So, full disclosure: I was a fan of comedian Aziz Ansari. I loved his performance in the series Parks and Recreation, plus, he cited himself an ally of the feminist movement. But I had to step back and reevaluate my support for him when news of his sexual misconduct surfaced. If you recall, last year, website babe.net published a story by an anonymous woman, who recounted how her date with the comedian led to a traumatic experience wherein she was subjected to unwanted sexual advances. She stressed that she used verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate that she was “distressed” and told the site that the incident could easily be equated to sexual assault. “I cried the whole ride home. At that point I felt violated,” she said.
Following the reports, Aziz responded and actually admitted to engaging in sexual activity with the woman, but insisted that the whole time, he thought it was “completely consensual.” In a statement, he said that, “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.” He added, “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) January 15, 2018
He remained low-key following the controversy and though he resumed his tour last September, he completely sidestepped the issue during his shows. This year, it appears he’s finally ready to address it. For the first time, he talked about the sexual misconduct allegations against him during his stand-up comedy set in New York City.
According to Vulture writer Jesse David Fox who was in the audience, after a few warm-up lines, he finally delved into the incident. “He told the audience that there are two reasons he hasn’t really talked about that ‘whole thing.’ First, he said, he wanted time to process and determine what he wanted to say. Second, ‘it’s a terrifying thing to talk about,’” Jesse wrote.
“There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” Aziz stated, his voice reportedly wavering. “But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.” He then recalled a conversation where a friend admitted that what happened to the comedian made him reflect as well, and rethink every date he’s been on. “If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing,” Aziz said.
Well, one thing’s for sure: He definitely handled that way better than Louis CK did. But for many critics, that doesn’t mean he’s vindicated. One thing they’re looking for is an actual apology for the woman, something I would have to agree with. Regardless of his belief that it was consensual, fact is, he hurt her.
aziz ansari did not apologize. he did not admit wrong doing. he did not acknowledge his predatory behavior. he boiled the issue down to “i made someone feel that way”, which is wrong. you assaulted someone. this isn’t about feelings, it’s about ACTION
— kenzie rain (@imkenzierain) February 12, 2019
Still, I personally am not cancelling Aziz just yet. Not because I was a fan of him, but because I believe sometimes, to vilify men only makes them tougher enemies of the feminist movement. And god knows what we need now, are allies. That’s why it’s so important to educate men. One thing Aziz’ statements prove is that something as basic as men making sure their partner wholly, and fully concedes, is something they still have to learn and understand, sadly.
Let’s just hope he speaks out more about this on his next shows, and more importantly, apologize and acknowledge his victim’s feelings, rather than prioritizing his own.
Art by Marian Hukom
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