In the first moments of his brand-new Netflix series, Aziz Ansari addresses the accusation of sexual assault made against him.
The comedian says in his recently broadcast program Right Now, “I’m sure there are some of you who are curious how I feel about that whole scenario. In the past year or so, I have experienced a wide range of emotions, including fear, humiliation, embarrassment, and, finally, a dreadful sense of regret that this individual felt this way.
It was an admission of guilt for hurting Grace, who had complained to the website Babe.net in January that Ansari had harassed her for sex when they were out on a date at his apartment, leaving her upset and in tears after the encounter was finished.
This is also more than many prominent men who have been accused as part of the #MeToo movement have provided. Since the comedian is well-liked by today’s young men, Ansari’s willingness to discuss how he dealt with the accusation without being defensive or angry has importance.
However, there was no explicit apology to Grace in the show or in any of Ansari’s other public statements regarding the incident. Grace wasn’t really mentioned much during Ansari’s presentation of the accusation.
Ansari primarily discussed how the episode affected him in the special, which was basically similar to the live performances the comedian has been giving across the nation this year.
I’ve seen Aziz Ansari perform live, watched the Netflix special, and read a tonne of articles about the consequences of the Babe story and Ansari’s subsequent career.
Grace is currently the person I truly want to hear from on the Ansari accusation, but I can understand if she decides to never again make any public comments on the subject.
Nearly two years after the #MeToo movement reached its current stage, the discussion surrounding sexual misbehavior in this nation still centers on influential men, their retribution, and their prospects for atonement.
The people this movement was supposed to be for, the ones who have come forward to allege misconduct, all too frequently get left behind.
With discussions of Grace’s accusation, Ansari closes Right Now.
In January 2018, reporter Katie Way’s article on Grace’s accusation was published on Babe.net. Grace (not her real name) claims in the narrative to have gone on a date with Ansari in September 2017 that culminated at his flat.
She claims that he ignored numerous signals that she was uncomfortable and repeatedly pushed her for intercourse there. I don’t want to feel pushed because then I’ll hate you, Grace reportedly said to Ansari at one point. However, she claimed that a short while later, “he sat back, pointed to his penis, and beckoned for me to go down on him.”
The night concluded, according to Grace, with her sobbing in an Uber on the way home. The incident immediately turned into a hot topic in the #MeToo movement, with some (like myself) claiming that it was an important addition to the discussion about gender and power and others saying it devalued the cause by drawing attention away from workplace harassment.
Ansari’s first statement in response claimed that he had been “surprised and alarmed” to find that Grace had been “uncomfortable” during their date. But in shows this year, including one I saw in Chicago in March, he started to delve into greater detail about his perspective on the story.
Ansari’s information on the accusation in Right Now is essentially a carbon copy of his account of the occurrence in the March show. In both instances, the comedian expressed his horror at the other person’s feelings before saying that he and others had taken a lesson from the experience. He spoke of a friend who claimed that the accusation had caused him to reconsider “every date I’ve ever been on.”
Ansari said in Right Now, “If this made not only me but other people be more thinking, then that’s a wonderful thing.” While the spirit and the story about the friend were the same, the language was significantly different in Chicago.
There is one significant difference between how Ansari responds to the charge in the special, which was recorded during live events in New York, and how he did so in Chicago.
In March, he didn’t address the accusation until the very last few minutes of his performance. In Right Now, though, he began speaking about it right away and then brought it up once again at the conclusion of the performance to convey his appreciation to the audience for continuing to come to see him.
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Since the allegation, “it hits me in a different manner when I see you guys here,” he remarked. It means so much to me because I almost felt like I died when I imagined a world in which I would never get to do this again.
Ansari only discusses his fear of losing everything and how appreciative he is that he is still able to perform; he makes no mention of it being unfair if he had lost his profession or of feeling angry.
It’s a welcome message at a time when some men who have been accused of sexual assault have behaved as though they should automatically be allowed to resume their high-profile occupations after making just token displays of remorse.
It will be impossible for audiences to watch Right Now in the future without recalling that the comedian was accused of sexual assault because Ansari has bookended it with discussions of Grace’s complaint, allowing the program to be defined, in a genuine way, by his reaction to the incident.
Ansari is asking his many male followers to continue participating in the bigger discourse about #MeToo and sexual misconduct by speaking candidly about the accusation made against him, as I noted in a March article. That is beneficial.
