Paul Rudd Fondles Eva Mendes for Laughs; Rosario Dawson Fondles Paul Rudd for Feminism

by Latoya Peterson

At the Independent Spirit Awards, the writers apparently thought it would be hilarious for Paul Rudd to grab Eva Mendes’ breasts. In the video above, Mendes talks about how they had “this really funny bit” where Rudd would “grab her tits,” then shock the audience, then presumably say something funny to incite more laughter.

But Rosario Dawson wasn’t having it.

The video cuts back to Dawson firmly grabbing Paul Rudd’s crotch. However, note what else she is holding in this picture:

Rosario, Fork, Rudd, Mendes

CNN transcribed her interview with Access Hollywood:

“He did this vice grip on her breast, and I was like, OK, it was funny for like a second. But then it kept going and going and going. And then the lights went down and the clip started rolling and he was still vice-gripping her! I was sitting there with my fork like, ‘If he doesn’t stop, I’m going to stab him with my fork.’”

Rudd didn’t remove his hand, so Dawson went into action.

“I got up there and I stabbed him with my fork,” she says. “He didn’t stop, so I was like, alright, I’m going to grab his package… I was like, I’m really sorry, Paul, I don’t mean to be offensive. But you’re kind of being offensive.”

Dawson kept a hold on the surprised actor until he let go of Mendes.

“I’m a women’s rights activist and I was getting a little tired that he was grabbing her onstage for half an hour. I was kind of getting over it,” Dawson later explained to “Access Hollywood.” “Why do men always get to cop the feel? Women get to cop a feel too! Just keep it equal opportunity.”

Following the lines of discussion around this has been a bit of an education in what people expect to see on their screens and how strange our conversations around feminism and women’s bodies can become.

It’s important to look at the full context here – from the clips that have been floating around, it would seem that (1) Dawson jumped on stage immediately and went straight for Rudd’s crotch (which does not explain the fork) and (2) Dawson felt entitled to grab a feel because it was “equal opportunity.”

But that’s not what happened. Rudd and Mendes were doing a bit where both parties consented to boob touching. So it went on for the duration of the joke. But Rudd kept going, even after the lights dropped on stage, taking the joke a bit beyond what was intended. That’s what makes it a feminist issue – while Mendes may have consented to Rudd putting his hands on her in the context of the joke, Rudd continued to do so. Dawson noted that she waited for him to remove his hand and it didn’t happen She also notes that before she went for his genitals, she stabbed him with a fork to make him stop — and he still didn’t let go.

This echoes a lot of the battles around sexual consent that are key in feminism – when does someone cross the line? In particular, it mirrors the question of withdrawing consent once given. The idea batted around in a few different comment sections was that since Mendes consented to the initial joke, Dawson was overreacting. However, just because Mendes consented to him grabbing her breast in the context of the joke does not mean she consented to anything after that, nor gave Paul Rudd access to her breasts until the end of time (or, in this case, until the end of the show.)

Since Mendes hasn’t yet spoken out after the awards, we don’t know what she was thinking or feeling. But Dawson felt like a line had been crossed, and took action.

However, over at Necole Bitchie’s blog, questions surfaced in the comments as to whether this was really a feminist act:

missnoturbestie

March 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

Call me crazy but I dont believe that being a womens’ rights activist means doing exactly the same type of degrading behavior to someone because they are doing it to you or another. I thought womens’ rights was about eradicating degrading behavior and educating people about equal and just treatment. How is it activism to simply repeat that degrading behavior? She thinks its going to teach him a lesson and show him how it feels but the reality is men dont seem to act degraded or ashamed by having a woman grab their packages.

If homegirl felt she was being degraded she would likely deal with it herself. Besides, in this instance it looks less womens rights activist and more “look at me, I’m doing something outrageous”. Whatever.

#next

That reaction contains some pretty common myths about what activism is and is not. Activism is about education – but it is also about protest. Necole Bitchie did not include the full transcript of Dawson’s remarks, so this commenter might have missed the context for why Dawson ultimately grabbed Rudd. Dawson used two tactics – one that was violent and one that was a mirror of Rudd’s own actions. Interestingly enough, the action that had the direct impact Dawson was looking for was when she performed a similar action to Rudd’s – i.e. grabbing his crotch.

In addition, it was probably important for Dawson to stand up for her friend – often when we are in the midst of a tricky situation, it can be difficult to act. Again, we don’t know what Mendes was thinking this whole time, but she may have hesitated because she didn’t want to make a scene or disturb the proceedings. She might have been completely comfortable with Rudd’s prolonged contact; but she could have equally been horrified and did not know how to extract herself from the situation.

