes out.

The encounter that Grace and Aziz had is so familiar–so maddening that many of my friends are completely unable to even begin to engage with it. It hits too close to home and if we are going to listen to Grace’s story and say that something terrible happened to her, we’ll have to admit that terrible things have happened to us. And we’re not ready for that. That requires a lot of labor that, frankly, we’re too weary to deal with. What’s not #metoo about that? That’s the #metoo-est.

I can’t even respond to the people who keep saying, “but why did she stay???” Is this not a refrain that we’ve been hearing since the beginning of time? Since men have been mistreating women, there’s always been someone to ask why she let it continue without even questioning why he did. It wasn’t until she finally convinced him to leave her alone for just a little bit that her mind was able to wrap itself around how messed up the situation actually was. And when she had that clarity, she got herself out of the situation.

He kept her in defense-mode for so long–trying to deal with the immediate need in the moment, unable to see the big picture or an exit strategy. It’s so easy to say from the outside, with our perceived omniscient point of view, “well here is exactly when she should have just up and left.” But that’s really easy for us to say when we know how the situation ended up playing out. But in the moment her brain is doing this thing where she wants to maintain this view of him that she’s always had. As a good guy. The good, feminist guy that he works hard to present to the world–the guy that feels safe. She even said, “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you.”

I’m not here to discuss the legalities of this situation. First of all, I don’t know the law and that’s not my job. But secondly, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the bar for a good sexual experience be set a little bit higher than Not Rape. If this was a situation of Aziz just not being a good lay, I’d miss this whole conversation. But that’s not what’s happening here. She wasn’t saying, “I had the worst night of my life because Aziz uses this move during sex that I called ‘The Claw’.” She was dismissed and used and disregarded. She was in a situation with a person who didn’t want to have sex with her–he just wanted to have sex period. Preferably in front of a mirror.

She used her words on at least two noted occasions to express her discomfort–immediately following one of these occasions he asked for oral sex. She used her body language repeatedly to deflect and leave the situation and he overcame every obstacle that she threw at him like a game. Eventually she would either tire out and relent or be… I don’t know… charmed? Is that really what he thought? I don’t know.
This is when I remind you that body language–yes, is a valid form of communication. And for someone who makes a living out of relaying the subtleties of human communication, Aziz Ansari, of all people, was well equipped to speak that language if he’d bothered to.

It’s been really easy for a lot of the men on my social media to call out the things that Harvey Weinstein did or what Louis C.K. did because it’s so cut and dry. And because they can’t really relate to these men. Those men are big and powerful and they know it and they wield it like a weapon in order to get what they want. But Aziz wasn’t doing that. He was just being a regular guy on a date. He just really, really wanted to have sex with this girl. And he was so wrapped up in making that happen that it didn’t even occur to him that she might not be on the same page. A fact that he only reiterated when he made his statement, “It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.” It wasn’t even until the next day that he even considered how she was feeling on their date. Imagine if he’d taken her feelings into consideration that night? He wouldn’t be dealing with this mess right now. And, while I can’t claim to know what she was going to be into that night, her account read as though she might have even been into it if he cared to consider what she wanted.

The thing is that Aziz presents himself as a feminist. An ally to and a safe person for women. And I believe that he sees himself as that, too. I think we’re all constantly learning and constantly making mistakes and finding education in them. We’re also able to learn from other people’s mistakes. If Aziz wants to present as a feminist ally–we’re going to need him to be the example, here. Someone has to fall on their sword for the cause and, while I hate that it’s him, he’s actually the right one to do it. I love Aziz Ansari. I think he’s funny and he’s smart and, you know what? I’m going to continue to like him after this. Well, you know, at least how everything stands as it is right now.

Male Feminists: This is where you put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Because if you believe the things you say you believe, you’re going to have to prove it and let this learning opportunity happen. Coercion is not consent and coercion was what was happening that night. Consent is an ongoing conversation throughout an encounter. It doesn’t have to be sexy or flirty. It just has to be present.
“Where do you want me to fuck you” is not asking for consent. It’s assuming consent.
“Can I…”, “Do you want to…”, “Is this okay?” All good places to start.

So, friends. When a girl comes over and compliments your marble countertops, just say thank you and don’t take it as an invitation to her entire body.

 

Photo by Das Sasha on Unsplash

What I Mean When I Say, “Men Are Trash.”

