OPINION: Let’s Talk about Aziz Ansari

TW: Sexual Assault, Rape, Sexual Misconduct, Self Harm

Look, I’ve had my fair share of witch hunts from celebrities to hardcore to college frat boys. In college, I started down a route, which was the first of many in my feminist awakening, in which I proudly and daringly defended victims of Sexual Assault. I was not afraid to call them out and support women who fell victim to the abuse of men. But I soon become swept up in this movement where I always chose to side with women, and this became dangerous.

I remember one account on Twitter from a woman I didn’t even know about a man I did know who used to send me under pictures with hard-ons and say “I wish you were here,” I would brush him off and reply with “‘I’m studying lol shouldn’t you be studying.” He lived 1,200 miles away from me. And this girl lived near him. Apparently, he tried to kiss her one too many times after she rejected him, and she wrote a lengthy post on her Apple notes page and posted it on Twitter. (I say apparently, because, well, I can’t even remember their names or what it actually said). But surely enough, the internet turned on him. He went from a couple thousand followers on Instagram and Twitter to nonexistent. I don’t remember if I personally partook in this event of publicly shaming him, but as I reflect back I remember he was called a rapist and abuser. But why, he didn’t actually rape anyone? Was he gross? Yes. Did he not give up when we wanted him to? Yes. If he did it me and some other girl was he probably pushy towards other women, I can’t say yes, but probably.

I had men ask for nudes, and quickly respond with “okay well you’re fat anyway.” This ability to shame them on Twitter became a sort of power for me, and maybe other women as well.  It also became a platform of justice for many women who would never see the inside of a courtroom. Has anyone seen that episode of Newsroom where Don goes to find the woman at Princeton and talks to her? I really think maybe this is where my wake up call came from.

Let’s fast forward to about 2 years ago. Where many of the people reading this will remember, I made a terrible mistake and lost friends over it. A woman decided to share a piece about a man who pushed far too many limits, involving alcohol, etc. But when she posted her piece on Twitter she never once used the word rapist or abuser, but what did I use? Rapist and abuser, yes you guessed correctly. It was wrong of me, but that person and I have a long history of hatred between us so I Ignored her points and went for my own justice, and apologies are due that I have not given.

I quickly became the one thing I didn’t want to be: someone hurting the feminist movement. I threw words like abuse, rapist, racist, around like no tomorrow. A few years ago the worst thing to call someone was a racist, but as we slowly called more and more white people against BLM a racist their eyes kinda glazed over as we talked about racial issues. And this is what happened as we used rapist and abuser: people stopped listening.

This is when we stopped using Twitter as our courtroom for the Justice we would never see, and we turned it into the punching bag for all men that made us feel violated.

So how does this tie into Aziz Ansari? Well, I am sure at this point we have all read this post written by Katie Way and posted at Babe. If you haven’t read it, pause and read it before continuing to read my post. Yesterday, the witch hunt began. “Well, Aziz is canceled.” “We don’t support this in this house.” “Aziz is a rapist.”

This young woman, 22, covered by anonymity as Grace shares her details of her date with Ansari, and the internet went crazy. And I read post after post calling him a rapist.

Let’s be clear, Aziz has disappointed a lot of us, but point blank he did not commit rape. Point blank.

Aziz has painted him as a feminist, an ally, and monetized for years of being these things. I think that is where it struck a deep chord with most of us. It made me cringe. I also think for most of us, we can remember situations like this. I can think of one night in particular where I met a guy at a party, and he kept kissing me, and I felt guilty to say no, as I had danced with all night. I was too afraid to say no, to some ugly frat boy. So I can’t even begin to imagine the fear Grace felt at 22 articulating the word no to an older man, let alone a man of Ansari’s fame status. I also think for men, this is such normal behavior for them, that they can’t begin to understand why this would be bad. Isn’t this the hookup culture we created? Even in his apologies he wrote “I thought it was consensual.” And I think this speaks volumes. Why does he think coercion is consensual? Why do men think this is consensual? This is the root of the issue here. The heart beat of rape culture.

Much like the piece Cat Person published by the New Yorker. That piece really stuck to us, because well, it is now part of our generation. Vapid and shallow conversations via texts and sharing memes don’t mean we know someone. And I think Grace was hoping for something more intimate, as we see that she hoped he would play with her hair or back. And I think Margot was too.

I read a few tweets this morning, from an account I will choose not to share, because of the witch hunt. While she had some great points, she also had some bad points.

Her first point was that men aren’t responsible to learn our social cues. And to be honest, that is bullshit. You’re adults, you can tell when a woman is uncomfortable. And surely after the sentence “I won’t enjoy it if I’m forced,” Aziz knew she was uncomfortable as she sat on the floor wanting affection and then suggested oral sex from her. Nope. He knew better right here. And I can’t imagine the fear and uncomfortableness of wanting to say no, but not knowing how to get the words. You know we are uncomfortable. And consent isn’t no is no, consent is an affirmative yes. Grace only felt comfortable or safe once she left Aziz’s presence. Which is his fault. He had a responsibility on that date, especially in his own domain of his home, to make her feel safe. She was younger, non famous, and a woman. She repeatedly demonstrated she was not interested and kept hoping he would be better. Haven’t we all been in a situation like this?

