OPINION: Everything wrong with one guy’s response to the Aziz Ansari situation


(Tyler Ross - Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Comic, actor and writer Aziz Ansari has been varyingly attacked and defended on social media after an article was published featuring an anonymous woman detailing a sexual encounter with him. Most of the commentary focuses on the legality, and not what was actually right or wrong.

Kameron Schmid, Opinion editor

A friend of mine on Facebook recently posted a status about the #TimesUp movement and Aziz Ansari that pissed me and many other of his friends off. I’ll call him Leonard.

Leonard has since deleted this post, but I screenshotted that sucker the minute I saw it.

Every single sentence (literally, every single one) served as an example of the problems that I personally have with some of my fellow men’s responses to the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, particularly from those who can’t decide which side they’re on.

So we’ll go line by line, in order, with every word (some misspelled) left intact.

“This thing with Aziz is definitely getting into witch hunt territory.”

The history of witch hunts — actual ones, mind you, when people were executed by their community members under suspicion of being actual witches — is not only ludicrous as a metaphor in the common era, but a lasting form of sexism in this case.

Research published in 2017 by feminist historian Jone Johnson Lewis shows that in over 12,000 counted “confirmed witch executions” from existing documents dating back to times when witch hunts were an actual practice, 75 percent of those executed were women. Reasons for this dichotomy are speculative at best, but the skew is clear.

Additionally, the famous men accused of sexual harassment and/or assault in recent months (some of whom have admitted to or chosen not to deny the claims against them) are not being publicly executed and/or punished.

If men like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. have had their careers ruined because of the claims against them, it is not a witch hunt. It is a course correction toward an entertainment industry that women can feel comfortable being members of.

“This guy spent his enormous show biz capital being an ally to women and getting men to look at their own behaviors.”

A classic “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Because Ansari was by all accounts a public feminist aligned with the #TimesUp movement, according to Leonard, any woman who then takes issue with what he does is supposedly endangering the legitimacy of the movement by scrutinizing a male ally.

To give Ansari a pass — that is, to not criticize him for apparently being grossly forceful during a sexual encounter with a woman more than a decade younger than him — just because he wore a #TimesUp pin and has made pro-feminist career decisions in the past, would serve to negate the entire argument that those in the movement are trying to make.

“The metoo movement is going to need men to inform other men from a perspective they can relate too.”

I’ll use part of my response that I left directly on Leonard’s post to respond to this one.

“Jesus Christ dude, the #metoo movement needs men to do TWO THINGS: listen, and adapt. And you ain’t doing either.”

The notion that men are only going to be able to rationalize progression in how our society treats women through the explanations of other men is idiotic. It defeats the entire purpose of women’s empowerment, instead insinuating that men are the only people who can get other men to change their behavior.

We’ve tried that for … literally all of existence. It hasn’t worked. Women have the right to tell men how the way men treat women is wrong. If men, or a man like Leonard, want to actually make the world a better place for women, they need to be receptive even (or especially) to messages that come from a perspective they can’t “relate” to.

Because spoiler alert: Leonard can’t relate to this experience. He can’t relate to any woman’s experience. A core facet of every woman’s relationship with most or all men is hesitance, cautiousness or outright fear, for good reason.

One in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and over half of the killings of American women are related to intimate partner violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those numbers, and the reality behind them for many women, are not something that can be adequately communicated by a man to another man.

“If women are going to turn on people like Aziz because of one anonymous source from an online blog,”

Ansari was accused by “Grace,” a pseudonym used in the babe.net article, of roughly and grossly continuing to perform sexual acts on her during a date despite what she is quoted as calling strong “non-verbal cues” of her discomfort.

In a statement, Ansari did not deny the accounts from Grace, saying in part that “everything did seem okay to me.”

There is a clear disconnect between Grace’s account and Ansari’s, one often present when men claim to not have been aware of the context to their actions. A lot has been said on who to believe in these situations; for decades, accusations against C.K. were mostly doubted, while never quite going away. Eventually, C.K. admitted they were true.

It remains the most logical conclusion to me that false accusations of sexual misconduct for purposes like money, legal revenge or public embarrassment are mostly a myth, with few outliers.

Many people, including men and women, have publicly defended Ansari, saying he does not deserve to be shamed for what has been repeatedly called a “bad date.”

This only shows how deeply ingrained we as a society have accepted the idea that women can be essentially used by men for self-satisfaction, sexual or otherwise. Instead of considering what Ansari should have done differently, we are told what Grace should have done to prevent him.

Any sex that is not affirmatively consensual between any and all parties is wrong. The overwhelming majority of nonconsensual sex stems from men coercing or forcing women into having sex with them.

To argue consensual sex as a law rather than a moral imperative is to send the message that we don’t actually care to protect women from being harassed, assaulted or even raped; we just care that men aren’t punished for something more severe than what they did.

The laws are unclear, and likely always will be. Consent laws vary from state to state and will never be able to protect a woman (or man) from sexual assault in the most important moment: when it is occuring. That is why making affirmative consent the cultural standard is one of the most important parts of this conversation.

The idea that Ansari, a man in his 30s who made his own show almost exclusively about dating and relationships, as well as literally wrote a book about modern romance, could somehow not realize that the person he is forcefully trying to have sex with doesn’t want to have sex with him, seems implausible.

“you’re going to be pushing a lot of guys back into the shadows who would have otherwise supported your movement.”

Ansari has not been charged with any crime, met with any lawsuit or even been fired from his show “Master of None” on Netflix. Speaking on the latter, I don’t think he will be and don’t know if he should be.

He has been widely criticized for what Grace said he did and what he did not outright deny, and deservedly so.

For Leonard, or anyone who claims to be an ally of women in their fight for a more equal society, to threaten to withhold his support on his terms only shows he wasn’t a real ally in the first place, and that he wasn’t willing to listen to the many women who came forward with the same kind of story, but with many different men.

If any man wants to help make the world a better place for women, his number one duty is to listen to what they say and take it as truth. All the Leonards in the world need to start.