Why are we so afraid of anger? Anger is, I think, one of the most useful emotions we have in our toolbox. It’s one of the best motivators in this life. Second only to cheese, I think.
Think of all the human rights organizations that wouldn’t exist if someone didn’t first get really friggin’ angry about a certain type of injustice. Anger is important and can be used to do huge and world-changing things. It’s powerful and can be and definitely is often times mishandled but just because it has been used incorrectly does not make it wrong. Changing the lives of millions isn’t the only way to use anger correctly but it’s an easy example.

We are particularly uncomfortable with an angry woman. We can’t handle the thought of an angry woman, can we? What do we do with angry women? We shut them down. We say “I can’t listen to you when you’re talking like that.” We say, “why are you so angry?” We say, “be nice.” We police her tone. We write her off as a bitch.

What do we say to angry men? We say, “Oh, he was upset when he said that. He didn’t mean it.” We say, “he has a powerful presence.” We say, “he’s just telling it like it is.” We bend over backwards to try to hear past the anger to the message at the bottom of it all. We do a lot of work to dig deep and give him the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of last week, I made an offhanded statement in frustration that “ugh. Men are trash.” Which, if you look back over the past few centuries weeks in the news you might find that men haven’t really been doing a great job of proving themselves not to be trash. It’s just, I mean… UGH! It doesn’t feel great. It makes us angry. It should make us angry. If we were making a list of times when it’s okay to be angry, finding out that we’ve been supporting sexual predators for decades is certainly on the list.

I got responses ranging from, “you’re a reverse sexist” to, “how does your husband feel about what you just said??” to “I’m really trying to hear your heart but it’s hard because I’m just so hurt by what you said.” They said that I’m smarter than that and other patronizing excuses that patriarchy uses over and over and over again to dismiss and quiet down angry women.

This frustrates me because I really thought that the venue that I chose for this statement was one primarily filled with people who would actually get what I’m trying to say. It’s not the kind of thing that I would just say to anyone. But they call themselves feminists and allies. Though, if there’s anything we’ve learned after the Louis C.K. reveal, it’s that even our allies don’t get it as much as we want them to. As much as they say they want to. They just can’t get it.

So, now that I have the time, energy, and patience to do so, let me do the work of unpacking what I mean when I say, “men are trash” to a group of teammates:

First of all, if I was trying to make an intelligent and mind-changing argument, I absolutely wouldn’t have used a three-word sweeping generalization.
I will also admit that I was expecting too much when I thought that male allies would be able to mentally put the “some” at the beginning of the sentence. It was also a lot to expect them to have the self-awareness required to know whether or not that statement described them.

“Men are trash” means I’m so exhausted: I’m so tired from my regular everyday life of being a woman in the world. And then on top of that, you throw in how every single day we hear about new ways that men we’ve been supporting for years have been using that support as leverage to force women into degrading and dehumanizing situations. Situations that we’ve all been in and re-live over and over and over again every time we hear about it or think about it or fall asleep and have dreams and then wake up thinking about it and then, oh! What’s that? Another one? Cool. Yeah. Of course. Just pile that on. Nothing surprises us anymore. Just keep re-traumatizing us over and over again. It’s fiiiiiiine.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that this is happening. People should be held accountable for their abuse of others no matter how late it is. I’m willing to sit through the re-traumatization as much as I can as long as the world is changing because of it. Back when it was just happening with no consequences (you know, like when a sexual predator was elected to the presidency?), it was too much.

Then, in a moment of exasperation–at the end of one of these days at the end of one of these weeks I’ll say not the most intelligent and enlightening thing in the whole world. Please and thank you for telling me about how sad you are that I didn’t bend over backwards to make you feel good about yourself and how you’re the exception. Yes. That is very helpful. You’re out here doing the Lord’s work. Where would I be without you?

Even in our anger, even in our pain, we are expected to accommodate and smile and curtsey and offer tea and pray quietly that you’ll hear us. But you kind of can’t really hear us because we don’t sound serious enough because it’s all covered in a delicate sweet glaze and how angry can we really be if we’re serving you sugar? But then when we serve you our truth, you tell us we’re too much. You can’t hear us through our tone and your hurt feelings. Well, what do you want from us?

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Drawing from Ambivalently Yours

A man can shoot up a public space and the world grasps their collective pearls and says, “Oh, he was hurting or sick.” Meanwhile, I have to beg for a pass to express frustration in the presence of those who claim to be on my side. GAH! It’s so unsurprising, though, to those of us who have lived a life in a female body that you almost don’t think to mention it. Just a day in the life for us.