Dawson’s intervention also served a third purpose: to subvert the dominant paradigm with regards to how people treat women at Award shows, particularly in regard to the the bodies of brown women. Had Rosario Dawson not jumped on stage and grabbed Rudd, would we have even heard about the bit? And would that bit have been considered if Rudd was onstage with a white woman? I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of when white women have had their chest area exposed or groped for entertainment value on an award show stage, and I am coming up short. Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson back in 2004 at the Superbowl and Diana Ross reached out and touched Lil’ Kim at the 1999 VMAs, but that’s about all that comes to mind.

But when it comes to women (particularly brown women), bodies, and consent, even something as simple as a kiss becomes an interesting moment in seeing the difference how people react to different scenarios.

A few years ago, Adrien Brody ran onstage after winning the Oscar for The Pianist and tongue kissed Halle Berry, catching her off guard. She smiled afterward, though she was still shocked – check out the placement of his hands from :30-:39 in this clip. Doesn’t seem so bad, right? Now check out the difference between that kiss and the one that happened between Jamie Foxx and Halle Berry during another awards show in 1999 (:28 – :33):

The consenting kiss looks different doesn’t it?

So when we look at the Rudd-Mendes-Dawson event, it is a feminist success because it allowed Dawson to both stand up for her friend and publicly challenge a dominant idea that women’s bodies are sexually fair game as entertainment fodder.

BTW, Dawson’s full statement to Access Hollywood is worth watching, since she discusses the need to support indie films and how they differ from Hollywood films:

(Thanks to Allison and Nga! for the tip!)

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  • Anonymous

    Some reports in national newspapers across the world portray the incident differently. Most papers say it was Dawson who made the first move, prompting Rudd to grope Mendes’s breast. The majority don’t even explain why she did it.

  • http://twitter.com/GoddessBlue Nikita Blue

    Rosario Dawson fan for life because of this!! Don’t let him (or anyone else) get away with it – and I think he got the idea just fine, despite the erroneous blanket statement about how “boys” [always] feel when you grab their package. Trust me, there are ways to convey your point about violation, and I think Rosario pulled it off beautifullllly.

  • PatrickInBeijing

    What Paul Rudd did is not okay. But, who the hell decided it would be funny? This is not just about the three people involved, it is about the producers, writers, directors, crew, other folks present. Didn’t anybody stop and say “You know this isn’t funny?” And don’t advertising agencies review shows, and don’t they tell people, hey you can’t do this? There is a lot wrong here. And a lot of it happened before the show aired……

  • Anonymous

    She should have kneed him in the groin. That would have actually been funny.

  • Guy22

    “I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of when white women have had their chest area exposed or groped for entertainment value on an award show stage, and I am coming up short.”

    There was Jamie Lee Curtis and who ever that guy is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozJqJOmW-Ws

    Googling for that clip, I came across Sandra Bullock (I dont’ know the context)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-erOB3bfF8&

    I’m not trying to do a “who gets groped more” competition, or denying that WoC are sexualized in a way that white woman are not. Just that all women are seen as public property, and white privilege does not extend to bodily autonomy (for women, anyway).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kimberly-Clark/100002086459475 Kimberly Clark

      To add to your post – Cameron Diaz and Chris Issac.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHIAQvxc5qs

      I remember Cameron being pissed off when this happened. He basically forces the kiss on her, during the clip you can see that she’s pretty upset.

      • lizzie (greeneyedfem)

        That was horrifying — I’d never seen/heard about this before. “I knew you’d come around”?? I guess to Chris Isaak “no” means “eventually, if I put enough pressure on her in a public setting”.

        Gross. What a sad excuse for a man.

  • Ibiza

    Yes, sexual assault is about power. But if Judd would argue that his actions where for the sake of show, why can’t Dawsons actions be considered likewise. When we make jokes just because we know everyone will laugh at them, like Mendes prefaced we forget the side of them that can be hurtful, offensive, and that perpetuate systematic oppression. In my opinion Dawson’s crotch grabbing actions just brought those realities to the forefront, and asked a question that needs to be asked. “Are we really still playing this game?” and if so, yes. I believe there have to be new rules. Welcome to the New Rules. Sometime people advocating for what they know is right is not pretty.

  • Medea

    Thank you, Rosario Dawson.

