But at bottom, I think that what Charles says is, violence isn’t the answer. See, this is the problem. This happened, and Will had, I don’t know, 20 minutes between when he hit the guy and when he gave his acceptance speech, so I don’t want to accept the acceptance speech like this is his considered remarks. But when you start to fall back on tropes like “love makes you do crazy things,” then I think that that’s a dangerous way of thinking about what does it mean to be a man who loves his wife well.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro: Roxane, we seem to be having a discussion about masculinity and the way that it gets displayed. I am also thinking about what Jada may or may not have been thinking and where the sort of female role in what happened lays, in your view.
Roxane Gay: Well, I mean, women are not a monolith, and I’ve already seen a range of responses from women. On the one hand, women can stand up for themselves. So when, during his acceptance speech, Will Smith was talking about, I protected Aunjanue Ellis, I protected the other actors, and so on, I appreciated the comment.
Looking at it in the most charitable way, I appreciated the comment. On the other hand, though, I thought, who asked for his protection? His comments — I think he was in the moment, and he knew that he had made a grave mistake, and he was deep in his feelings, so I take it in that context. But “love makes you do crazy things” is something men have always used to justify violence, particularly toward women.
So I think it was a lot of things, I really do, and I think that looking at it and expecting there to be a pat explanation for it — it’s simply not going to happen. There’s, like, what happened in the moment on a personal level, and then there are the repercussions, and then, of course, there are all of the things that may have influenced both what happened and the aftermath. I’m a Libra, and so I’m just holding space for all of it, but I think — ask three women, ask three feminists, and you’re going to get different responses.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro: Yeah. A lot of folks are clamoring for some kind of punishment. Chris Rock declined to press charges. But should there have been something that should have happened in the moment? Because some people say, he didn’t have any repercussions because he’s a rich celebrity, and others are saying, he’s a Black man, and why are people trying to criminalize his behavior? This is very much being seen through a variety of lenses, as you say, Roxane, race and class being the two main ones.
Roxane Gay: Certainly. I think we cannot overlook the fact that these are actually two very wealthy men — very powerful men, very visible men. And it’s because he was Will Smith that he was allowed to stay. I think there are problems with that, because it says that the Academy condones violence, but they’ve already said that, in terms of giving Oscars to Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Sean Penn. So I don’t — again, make the stand, but let’s not pretend last night was the first time this happened.