I am no longer responding to men who ask me to educate them for free. I’ll write here on my blog where I’m in charge of saying whatever I want whenever I want to but I’m no longer responding to men who want me to make them feel better about their advocacy without first sharing my PayPal information. I don’t have enough energy left in a day to not be getting paid for this labor. And if you’re the kind of person who needs me to personally come to you and assure you that you’re not trash because you can’t decide that on your own, well, then you’re kind of trash.

XOXO,
Exhausted Lib

Oh, and, PS
My husband doesn’t care that I say “men are trash” on the internet for the following reasons:
1. He’s not the boss of me and I don’t have to answer to him.
2. He knows that statement doesn’t describe him.
3. He knows that, yeah, some men are certainly proving to be extra trash these days. 

 

Lead photo by W on Unsplash

I Want You to Want

So, for me it started in High School. I don’t know what it was that prompted all of us to adopt this attitude that caring about things was lame. What a time to start that, eh? Right around the time that you want things so badly you’d do anything to have them all while pretending to be completely ambivalent about it all.

Did I want cool clothes? Psh. No. I was fine with the clothes my mom had been sewing for me since birth. I’m not materialistic like that.
Please, God, please let me have an Arizona jacket for Christmas like all the other kids have!

Did I want to be invited to the parties that all the other kids were going to on the weekends? No. Gross. I didn’t want to become an alcoholic at seventeen!
What’s wrong with me that no one wants to spend time with me outside of school?

Did I want to be asked to dance at the Oktoberfest street dance? Ugh. Please, I didn’t even want to be here.
I’ve been planning my outfit for weeks and I stole my mom’s navy blue eyeliner to apply in the Duckwalls bathroom before the dance started.

Part of it was the constant rejection of being the fat kid. Some of it was growing up in a house with four kids and there was just never quite enough money to go around. Asking for things was selfish. It was easier for everyone if we just pretended we didn’t want for anything. Another bit of it was being a woman in a Christian environment where we’re encouraged to chase contentment in all things that are handed to us. And where all these identities intersect is the perfect storm to create a person who doesn’t know she’s allowed to care. Wanting is for other people.

Even still, my partner is constantly asking me, “What do you want?” It’s become a lesson. Wanting is something that I have to practice.
It’s not that I don’t feel comfortable speaking up for what I want–it’s that for the most part, I’m incapable of wanting. I don’t want anything–at least not that I know of. My desire is constantly buried under a pile of things that come first. Other people’s preferences or needs or comfort.

I’ve built a life of defense mechanisms. Reactive to what’s around me without even recognizing that being proactive is an option. Proactive is new to me and it’s hard. But we can do hard things if we practice.

When it comes to this blog, I’ve been pretending that what happens happens and I’ll be okay with it even if no one reads it, I’m just happy to be writing. And that’s true. That is the core of why I’m even here in the first place. But as my honesty has increased in this space, so has the visibility of it. Other outlets are seeing what I’m writing and as their interest grows, so does mine. I want to grow. I want to reach more people and I’ve never said that before because I’m supposed to just be happy where I’m at. And I am! You can be happy and want more. You can be so many things all at once.

I want to be successful. I want to grind it out. I want to build a community full of people who are wanting space to be honest with one another. I want it and it feels really vulnerable to be seen as a woman with desires but here I am standing in my honesty with you.

I have desires. You do, too. We’re groomed to push those down and when we vocalize these desires, we’re taking up space. Which is another thing we’re not supposed to do.  We’re inconvenient. We’re disrupting the narrative that they’ve written about us in their minds. But that’s their thing to figure out. It really has nothing to do with you.

But I want.
And I want you to want what you want, too. IMG_3296

Don’t be afraid to be seen. Don’t be afraid to be seen as someone who desires.

XOXO, Lib

My And

So, I’ve been thinking about writing this for a month and actually writing it for close to two weeks and when you consider the fact that most things I write, I conceptualize and get down on “paper” within a few hours, that’s saying a lot. In college, I’d start essays an hour before they were due and get A’s. If I decided I was really going to sit down and apply myself–give myself a week or two to devote to this work, I generally got a C+. So, sorry if this is C+ work but I’m not exactly shooting for a grade, today.

It’s not hard for me to talk about this with you. You know I love to lay it all out there on the line. Honesty begets honesty begets honesty and I’m here for it. I’m here to do that work. But sometimes your story intersects with someone else’s story. Or a few someone elses. I strive to be mindful of what is or isn’t my story to tell. I’ll tell you my part of the story.


