There are so many #MeToo stories that have opened up a much-needed conversation about sexual assault. However, this story inspired a different conversation in my mind—a conversation of how exactly to tell one's own personal story.
On Jan. 13, Babe.net released an article containing a detailed account of a woman under the pseudonym of Grace describing a date and subsequent sexual interaction with Aziz Ansari.
Grace used the words “uncomfortable," “forced" and “violated” to describe the sexual encounter, in which, from Grace’s perspective, Ansari ignored or did not understand her non-verbal cues throughout the course of the interaction. Ansari said in a statement released on Monday that he was completely unaware of how uncomfortable Grace felt.
Many feminist public figures have taken to social media, voicing their support of the anonymous woman’s story and experience. Jessica Valenti, a columnist at the Guardian, 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".
However, major publications such as the New York Times and the Atlantic have published op-eds claiming that Ansari is not at fault for being incapable of reading someone’s mind. Additionally they have scolded “Grace” for her clear lack of a true desire to escape or completely change the situation if it was actually very uncomfortable.
There are arguments on both sides of this subjective narrative. Although I have previously written a column regarding my respect for Ansari’s creative genius, I am disappointed in his unwavering effort to engage in sexual intercourse with someone who was, from her narrative, clearly uninterested. I don’t think many could disagree with that.
Do I think, from what I read, that Grace could have been more vocal or left the situation earlier if she was uncomfortable to the point of tears? Possibly, but I am not here to interpret and potentially invalidate Grace’s experience.
I do, however, wish to comment on the nature in which she shared her story. Ansari is a well-known supporter of the feminist movement, and texted Grace the next day as though nothing negative had happened. In his statement, he said that at no point did he feel as though Grace was uncomfortable.
I am not sure what their private exchange after the fact was, but publishing a very explicit account of a sexual encounter is typically more appropriate when the accused is completely in the wrong. In the past year, America has heard and watched many stories where one perpetrator was in the wrong, such as Harvey Weinstein.
This encounter seems to be much more of a misunderstanding than anything else.
Again, I was not there, and I will not invalidate Grace’s experience. However, I truly hope she thought intensely about the repercussions of potentially ruining the career of someone who has repeatedly spoken out in support of feminism, minority representation and the #TimesUp movement.
Based on Ansari's response to Grace, in which he said, "clearly, I misread things in the moment and I'm truly sorry," the character that Ansari has shown through his work and his statement concerning the event, clearing up any miscommunication and private apologies may have been more appropriate in terms of seeking justice.
In order to ensure that the impact of #MeToo and #TimesUp continue to bring justice to many people around the country and world, putting caution, thought and dignity into the ways in which these stories are told is of the utmost importance.
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