Zachary Hoover
Feb 9, 2018 · 3 min read

stephen, this is so good. Thanks for writing it. Your Ansari reflection touches me also, because I had the same reaction as you when I read that article. I even liked your post on FB that day. But it’s interesting, as I’ve let the reaction settle that came from the dualistic place (“Weinstein isn’t Ansari” and “why didn’t she use agency and leave?”), I’ve also now recalled a time in my 20s when I, like Ansari, tried to bend a woman to my will. I may have done it with “charm” or “wit” and verbal persistence rather than physicality, but it’s on the spectrum of unacceptable behavior and was a strengthening of patriarchy in relating. Interesting that it took months for that memory to surface… Relations. While reading this, I asked myself, did I ever tell a girl or woman “no” and then experience her to reject my response and push for “yes” (verbally or otherwise)? I haven’t. And while it would be easy to say, “Oh, well that’s because she didn’t want you that bad,” or “duh, she’s weaker than you,” the truth is, it was probably about the unearned power of men (mine) and the fact that I don’t really have to worry about whether “no means no” or not. To your final paragraphs, in my desire to nurture a healthy masculinity in me, I have taken to telling people about when I have cried. I’ve been doing it for years, but I’ve been doing it more lately. Yesterday, I stood in front of a big class at UCLA and told them how I broke down and sobbed after we met with the Regional Director of ICE. A young white man at the back, during the Q&A, asked me what had triggered it, what happened, and seemed to be seeking an explanation for these tears — this sobbing I described. I told him I wasn’t sure, just the brokenness of it all, my own pain of separation in my family, the power this ICE director had and the banality of evil, just my feelings and some experiences and thoughts. About halfway through, I noticed he was no longer paying attention to my response. He seemed checked out. I don’t know for sure, but I wondered if he couldn’t figure out how to hold my sharing. He was curious but it was too much. I hope we men and boys can be awake to each other’s emotions — especially the ones that we are told aren’t acceptable to have in private, much less in public. To your point about being effiminate as unacceptable: as you say, this stuff gets layered into everything else. There’s a great book called “The Sexual Politics of Meat” that I read in college — it’s one of the reasons I became a vegetarian. It talks about all the ways we reinforce toxic masculinity and the cultural and linguistic symbols we use without knowing it. The core concept is around “meat” as a replacement word that “de-creatures” (my word) the living animal for our consumption. It relieces our anxiety about being complicit in killing an animal. The ways in which women, women of color in particular, have been turned into and represented as meat then is more than just de-humanization, it’s saying, “This thing is a thing to be consumed, it’s not even a living creature, and it never was.” And, almost as if people unconsciously perceive the threat to the whole system, even choosing not to eat meat as a man, especially red meat, is seen as “feminine.” Anyway, I guess I wanted to talk about this because I wrote a long-a** post! ASA, brother. Thanks for your insight and vulnerability. And of course, the writing is really good as always.

    Zachary Hoover

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