Over the weekend, Babe.net published a story by writer Katie Way about an anonymous young woman, “Grace,” who says she had an uncomfortable night with comedian Aziz Ansari during which he pressured her to have sex. It sparked an array of questions and takes in the following days, such as: Did Babe.net mishandle the reporting and editing process? Should they have published the piece in the first place? Also, what is Babe.net? And now, we come to this: What exactly is going on between Way and HLN host Ashleigh Banfield, and how did insults about “burgundy lipstick” and “bad highlights” somehow get dragged into this?
Let’s unpack it.
How did Banfield get involved in the first place?
On Monday, Banfield directed a critical monologue on her show at “Grace,” saying that her account undermined the #MeToo movement — a controversial opinion that’s been articulated by some others. “You have chiseled away at a movement that I, along with all my sisters in the workplace, have been dreaming of for decades,” she said. “You had an unpleasant date. And you didn’t leave. That is on you. And all the gains that have been achieved on your behalf and mine are now being compromised by allegations that are reckless and hollow.”
What was Way’s reaction to that?
Well. She sent a scathing email to Banfield, which the host then decided to publicly address during a conversation on her show on Wednesday. Banfield read a short bit of her message on air:
“Ashleigh, someone I am certain nobody under the age of 45 has heard of. I hope the 500 retweets on the single news write up made that burgundy lipstick, bad highlights, second wave feminist has-been really relevant for a little while.”
“The reason I want to share that is because if you truly believe in … feminism, the last thing you should do is attack someone in an ad hominem way for her age — I’m 50 — and for my highlights,” Banfield shot back. “I was brown-haired for a while when I was a war correspondent, interviewing Yasser Arafat, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gaza and the West Bank. Google those places.”
When reached for comment for this piece, a spokesperson for Banfield said they would let this clip “speak for itself.”
Bad highlights? Second wave feminist has-been? Do we know what else was in Way’s email?
Do we ever. Business Insider published the full email on Wednesday afternoon. (The Cut reached out to Way and Babe.net editors for comment but had not yet heard back at the time of publication.) For starters, Way appears to have not sent the email out of the blue — it was a reply to a producer who asked her to appear on Banfield’s show in the first place. But after turning the opportunity down, she rips into Banfield with aplomb vaguely reminiscent of the sorority-girl email freak-out of yore.
It’s an unequivocal no from me. The way your colleague Ashleigh (?), someone I’m certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of, by the way, ripped into my source directly was one of the lowest, most despicable things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Shame on her. Shame on HLN. Ashleigh could have “talked” to me. She could have “talked” to my editor or my publication. But instead, she targeted a 23-year-old woman in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life, someone she’s never f—— met before, for a little attention. I hope the ratings were worth it! I hope the ~500 RTs on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick bad highlights second-wave feminist has-been feel really relevant for a little while. She DISGUSTS me, and I hope when she has more distance from the moment she has enough of a conscience left to feel remotely ashamed — doubt it, but still. Must be nice to piggyback off of the fact that another woman was brave enough to speak up and add another dimension to the societal conversation about sexual assault. Grace wouldn’t know how that feels, because she struck out into this alone, because she’s the bravest person I’ve ever met. I would NEVER go on your network. I would never even watch your network. No woman my age would ever watch your network. I will remember this for the rest of my career — I’m 22 and so far, not too shabby! And I will laugh the day you fold. If you could let Ashleigh know I said this, and that she is no-holds-barred the reason, it’d be a real treat for me.
Then again, who among us didn’t send an email or ten at age 22 that we now shudder to remember?