This past weekend, babe.net published an article titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life.” The article has since gained massive traction and gone viral, with the author of the article, Katie Way, appearing on CBS News. Since the publishing of the article, Aziz Ansari has issued a public statement, as seen below:
“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 afterward, 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.”
Now, articles are popping up responding to the accusations, as seen in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post, to name a few. These articles criticize Grace, the woman who spoke up. They blame the victim. These major newspapers do not understand rape culture in the slightest.
In the New York Times article, entitled “Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.”, journalist Bari Weiss opens with the line, “I’m apparently the victim of sexual assault. And if you’re a sexually active woman in the 21st century, chances are that you are, too.” Weiss immediately shows her lack of empathy and professionalism as she sets the tone for this article as one of ignorance, crudeness, and strong denial. By saying this, she discredits how often women experience sexual assault and harassment (statistics show that one in every six American women have been the victim of either an attempted or an actual rape, and that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted). As I read further, I could not have been more disgusted with the way Weiss portrayed Grace. But as I went back to Twitter, I saw that journalists that I respected retweeted the link to that article. They agreed with it. Here’s why that’s so disheartening.
Rape culture is the basis of our society. Women created the #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements to try to dismantle that rape culture. People now praise victims of sexual assault, harassment, and rape that come forward. Some of those same people discredit Grace’s story and say that it brings humiliation to the #MeToo Movement. They believe that sexual assault, harassment, and rape are the only aspects of rape culture. They are blaming Grace for Ansari’s behavior.
There are a lot of comments going around that claim what Grace experienced was a bad date. There are a lot of comments going around that Grace regretted her actions with Ansari. Here are the problems with those arguments. “Bad dates” happen when your date talks about his ex all night. “Bad dates” happen when your date is on the phone all night. “Bad dates” happen when you break your knee cap and then the guy says he’s “not feeling it” and leaves you while you wait for an ambulance (to quote Leslie Knope). It is not a “bad date” when he repeatedly pursues sexual advances after you have made it clear (both verbally and non-verbally) that you are uncomfortable. It is terrifying. Bad dates you can shrug off and laugh about later. Dates where you worry that he might rape you are terrifying. They are not “bad”.
People criticize women for always “reading too much into men’s comments”. People criticize women for being wary of every man they meet. Grace didn’t leave Ansari’s apartment because she didn’t want to assume that he would disrespect her. Yet, people criticized her because she wasn’t aware that Ansari would keep pursuing sexual advances. When will people criticize Ansari? When will people realize Grace’s situation was terrifying? When will people realize “bad dates” don’t consist of experiences like Grace’s? When will people stop holding women responsible for the actions of men? When will people stop excusing the common inappropriate actions of men? We cannot excuse inappropriate behavior based on the commonality of it. We should not be excusing behavior because it’s legal. We should only excuse behavior that is not morally reprehensible.
Ansari’s career shouldn’t be ruined because of this one instance. He should be allowed to learn from his past mistakes to become a better person. However, we have to criticize and condemn this behavior because it is unacceptable. We cannot claim that since she wasn’t raped, she has nothing to complain about. The #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements were created to dismantle societal structures that favor men, and we cannot claim to be apart of either of them if we do not criticize Ansari’s behavior and expect more from men. The conversation we’re currently having in our country about dismantling rape culture does not begin with sexual harassment and end with rape. Rape culture is a collection of related actions and behaviors, and we must keep exposing how often those actions and behaviors occur until we dismantle rape culture completely.