My bisexuality was revealed to me this summer in a way that only the most pretentious metaphors can describe. For the longest time, I could only explain it like this:

It’s like my whole body and soul is this house. So, I’ve been living in this house for 33 years. And all of a sudden I’m walking down a hallway and I see this open door to a room I’ve never seen before. As soon as I walked inside, it looked like the rest of me but somehow more me? Somehow me but with the vibrancy turned up 80 percent. And suddenly the structure of my house made so much more sense. Like, you always knew there had to be something else but you weren’t sure what it was or how to get to it.
But more than that, it felt the way it does when it’s been a long, stuffy winter and you’re able to open the windows for the first time on a spring day. And there’s lilacs outside. Just all freedom and weightlessness and breezy joy.
But then it’s also like when you are finally starting to get the hang of a Rubik’s cube and it all starts to click into place and you can see it happening and you can’t believe this is all true and it was possible and it was right inside of you living here all this time. But you’re not holding the Rubik’s cube–the whole world is the Rubik’s cube. And it’s shifting and clicking into place and it explodes into brightness and color and light. But it’s also, like, an ordinary day. On your normal couch. Eating normal spaghetti and watching Master Chef like you always do. But with this quiet acknowledgement that this huge thing is all going on around you and inside of you and no one can see it but you. At least this is how it felt for a few weeks this summer, for me.

I know I’m making it all sound so magical and glorious but it wasn’t always. It was scary. It was confusing. It’s still a little confusing. Some of it hurt. Some of it hurt a lot. Some of it didn’t. Some of it… very opposite of hurt. Some of it felt like a huge gamble with an unknown pay off. Sometimes it didn’t feel worth it.
But it was.
At least right now it all feels worth it.

Another day I’ll tell you about how I came to this.
I can tell you that it was a mixture of boldness and vulnerability and beautiful, sticky, inescapable grace and terrifying honesty and communication and understanding and trust and tequila. Just like, well, most anything worth having in this life.
This story will fall together overtime. I promise. As it all becomes admissible.

So then if there’s so much I’m not ready to say, why do I want to tell you about this? Because it came somewhat out of the blue for me and it was scary and immediately it felt like I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I shouldn’t talk about this. My instinct was to shove this down and keep it quiet. And I think we all know that in the quiet, in the dark is where pain grows. I knew that if I was experiencing something like this–something that felt like I was supposed to keep quiet about, then there were other people out there who have had this happen to them, too. You’re in your mid-30’s. You’re pretty settled. You might even be, like me, in an unbelievably happy marriage. Maybe there’s a couple kids in the mix? And a door accidentally unlocked in your house and creaked open and you didn’t know what to do about it. And here you are, with a quiet secret that maybe your friends only know about because you had that 4th sangria that one time and then you woke up with a shame hangover for revealing too much. For having mostly questions but no real answers.

No shame hangovers for us.

In the aftermath of this revelation, I remembered a lot about myself. Like, the way that I’ve never been terribly boy crazy. I’ve always known that about myself. When I was younger, it always bugged me. Girls would be like, “Who do you have a crush on??” And I’d be like, “Um… sorry I can’t bond with you on this.” There were a few boys that I’ve had crushes on but in my whole life I can count them all on one hand. I was always way more obsessed with the girls in my life but I thought that was just because I was super passionate about female friendships. Haha!
And, I mean, that’s true. That is true. But… I mean… I need more hands to count the girls I’ve swooned over. And there are other things, too. Other things that suddenly make so much more sense but I’m not here to get too wrapped up in specifics. I’m just saying, I thought that was all a part of being straight. You know? I just had never ever questioned my sexuality because  I adopted a label without ever considering it. Which is, to be fair, what I’ve done with most labels in my life. Haphazardly applied without even thinking about it. Don’t even notice it till it starts to itch. I started to itch.

And, look, I’m married. To a man. To whom I am very, enthusiastically attracted and with whom I am head over complete heels in love. I’m not saying that I’m not attracted to men. I am! That’s what part of being Bi is. It’s just that there’s always been an extreme vetting process for men when it comes to crossing these here borders. That’s all I’m saying. Does this realization affect our marriage? Of course it does and I feel grateful every single day for a partner who is open and trusting and generous and full of grace. He raises the bar for life-partners everywhere. He would also prefer it if I let you know that there are certain areas where he lowers it, too. He is, after all, a human person.

