We had a whole blog post written for this week. It was about feminism, and how people so often comment on our Facebook posts that it's "not fair to politicize kids and label them as feminists when they don't even know what it means."
We get those comments a lot when we post pictures of kids in our Feminist, Feminist like Beyonce, Feminist Like Daddy, and Little Feminist, Big Dreams shirts.
And to those commenters we say hey, kids are natural born feminists. They don't come out of the womb thinking only boys can be astronauts and only girls can be nurses. That stuff is socialized, and it's actually pretty silly.
And as a matter of fact, we tell them, if you think men and women deserve equal rights and equal pay and equal opportunities, YOU'RE a feminist too! It's just that simple.
Our favorite Aziz Ansari quotes were woven through the essay for levity, just as they used to be woven into the product pages for many of the feminist shirts pictured here. The one about how you're a feminist if you go to a Beyonce and Jay-Z concert and you're not like, "Mmm, I think Beyonce should get 23 percent less money than Jay-Z." The one about how if you believe in equal rights for men and women you have to say you're a feminist because "that's just how words work."
Aziz was supposed to be one of the good ones. His (now ex-) girlfriend got him woke to the feminist movement, enlightened him, made him understand the struggle enough that he proclaimed himself a feminist. And it sure played well on Letterman.
We ate it up because we LOVE male voices coming out in support of feminism. Young, hilarious male celebrity voices? Even better. It normalized feminism. It made it unscary. It's so simple, right?
Except, it turns out you can purport to believe in equal rights and still be a real jerk to women, as described in the recent article: "I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life." We're not going to recap it here because you've either read it by now or chosen not to. Suffice it to say, it describes Aziz's awful behavior on a date and it is extremely cringey.
We shared the article on our Facebook page this week and said, "If anyone needs us, we'll just be scrubbing the Aziz Ansari quotes about feminism off of our site and weeping."
And then came the backlash.
This isn't sexual assault, people said. She should have left, they said. You can't just jump on the hate bandwagon without thinking it through. Don't take him off of your site based on one story from one woman. There isn't any evidence. What is all this about "ignoring non-verbal cues"? Use your words. She just wanted a boyfriend and had regrets the next day that he only wanted one thing. This was just a bad date. This was just a bad sexual experience. I'm sticking with Aziz.
All in response to us saying that this is no longer a guy who should be quoted on a kids' clothing site talking about what feminism is. That's a considerably lower bar than judging whether this was sexual assault or whether Aziz's career should be ruined, but it was still a topic of hot debate on the Free to Be Kids page this week.
Well, for the sake of argument, let's say almost all of the things the Aziz-defenders said were true. Let's say it's not sexual assault, that she should have been clearer, she should have left, and it was just a "bad date" or a "bad sexual experience." Let's say she was a groupie. Let's actually accept every argument except the one about how there's no evidence and we shouldn't necessarily believe her account. False accusations of sexual harassment and assault and even "bad dates" are extremely rare, and he hasn't denied any of it; he just said everything seemed fine to him at the time.
Even conceding all of these points, this is still not what a feminist looks like. A feminist doesn't trot out lines about equal rights to get applause on David Letterman and then, behind closed doors, treat a date like a bit player in a fantasy that is his, and his alone.
Whether or not it was sexual assault, whether or not the woman in question did everything wrong, you don't get to act like that and then publicly position yourself as "one of the good ones." That's more like the "feminists" in this SNL sketch (okay, language warning - this one is too crass for the kids, but it's suited to the the cultural moment):
So yes, the cute Aziz Ansari quotes we had on our Feminist Like Beyonce t-shirt page are gone. Of course they're gone. Because being a feminist is more than claiming to support equal rights and wearing a Time's Up pin. You have to believe women are whole actual people, and treat them that way. That sounds basic, but it seems we need to take a collective step back and reflect on it.
Aziz, this song goes out to you.