Ansari’s “Misconduct” & Grace’s “Trauma” Are Now Open To the House
“I guess there is no way I will ever really know what it is like to be in your shoes...so, I will try to do a better job of listening.’’
A pallid Dev, played by Aziz Ansari, concedes to his girlfriend after a heated argument about everyday sexism in his Emmy award-winning comedy Master Of None.
The recent article about Ansari and his alleged sexual misconduct is still a festering wound. It makes me wish that we all did a better job of ‘’listening’’. You, me, the media, the Twitter godwomen, the Facebook gadflies...all of us.
What Happens to That Which Is Not Black And White?
The lady in question, Grace, has given a blow-by-blow account of everything that transpired that night. If we can hold her account to be true, we can safely claim that she did engage despite discomfort and that Ansari did try to proceed with sexual activities despite her reluctance.
So, where does that leave us, the opining lot perched skillfully behind our computer screens? Are we prepared to pick a side, against our better judgement?
The All-Pervasive “But”...
For many, the details, dare I add, are so ragged that they don’t really know what conclusions to draw. The confusion is rampant and dreadful. And when that happens, we manage to judge situations by our own experiences. Here, we bump into the weather-beaten lot with ‘’why-did-she’’ and ‘’couldn’t-she-have’’ up their sleeves.
Can resistance always be straitjacketed in a strict format? Is a woman always emotionally equipped to kick his b*lls and storm off? I don’t quite know, but this episode got me thinking.
Aziz Ansari’s “Humiliation”
An article published on The New York Times claims that Ansari is guilty of not being a mind reader. The author rephrases Grace’s text message to Ansari the next day, telling him that he had ignored clear non-verbal cues; he should have noticed that she was uncomfortable. Put in other words, the author says, it reads, “I am angry that you weren’t able to read my mind.” The author, a “proud feminist’’ writes, “If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door.”
Next, a piece on ‘’The Atlantic’’ states that “allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful—and very, very dangerous.’’ It argues that ‘’modern girls are weak’’ and that ‘’she (Grace) and the writer who told her story created... 3,000 words of revenge porn.” Grace should have had agency to walk out on Ansari the second she realised that things were not going her way.
The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic.
Is the Refusal to Empathise A Part of the Problem?
To this, and to the many others castigating Grace for her lack of ‘’agency’’, there has been sufficient backlash.
The arguments, when summarised, can roughly be boiled down to the following points:
1) There is no way of knowing one’s personal experience. None of us are in her shoes. Given the established history of discrimination women have faced for ages, some women find it difficult to speak up even in the most reassuring circumstances. Does that negate Ansari’s “unbecoming” behaviour?
2) Had Grace walked out on Ansari earlier than she did, would Ansari’s behaviour been excusable? Kate Harding argues,“ (In) NO OTHER CONTEXT do we expect adults to be incapable of understanding something like physically pulling away or saying “I don’t feel like it.” If you hug someone or talk to someone after they stop responding, you know it’s creepy. But sex?
3) Why should a woman’s subjective experience be undermined because the degree of misconduct isn’t as severe as rape? Supporting Grace isn’t demeaning the #MeToo movement in any inconceivable way.
This is perhaps the reason women are reluctant to share their stories.
4) The fact that people are saying that ‘’that is what she should have expected’’ after willfully entering his apartment after a date is a dangerous, dangerous affirmation. It is an affirmation of the very culture of “entitlement” that patriarchy has normalised over the decades.
What Is Your Take?
Now that we have put forward both sides before you, where do you stand?
She has clearly and unabashedly been pushed into the “grey area”.
But with a barrage of arguments for and against her, Grace’s personal trauma is now open to debate.