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A brief disclaimer: This is not directed to all my dear male friends, allies, and neighbors who do not consider themselves wild animals. To the men who ask that women shoulder the burden of not being raped and who say, “I mean, no one wants to buy bear-safe picnic gear, but come on, attacking is in the bear's nature,” read on.
Are you in control of your actions? Do you know right from wrong? Or are you a wild animal who needs to be protected from temptation? I’m referring to Andrew Goldfinger, who wrote a recent op-ed in The Baltimore Sun (“Men are wild animals — I should know, I am one,” Jan. 10). In his world, women should do both themselves and men a favor by dressing modestly so that men don’t have to fight a violent nature. He wrote of seeing a young woman dressed in hijab, and feeling that “she looked like a nice and interesting person whom I would like to meet.” He felt “respect” rather than “lust” for her.
In my leisure time, I like to wear leggings, maybe an off-the-shoulder shirt, definitely shorts in the Baltimore summer. I like short skirts or dresses for special occasions. Mr. Goldfinger wrote about men who are like wild animals, taking the cop-out of “we must live with the reality” of “powerful instinctive forces" that drive men to want to have sex with women in “alluring” clothing. I suspect that such men would not feel respect if they saw me. But — and hold onto your hats for this one — in the immortal words of Eve Ensler: My short skirt, believe it or not, has nothing to do with you. What? Yes, it’s true. I do not choose my clothes to attract the male gaze. Revolutionary.
Our bodies are our homes. They are the only homes we get to keep our lives long. I have fought to learn to love my body, and no wild animal man will tell me when to cover it up or put it on display. It is mine. Mine. Mine. I like it, head to toe. It is not my fault if men feel lust when they see me and it is not my fault if they choose — choose — to act on their lust. Besides, as anyone who has ever been sexually assaulted, male or female, can tell you, rape is not about lust, it’s about power. When women choose to cover ourselves or not, it says nothing about our dreams, our confidence, our potential, our grace, our power. We will not be separated into factions and turned against one another in the argument over whether it is more empowering to cover or uncover.
Respect is not an entitlement exclusive to the modest. To all my sisters who cover or not, I applaud you for any decision, so long as it’s made by your heart. So, you wild animal men, if you see me out in Fell’s Point and you don’t feel respect for me, that is not my problem unless you choose to make it my problem. If you see my shorts and decide that I don’t look like an interesting person who you would like to meet, you are missing out. I’m rad, and that has absolutely no connection to the clothes I wear, and you had better believe that I’ll continue to be rad whether or not you’re lucky enough to get to know about it.