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You Can't Have It Both Ways

Recently a young woman went public about her encounter with the comedian Aziz Ansari (Headline: "I Went On A Date With Aziz Ansari. It Turned Into The Worst Night Of My Life.")

This young woman's rant was especially offensive to me in light of the actual sexual assault that plagues the lives of so many women and young girls, and about which feminists are so often curiously silent.

(There is a silent clique, it seems, which picks which victims are worthy of support and which aren't, and no links are included here so as to avoid having any debate over this post degenerating into a discussion of the merits of any particular case.)

The point is, here is a woman who went on a date and made herself sexually available, and things went downhill, everybody regretted it and Anzari apologized. No crime is claimed here; no charges were filed; he even called her a cab.

"The worst night of my life?"

Just this morning I read the victim impact statement of Rachel Denhollander, one of Larry Nasser's victims and it literally made me shudder.

Laurie Penny has written a thought-provoking article on the Ansari story and its connection to the feminist movement. I agree with her primary point, which is that women should be safe at all times, and not have every movement conditioned by the violent fear of rape. But I don't agree that Ansari is a part of the problem.

Rather, the problem is culture, and we have a collective responsibility to speak out about how women are framed in culture, limited and stunted when we should be empowered and free.

Interestingly, Natalie Portman just published an article about how her growth into womanhood, pleasure and sexuality was stifled by the world in which we live--a world which, as Penny points out, frames sex as inherently married to violence and the lack of consent.

What can women do in such a world?

For one thing, we can agree that men and women need some serious re-educating about how consent works, with a particular emphasis on ambiguity. As Penny points out, consent means a very clear "yes," not the absence of a "no."

But for women, there must be some accountability as well. No matter what "society" says or how we are socialized, one cannot have it both ways.

If, to all appearances, an adult female, who is not being coerced, says "yes," she cannot later claim that the "yes" actually meant "no," and that her sexual partner "should have known that."

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. CC0 Creative Commons photo by sasint via Pixabay.

In Search of the Radical Middle

So I’m in the coffee shop as usual getting my coffee and it is warm-ish and I’m annoyed.

The coffee shop is nearby the White House and two men in business suits are sitting and talking to each other. Each one has their own table and they’re talking across the tables, so loud.

The first man says to the second man that he has an appointment at the White House.

“Oh, really!” says the second.

At which point they start talking politics.

“I come from California, where you can literally get in trouble just for following the law,” says A.

“I hear you,” says B. “I’m a Democrat, but many in my party don’t agree with the radical Left.”

“Been around for a lot of years and I remember when we used to go into a room and actually negotiate the legislation,” says A.

B sits there nodding, furiously.

They continue talking about bipartisanship, and how it’s missing, and we don’t understand how things have gotten so…polarized.

I chime in. “It’s too bad we don’t have a camera crew here, a Democrat and a Republican talking bipartisanship.”

The look I get is not welcoming. They were having a guy-a-thon.

But I press on, I don’t really care, and so I say to A: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”


“Do you think that the radicalization we’re seeing nowadays is organic, or is someone engineering it?”

“Oh it’s not organic at all. You need to study the French Revolution.”

They continue talking and then they pack up and leave, and I’m left to ponder the state in which we now find ourselves.

I get on social media and it’s like literally watching a parallel reality unfold in real time.

Who are all these people we’re seeing, in headline after headline, squabbling and attacking like chicken stuck together in a coop?

What’s happened to the world I used to inhabit, where reality actually meant something, where facts were not debatable as artifacts of feeling?

I know, because I observe people carefully by habit, that most people are wedded to the world of normal: They want no extremes. In fact they want no problems with others.

But there are few — a very few, and they get literally all the headlines — who seem to want nothing but trouble. They aren’t healthy in the mind, but they know how to grab the spotlight. And of course, they attract attention.

When I was younger, I remember we used to sit at the Sabbath table, and debate. Logical point here, counter-argument there. Our model was the law, and we venerated those who had that kind of Talmudic genius, balanced by compassion and humility.

Sadly, for more than a year now, the American public has been exposed to massive abuses of power that went on right under our collective noses. Literally — we saw, but saw nothing.

How do we go about redress?

If I am to have any say in things at all, I would suggest that radicalism — of any kind — is not the way to go. The answer to lies is not more lies, told under the cloak of “reform.”

One of the biggest lies false prophets spread is the notion that “if you only follow me, all will be well.” Take any Sociology 101 class and you’ll learn that deviance (crime, corruption) is endemic to every society, and though you may expose and squelch it today, it will reappear tomorrow.

And no, it doesn’t matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats are in charge.

The great Jewish sage Maimonides famously advocated the way of moderation. He also said this, in Guide to the Perplexed:
‘Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees.”

As a society we may disagree on many things.

But one thing I hope we can agree on is that the notion of facts — inarguable facts, facts that stand outside your perception and mine — still has merit.

And that facts inform and impact our world.

And deserve to be dealt with rationally.

It is mentally healthy to avoid extremes of belief and behavior and stay in the middle of the road. Looking at our world through the lenses of science, compassion, and yes, also faith. Balancing them, and interacting with each other in a respectful and balanced way.

Understanding this: It takes a tremendous amount of effort to stay centered in a world that increasingly seems pulled toward chaos.


Copyright by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. Posted January 24, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).