A good bulk of Aziz Ansari's latest Netflix special, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, revolves around his newfound feminism and men's cluelessness about women's issues.
The entire special is worth watching, even if you're skeptical, because it's a rare moment seeing a male comedian break down his exploration of feminism on a public stage. In a new interview with Cosmo, he goes into depth about some of his material, which includes a basic definition of feminism.
There's a bit in the beginning of the special where he asks all the women in the audience to raise their hands if they've ever been followed by a creepy dude. He says this was inspired by a dinner he had with a few women who casually referred to being stalked. Aziz tells Cosmo:
"When I asked, 'Raise your hand if you're a woman and you've been followed,' and all those women raised their hand, there were a lot of dudes who were like, 'What?! That's happening?' A lot of this stuff dudes are not aware of, and when they do hear about it they're like, 'Holy shit, that sounds bad.' There's a bit that I cut out of the special where I said, 'Clap if you're a dude and you're surprised that that many women raised their hand when I asked that question.' And a lot of dudes clapped. Personally, I didn't realize it; I only just now started to become aware of how big a problem a lot of this stuff is."
The fact that these men were shocked feels shocking and yet expected. When asked how people in his personal life have reacted to his feminist proclamation, Aziz says:
"The dudes that I'm friends with are pretty thoughtful guys that are already on board with it. But there are probably other dudes who are not familiar with what that concept really means, and that word has been so weirdly used in the culture ... its meaning is warped. Most people are a feminist and yet don't want to identify with that word."
He goes on to defend himself against some backlash that came from his owning up to being a feminist during his appearance on Letterman:
"...It's a 30-second snippet from a talk show, and I'm talking to David Letterman and an audience of men and women, so that kind of eliminates the mansplaining aspect of it. We just live in this world where people are ready to talk down people on blogs or Twitter or whatever, but to me the test is — let's say you're someone who criticizes things that I said on Letterman. I would just want to sit down and say, 'OK, did you really think that I had ill intentions in my heart? Don't you think that what I was trying to say was a positive thing? Did it really seem like I was trying to talk down to women? Did it really seem like that was my intention? Don't you think that, deep down in my heart, I was trying to say something interesting and positive — and funny? Do you really have to write some mean thing? Isn't there much worse shit going on? Am I really the target? Is that really where you want to aim?' I don't know, that's just where I'm at with that."
Interesting to see how men react to experiencing some of the criticism that comes with even uttering the word "feminism." At one point in his special, Aziz has a Mars-Venus convo about the major differences in how women are harassed on the Internet versus men. He tells Cosmo he's tried to err on the side of critiquing the vocal dickheads he sees online:
"I think it's a good thing to say something. Maybe the next time that person is in a situation where they're going to make a remark like that, they'll think twice. If someone says something racist, you wouldn't let it slide. You'd probably say something, depending on the context of the situation. Sexist stuff doesn't get that same gasp that racist stuff gets sometimes, and maybe that's something to keep in mind. I do think that sometimes those small things [like misogynistic comments] are things that lead to bigger problems, because that's what breeds that culture, if you will. So I do speak up."
Good for you.
Image via Getty
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.