However, Right Now does not allay a worry I had about Ansari’s writing in March: He focuses solely on his personal experience with the allegation.
Grace feels ignored in Ansari’s consideration of the accusation.
Ansari begins by describing his feelings when Grace’s tale became widely known: He felt bad that this individual was feeling this way because he was terrified, embarrassed, and humiliated.
Other than the ambiguous “this manner,” there is no actual mention of Grace’s feelings. Ansari has never expressed regret to Grace in public. The text message Grace claimed to be from Ansari said, “Clearly, I misinterpreted things at the moment and I’m sincerely sorry,” suggesting that he had expressed his regret to her privately. Babe was shown the text message.
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Perhaps he doesn’t think a formal apology is necessary or appropriate. Whatever the case, the manner in which he has handled the on-stage event over the past year all but erases her from the story; it is something that occurred to him.
In actuality, Grace and her concerns have been sidelined throughout the public debate surrounding her claim.
According to Julianne Escobedo Shepherd’s article from Jezebel at the time, the original Babe article did her a disservice by concentrating on aspects like her wine and clothing choices as well as by using ambiguous and confusing language about how Grace described the encounter without providing any context.
Grace says, but her thought process isn’t completely articulated, “It took a really long time for me to validate this as sexual assault.” Babe exposed Grace to the same kind of criticism from those who believed she was somehow devaluing the #MeToo movement, which she herself faced as a result.
As Shepherd points out, Babe sought Grace to share her tale rather than the other way around, which raised additional concerns.
The majority of the discussion around her account after it went viral focused on what it meant for Ansari or for the #MeToo movement as a whole.
Some individuals demonstrated against his performances, but a larger, more prominent group—which included many media figures—started to use the comedian’s accusation as an example of how far the movement had gone. Others maligned Grace while some people chose to disregard their criticisms about Grace.
I’m sorry you had a poor date, but what you have done is appalling because it “chiseled away” at the #MeToo movement, said HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield in an “open letter” to Grace that she read aloud on air.
Few, if any, were considering what a suitable solution for Grace may entail or what actions by Ansari if any, would best address her sentiments. Everyone was instead discussing how Grace’s narrative would impact Ansari’s career or the bigger movement.
Grace made the decision to remain anonymous, which made it challenging to concentrate on her sentiments. But it’s hard to argue with that choice given the abuse she received from the media and the general public (I had emails from readers criticizing her for months after the Babe story was published).
Grace has already spoken in public, therefore there is probably not much benefit for her to do so again. More than a year after the Babe piece was released, I’m most interested in her experience. Does she wish the narrative had been handled otherwise?
Before and after its publication, what did she want from Ansari? What does she think about how he handled things while on tour? Does she perceive her experience any differently today than she did before it was a hot issue of discussion across the country? How does she feel about where the #MeToo movement is at this point?
We are aware of Aziz Ansari’s feelings on the allegations of sexual assault. In the previous several months, he has discussed it often on stage. While it is possible that he will do so again in the future, he appears to have said all that he is capable of saying at this time. He made a valuable but flawed contribution, and he managed to advance the discourse as far as he could on his own.
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But since January 2018, we haven’t heard Grace’s perspective on the matter. The only voice in the discussion about her accusation that is currently actually vital to hear is hers, and it is also the voice we are least likely to hear.
The latest phase of the #MeToo movement has been underway for almost two years when the New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their exposé of producer Harvey Weinstein.
Since then, several powerful men who have been accused of sexual misbehavior, including Weinstein, have lost their jobs. Others, such as President Donald Trump, have suffered absolutely no consequences.
However, the movement has always been intended to support survivors since it was started by Tarana Burke more than ten years ago. Both then and now, it has been fueled by people—mostly but not exclusively women—coming forward and discussing some of the worst experiences of their life, often at the risk of more pain.
These people’s voices are essentially the movement’s foundation. However, far too frequently, the men charged have become the subject of public discussion, with questions about what has happened to them, what should happen, and how long we should wait before forgiving them.
All too few people are enquiring as to the needs of those who spoke out and the nature of a movement that will truly serve them. In terms of sexual misconduct and power abuses, those are the questions that will really advance our civilization. Anything else now would just be going around in circles.
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