    My response to “sexual assault is never acceptable” is that sometimes a privileged person needs to experience the same treatment he hands out to others to know what it’s like. I also think that, even if Eva Mendes consented to having her breast grabbed (for an unknown length of time), the audience should not have been subjected to the reminder that women are property.

  • Anonymous

    The better question is would this have happened if it were a black man grabbing a breast of white women(especially an A or B list actress). The answer is hell no…

  • Jonathan

    Ryan Seacrest and Kathy Griffin.

    • Mimi

      The very first thing I thought of was Kathy Griffin’s bit from an old TV special about Ryan Seacrest tearing her shirt off at the American Music Awards. She gets to it around 08:15 of this video:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBUnmqsjoy0

      I don’t remember this ever being a “media firestorm,” but maybe it was just so long ago? Maybe people just have no sympathy for Kathy Griffin? The only reason I know of it is that Bravo broadcasts her specials pretty frequently still. Her comments in the video are still worth listening to because she describes the humiliation she felt, even though she’s 40-something and even though she’s known for not caring for politeness.

  • Cha-Cha

    Rosario Dawson: you are SO AWESOME

  • miga

    She was my hero before, but now wins the Badass of the Year Award. Rosario for Wonder Woman, anyone???

  • Jael

    Sexual assault is not and never will be a feminist act. It’s disturbing and triggering as hell how many people are spinning this as empowerment instead of more proof of how insidious rape culture is, even in attempts to fight it. This post says it all.

    • Anonymous

      Having survived a rape and molestation myself, the reason why I applaud Dawson for what she did is because she was able to quickly crystallize for Rudd–and for everyone else–exactly why his continuing to grab Mendez’s breast after the joke was long over was absolutely not okay. It wasn’t the *perfect* thing to do, but it was, in my book, a *good* thing to do because it made him stop and, hopefully, stop to think in that “walk a mile in my shoes” sort of way. He just may think twice about groping another woman.

      I think of Dawson’s re/action in similar terms of what happened in my old hometown: a racist group wanted to march in a working-class, racially mixed part of the city. (The area leaned towards white–come to find out it was a white person who called the white supremacist group because some of the Black people threatened him and his employees) . The mayor, who was Black, allowed the group to come. Word got out about the group’s arrival and the mayor’s complicity. Suffice to say, it didn’t sit too well with the citizens. There was a mixed-race counterdemonstration…then the young Black “gangbangers” arrived on the scene. The mayor, wanting to stave off “trouble” as well as do some PR moves around his stupidity (frankly speaking), drove over and tried to quell the unrest. By that point, nobody’s was listening to him because he lost all credibility. Those young men–some even had weapons–were the ones who told the white-supremacist group to get out of the city and never return. The group quietly left, and the leader of the group sent an apology to the mayor.

      I’m sure what those young men did brought up a whole bunch of ideas around “violent Black men” in the heads and hearts of those white supremacists (and even a few of the Black people, too, who’ve been victims of some of their crimes), but that day–and ever since–those young men, using the threat of violence against a group of people with a history of violence against Black people, were/are seen as folk heroes. Not the *perfect* thing to do, but a *good* thing to do.

      Let’s just say I haven’t heard of too many white supremacists trying to visit the city since that incident.

  • Kinky Chic

    DAMN, that was a sexy kiss (between Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx, obvs). And it IS a fact that brown women’s bodies are considered ‘up for grabs’ sexually–remember how Regis stepped out of line with Nicki Minaj and wasn’t reprimanded for it at ALL? I kind of wish she or someone else had reached out to grab *him*, to put him in place.

    And I co-sign, Rosario Dawson is all kinds of badass, and I love her. :)

  • lizzie (greeneyedfem)

    Another example: Richard Gere manhandling and kissing Shilpa Shetty at a charity event in 2007:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdnaHHns3c0
    He is just so gross here — she’s under pressure not to push him off or get angry because they have a cheering audience, and I think he knows it.

    In all these situations, the pressure is on the women to “be a good sport” and laugh off unsolicited touches — or risk being labeled a bitch who can’t take a joke. It really does seem like women’s bodies, especially the bodies of women of color, are up for grabs in men’s eyes — literally.

    I love Rosario Dawson for what she did.

    • Anonymous

      Another great example with Gere and Shetty. However, they–especially Shetty–were excoriated by some Indian citizens over that kiss. I don’t remember Gere apologizing for what happened.

