Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct allegations: Unfair humiliation or legitimate accusations?
The allegations of sexual harassment made against comedian and TV star Aziz Ansari have sparked off an online debate. Here’s what people have been saying.Updated: Jan 17, 2018 12:26 IST
The allegations of sexual harassment made against comedian and TV star Aziz Ansari have sparked off an online debate with several prominent news outlets and voices of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements taking divisive stances on the issue.
In a detailed account published Sunday on the feminist portal Babe.net, a woman writing under the name ‘Grace’ said that Ansari behaved in an obnoxious manner with her during a date, and ignored ‘non verbal cues’ and left her in tears by the end of the evening. Grace even shared texts the two exchanged the next day in which she let him know that he had made her feel uncomfortable during their encounter, for which Ansari apologised.
What made this allegation different from the ones against, say Louis CK or James Franco, was that once Grace had voiced her discomfort, Ansari backed off. Another point raised by the several pieces written in Ansari’s defence was that at no point did Grace clearly said ‘No’ although she gave many non-verbal cues.
In an article titled ‘Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader,’ published by the New York Times, the writer called the original account ‘arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement’. “If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you,” the writer continued. “If you go home with him and discover he’s a terrible kisser, say, ‘I’m out.’ If you start to hook up and don’t like the way he smells or the way he talks (or doesn’t talk), end it. If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door.”
The Washington Post and The Atlantic published similar pieces. “Allegations against the comedian,” wrote Caitlin Flanagan in an article titled ‘The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari’, “are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful—and very, very dangerous.” She called Grace’s original account ‘3000 words of revenge porn’.
The Guardian’s Jill Fillipovic also questioned the journalistic ethics of the original piece. “We can – we must – wade into the messy, complicated nature of sex in a misogynist world,” she wrote, “but this celebrity exposé doesn’t do the job well enough.”
Conversely, pieces published on Vox (‘The Aziz Ansari story is ordinary. That’s why we have to talk about it.’) and VICE (‘Aziz Ansari Didn’t Do Anything Illegal But That’s Not The Point’) argued that simply because no laws were broken shouldn’t take away from the fact that experiences such as the one Grace went through are all too common.
Ansari issued a statement denying the accusations. Read it here:
“In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.
“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.
“I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.” – Aziz Ansari
Twitter, meanwhile, mirrored the opinions of these publications. Here are some reactions:
I saw someone tweet something like "if what Aziz Ansari did was sexual assault then every woman I know has been sexually assaulted" and like yeah, actually.— Arnesa (@Rrrrnessa) January 15, 2018
The Aziz Ansari and Mark Wahlberg "scandals" prove that feminists think women are frail, helpless flowers who can't possibly be expected to speak up and assert themselves. I've never seen women more unfairly infantilized than they've been over the past few days.— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) January 16, 2018
How could Aziz Ansari have known that the very romantic pawing, badgering, repeated balking, and forcible movement of a woman’s head to his groin after their first date was not normal— "TBONE" O'Sullivan (@Bro_Pair) January 16, 2018
Just a reminder that Aziz Ansari's career is fine. Mike Tyson's career is fine. Sean Penn's career is fine. Woody Allen's career is fine. Kobe Bryant's career is fine. Stop talking about how women are "ruining these men's careers." We've seen very few careers actually ruined.— Sophie Ellman-Golan (@EgSophie) January 17, 2018
desi women have been sharing accounts of aziz ansari and riz ahmed sexually assaulting women for quite some time. forget men, they haven’t even received acknowledgement from other desi women. they’ve brushed it off and continued to support them.— zayna (@washedzayna) January 16, 2018
I appreciate all the men defending Aziz Ansari. It's good to know who you can't trust— Erika Heidewald 💫 (@erikaheidewald) January 17, 2018
If the Aziz Ansari mess has taught us anything, it's that we need to drastically overhaul the way we approach sex, specifically in that we need to start honestly talking about it, period. Too many men & women are on different pages thanks to years of social brainwashing.— Alisha Grauso (@AlishaGrauso) January 17, 2018
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First Published: Jan 17, 2018 12:12 IST