The XX Factor

Aziz Ansari Is Better Than Most Celebrities at Talking About Feminism

The latest celebrity to jump eagerly on the feminism train is a man, Aziz Ansari. The actor and comedian was on The Late Show with David Letterman Monday night, where he made an aggressive case for feminism. After giving his girlfriend, who is a chef, credit for his feminist awakening, Ansari asked the feminists in the audience to clap, and some folks did. “Now here’s the thing. There’s a lot of people who didn’t clap,” he said, getting into his bit. “But I don’t believe you. Because if you look up feminist in the dictionary, it just means someone who believes men and women have equal rights. And I feel that everyone here believes men and women have equal rights.”

It’s a defense of feminism that has become popular with celebrities because, as my colleague Amanda Hess wrote, it’s “sublime” in its “lack of substance.” After all, even anti-feminists who attack women’s rights tend to claim to believe that women and men are equal. It’s once you get past dictionary definitions and start talking about issues like reproductive rights, equal pay, or whether or not you should treat your wife like she’s your mommy, then you start to see that some of those people strongly disagree with what it actually means to treat women as equals. 

But, to Ansari’s credit, he didn’t stop at the bland declaration of a vague belief in equality. He gave a good example: “You’re a feminist if you go to a Jay-Z and Beyoncé concert and you’re not like, ‘I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 percent less money than Jay-Z,” he said. “‘Also, I don’t think Beyoncé should have the right to vote and why is Beyoncé singing and dancing? Shouldn’t she make Jay a steak?’”

At least Ansari is arguing with actual people who live in the world/appear on Fox News, not just using a vague definition of feminism to promote his brand. Ansari’s only real mistake was assuming that everyone in the audience was with him.