      • lizzie (greeneyedfem)

        According to People, he did issue an apology:
        http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20037090,00.html

        But the same article points out that he also brushed off criticism by saying in an interview, “There is a very small, right-wing, very conservative political party in India, and they are the moral police in India and they do this kind of thing [demonstrations and legal complaints] quite often.”

        So his apology wasn’t really about admitting his mistake in grabbing and kissing Ms. Shetty without her permission — it was about appeasing a certain conservative population in India. And even that wasn’t sincere.

  • http://twitter.com/Sirahaha Siri Cool

    When Johansson was groped by Mizrahi he was made to apologize or at least chastised to where he understood he was wrong. Did Regis ever apologize to Minaj?
    So, even in instances where similar events occur people are seemingly desensitized or indifferent to the violation of females of color in public. It’s funny even.

    By the way, that consenting kiss was awesome!

    Slightly Unrelated: Also, this is an (actually) funny and scripted version of a similar event. Sometimes genitals are funny. This is Sandra Bullock and Jimmy Fallon at the MTV Movie Awards.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBaWeRTp06I&feature=related

  • Melanie

    Issac Mizrahi fondled Scarlett Johansson’s breasts while he was interviewing her on the red carpet a year ago I think. There’s some intersections with gender and sexual orientation going on there. Is it okay for homosexual men to grope women?

    • http://twitter.com/postfremenist mélange à treides

      My opinion on that is a decided “no”, because as gay men they still have access to (white) male privilege, which diminishes the selves and autonomy of those around them if they are not careful. When I was 8 months pregnant with my first child I went to a Christmas party, and a man and his partner approached me and both started fondling my extremely prominent abdomen without asking and without even introducing themselves. When I gently admonished them, I was told “Oh it’s ok, we’re gay!” as though lack of sexual intent made it perfectly ok to treat me and my desires as secondary to my body and their wish to handle it.

    • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

      no it is not okay for them to grope us.
      it is not okay for anyone to grope anyone really.
      as for the Jamie and Halle kiss that was nice, but I was not really offended by Adrien Brody’s kiss of Halle, it was rather spontaneous, it kind of reminded me of the famous WWII photo of the soldier kissing the nurse when the war is over.
      I think he would have kissed any woman up there handing him the award. not to say that jumping and kissing someone is fair game but his reaction win kiss to me seemed spur of the moment.
      Now Rosario is the BEST! Love her and what she stands for and stood for!
      What she said about it was spot on and also about independent films too!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kimberly-Clark/100002086459475 Kimberly Clark

        I disagree. Halle Berry was a married woman at the time, it was completely inappropriate and disrespectful for Adrian to kiss her like that. I’d seen the clip before but never watched it as closely, she looked uncomfortable and the way he grabbed and held her was pretty rough.

        He could have spontaneously hugged her, that would have been a little less offensive.

        • Anonymous

          For me it doesn’t matter whether she was married or not. But that fact that she was married, and a married black woman at that, reminds me of the times when white men would just walk into black people’s houses and rape any of the women they saw fit to have. So, that only makes Adrian’s disrespectful act even worse in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    @ Latoya–this right here:

    Activism is about education – but it is also about protest.

    You shot; you scoooooorrrrrred! And perfectly stated, too.

    Honestly, I have nothing but love and applause for what Dawson did. For me, what she did was the best of feminist activism: challenging the BSery for the sake of her friend.

  • http://twitter.com/2zelda Alexandra Snider

    And, really great article, Latoya!

  • http://twitter.com/2zelda Alexandra Snider

    The editing of the Brody clip with all the white dudes clapping and grinning while he kisses Halle is really gross in a “way to go, son” kind of way.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    “And would that bit have been considered if Rudd was onstage with a white woman? I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of when white women have had their chest area exposed or groped for entertainment value on an award show stage, and I am coming up short. Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson back in 2004 at the Superbowl and Diana Ross reached out and touched Lil’ Kim at the 1999 VMAs, but that’s about all that comes to mind.”

    I need to point out that yes, it happened. Scarlett Johanasson had her boobs fondled by Isaac Mizrahi, a gay fashion designer (I think that’s his name), and there was an uproar over it. I believe this happened 3 or 4 years ago at the Oscars or Golden Globes. Isaac Mizrahi then apologized for touching her boobs and acknowledged that it’s not OK for a gay man to touch a woman’s boobs without her consent.

    but I just wanna say, Rosario Dawson is so AWESOME and BADASS! Love, love, LOVE her.