This week is Bi-Visibility week and that’s why I decided to tell you about this part of me, today. Because it’s been strange to know something about myself that other people can’t just inherently know on their own. It’s been strange to pass as one thing when I know I’m not that. I was sitting in church a few weeks ago with my husband and feeling so… dishonest. It wasn’t intentional but I kind of hated the way that when you look at me and my husband sitting in a pew, it’s so easy to make several assumptions about me that aren’t true at all. “There’s a cute straight, Christian couple.” But neither of those descriptors are mine. They’d be honest assumptions–I wouldn’t fault anyone for thinking certain things based on what I’m presenting. But I still didn’t like the grimy feeling that I had sitting on that hard bench in the back of the church. I’m working on figuring out what to do about it but in the mean time, I’m just going to tell you this one thing. Like all the other things I’ve told you.

I have much privilege to be able to tell you this without fear of backlash. I don’t worry about losing my job. I don’t worry for my safety. I can’t imagine that I’m going to lose friends over this–at least not for this part of who I am. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m married to a man and my sexual identity is easily ignorable for anyone who isn’t me or my partner.  And since I do have this privilege, I think it would be a misuse of it to not speak out and let you know that you’re not alone if you’ve felt this, too.

That’s why I’m here. I’m living visibly so that maybe you can, too, if you want to. While this doesn’t change anything about our relationship, you and me, reader–you know me better, now. You know more about me and that’s what I wanted. That was my goal when I started this post.

Here’s me. I’m handing you one of my Ands. The extra, not-so-obvious parts of me. I’m handing you my And, and you’re free to do whatever you want with it. Because once you’re holding my And, it becomes a part of yours.

I’m open to all honest, loving questions and comments. You can leave them in the comments section of this post, on Facebook, email me: libby (at) xoxolib.com, or just talk to me when we’re out in the world. I would love to hear your story even if it’s nothing like mine.

Thank you for hearing me, today.

I appreciate you.
XOXO, Lib

What Does She Owe You?

Earlier this week I took Fiona to the dog park. We love to go out there. She likes to run. I like to sit in the sun all by myself and unplug from the internet for a while. Sometimes, I bring a book but I almost never read it because my mind really just loves to wander. We’re usually alone.

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This time, though, a gentleman was there with his three dogs. This man did not share my joy in solitude and quietness out there. He was so enthusiastic and trying so hard to engage me in conversation despite my use of the polite nod, headphones, and actively walking away from him. Finally after his fourth failed attempt at getting a conversation going he said to me, in the exact same tone of voice that he used when speaking to his tiny dogs, “well you’re just not very friendly are you?” Like, he could have easily finished that up with, “Who’s not a friendly girl? You aren’t! No you’re not!”

Frankly, I was just grateful that he was rounding the corner towards giving up so I just said, “not really,” put my earbuds back in and texted my friends about this guy. Look, could I have made an effort? Yeah. Of course. Am I required to? I am certainly not. And why not? Because I’m tired. We’re tired. And also because I’m just a person doing her damn best at being alive some days.


Last year, immediately following the funeral of a friend, I was filling my car up with gas and the man across the terminal said to me, “Come on, baby, smile. Things can’t be that bad.”

A dear friend was walking out to her car in a grocery store parking lot in the middle of the day as a man approached and asked her to him show her tits.

Last winter, a stranger approached me as I was closing up the bookstore and asked me to drive him out to his home in the middle of the country well after dark. And when I very extra politely declined, he said, “well I hope someone helps you out when you need help one day.”

Someone I know was once physically assaulted at work by a man who was upset that her nail polish was chipped. He claimed that she didn’t show him respect by making the effort to appear presentable.


For some people, it can be easy to “see both sides”. It’s easy–really easy to make us look like the bitch because we each said “no” to these men who wanted a piece of us.
That guy was just being friendly or he needed help or he obviously has issues. And because of these special circumstances, we’re expected to make a sacrifice of ourselves to be as polite as possible to these men who are so entitled to us. Entitled to our friendliness. To our bodies, our time, our resources, our devotion.

Sometimes we’re polite because our comfort comes secondary to those around us. It’s part of being a woman. We give and give and give. That’s the way we’re raised and that’s what men were raised to expect from us.
Other times, we’re polite as a means of survival. Because we don’t know how they’ll react to a rejection, we have to butter it up in the most sticky, sweet, gratitude. So flattered that they’ve chosen us to talk to on this lucky, special day.

It’s exhausting.

So when you come to me at the dog park and want to become best friends immediately without taking a minute to read the room, when you need a favor from a stranger, or you want some girl to take her top off or change her nail color to make you feel good I beg you. I BEG YOU to take a second and repeat after me:

This person owes me nothing.