After Aziz, #MeToo Merits a Closer Look


Christina Papageorgiou

Talia Protos ’18, Columnist.

Amidst the tumult of the #MeToo movement, including the exposure of Hollywood production mogul Harvey Weinstein, the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, comedian Louis C.K., and many more men as sexual predators, a small story was published by online news source Babe denouncing renowned comedian Aziz Ansari for supposed sexual assault.

Under the headline “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life” and written by Katie Way, the article details the encounter that a 22-year-old woman named “Grace” had with the famed comedian.

As told by Way, Grace’s testimony did not paint a clear picture of what happened between her and Ansari. Grace said she was extremely uncomfortable with how quickly things progressed and the way that Ansari kept her close and kept making sexual advances. At one point, Grace told Ansari that she didn’t want to feel forced into things, to which he responded with apparent understanding. She reflected that in retrospect, she recognized Ansari’s actions as assault, since in her eyes, she made “clear non-verbal cues,” despite never verbally telling him to stop.

Grace’s testimony garnered extreme criticism from all sides. While she gained some support from the public, many self-proclaimed feminists and advocates of the #MeToo movement claimed that Grace’s application of the label “sexual assault” to her experiences was incorrect and that it invalidated the experiences of actual victims. Others chose to nitpick Grace’s story, calling her out for including details that had nothing to do with Ansari’s actions, like how he served her white wine instead of her preferred red.

Regardless of whether you believe that Grace is a victim of assault or that she turned her discomfort into an unmerited accusation, her story brings to light a set of valuable insights in an age of third-wave feminism and the #MeToo movement.

“…all women’s and victims’ stories are valid and each and every one of them can bring a new realization to the table – all that we have to do is listen.”

Sexual assault encompasses any unwanted physical sexual advances that the victim has not clearly consented to. While victims are NEVER at fault for being assaulted, the fact that Grace was vividly uncomfortable and yet never explicitly told Ansari to stop points to a lack of empowerment that many women experience. The crusade to end sexual violence posits that society is responsible for identifying assailants and making their actions known, but there needs to be a discussion about how victims, specifically women, need to learn how to stand up for themselves.

Even if Ansari’s behavior with Grace was not sexual assault, his actions are still deeply disturbing and problematic. From what we can tell, Ansari was forceful in making sexual advances with Grace and at times when she may have seemed uncomfortable, he didn’t pick up on it, nor did he at any point stop to ask if she was okay with what was happening. This points to a fatal flaw in our society: that men are not taught to be sensitive to the potential discomfort of others because their feelings are what matter, and more importantly, that men are not taught what consent is or how to go about asking for it.

Grace’s story, controversy aside, also tells us that no matter what the experience, whether it be of sexual assault or a disturbing encounter, all women’s and victims’ stories are valid and each and every one of them can bring a new realization to the table – all that we have to do is listen.