The second point from her was that 22 is around the age we start learning about sexual experiences we don’t want or do want. And yes and no, we don’t know this woman, this could have been her first time kissing a man or maybe millionth time. What we do know is she was a nonfamous 22-year-old photographer from Brooklyn in a room alone with one of the most famous comedians from our generation. Who had the power in this dynamic? But ultimately yes, she is right. At 22 we are wading the waters figuring everything out, but I think for this argument to be on point we have to be at the same level.

Her third point was one that made me really upset. She discussed that the woman needed to crowdsource her feelings. This might have been the first time this woman ever felt violated, but by the sentence “you’re all the same.” I highly doubt that. Look here and listen, some women take days, months, years to process their rape and sexual assault, and typically they do it outwardly–talking, self-harm, drinking, etc. This isn’t unusual, and this sure as shit does not negate her feelings of being violated, or any woman’s experiences of rape and assault.

Now let’s get to the Atlantic’s piece and holy shit was this piece awful, but also my thoughts. Flanagan writes this, ”

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Twenty-four hours ago—this is the speed at which we are now operating—Aziz Ansari was a man whom many people admired and whose work, although very well paid, also performed a social good. He was the first exposure many young Americans had to a Muslim man who was aspirational, funny, immersed in the same culture that they are. Now he has been—in a professional sense—assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account. Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side. The feminist writer and speaker Jessica Valenti tweeted, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser-focused on college-educated white men for another few months. But we’re at warp speed now, and the revolution—in many ways so good and so important—is starting to sweep up all sorts of people into its conflagration: the monstrous, the cruel, and the simply unlucky. Apparently, there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.

Here is my opinion, half of this is really mean, and half of this is spot on.

First, we don’t know if Grace wanted to be his girlfriend, but in the first few weeks of texting and dating don’t we all get caught up in that? So I dislike that the writer added that thought in there.

Aziz apologized immediately, which partly I think is bullshit. He knew he pushed some limits. Why else would she so abruptly leave? Come on, you’re an adult. But also, when she texted him, he apologized immediately. But at the same time, Aziz has been famous for a while now, and in that culture, I don’t doubt that he wasn’t surprised she didn’t want to have sex with him. Meaning, I’m sure he feels like a trophy fuck, and a nonfamous girl wouldn’t be excited for an opportunity to have sex with a celebrity. And it’s the world he is wrapped up in Hollywood.

Referencing the Newsroom again, but remember that episode where Hallie wrote a really personal piece about her and Jim for likes and retweets. Yup. This is ultimately what this piece reminded me of. It was solely aimed at likes and retweets for a magazine that wasn’t on the map.  As for the woman? I’m not sure her full intentions, but it didn’t fully seem pure or to warn and protect other women. This truly seemed a chance at destroying a man that, as Flanagan wrote, didn’t deserve it. Meaning he didn’t deserve to be called a rapist and the spotlight of anger and canceling him online. He deserves backlash and education to grow.

If we are so quick to write people off for mistakes, will we ever become better? We need to educate, and honestly, Aziz is at an age where he has a lot to unlearn. Just like most of us. The whole point of the movement is to make the world a better place, and we have to ask ourselves if this is the best tactic and approach to making the world a better place– canceling people on social media. Take for example, the internet called Emma Watson a white feminist and many wrote her off. But she took that time to learn about how her behavior was supporting white supremacy. In fact, calling her out, calling out a woman in power,  helped her grow and learn and hopefully use her power to help.

Aziz was wrong. And I hope he learned. I hope other men use this experience as an educational situation and not a scare tactic to understand what consensual sex is, that coercion is 100% not consensual, and that it is your responsibility to learn social cues in a world where saying no often leaves women dead. I know this woman feels violated and hurt. But I just have a gut feeling about this article and the social media response that followed.

I truly hope we take this an educational moment. Because the only way we will be better is through education. As I wrote to a friend “why did he think this is consensual? Why do men think this is consensual? I think that is the root of the problem here. And not a means to destroy him for the sake of destroying him. But to destitute him to teach other men: this isn’t okay. This isn’t consensual. Because this is muddy. This isn’t exactly rape. But it is something almost all of us have experienced. And it’s even more heart breaking coming from a man who painted himself an ally in public. But I also think we need to use this as an educational moment and not a scare tactic.

Here is Aziz’s Response. 31 hours after the post.

Aziz is a learning curve for men who don’t understand or know why their sexual behavior is wrong. Here is your chance to step up to the plate.

I would really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. I know this is muddy and grey water we are trekking into. But is this hurting the feminist movement or helping the feminist movement?

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