A backlash is brewing against media organisations, including The New York Times and The Atlantic, after the publication of opinion articles defending Aziz Ansari. An allegation of sexual assault was made against the comedian and actor in a widely circulated article on the website Babe this past weekend.
The Times op-ed, "Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader," by writer Bari Weiss, claims that Babe's exposé is "arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement" since it began, and implies that Ansari's accuser is to blame for finding herself in a situation in which she felt uncomfortable.
Weiss says Babe's article "transforms what ought to be a movement for women’s empowerment into an emblem for female helplessness", but fails to acknowledge the involuntary paralysis that many women (and men) experience in such situations.
She acknowledges that "women are socialised to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own," but seems to suggest that women's responsibility "to be more verbal" in sexual encounters is equal to men's responsibility to not pressure women into sex. Weiss writes: "If you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you."
She also says: "There is a useful term for what Grace experienced on her night with Mr. Ansari. It’s called 'bad sex.' It sucks." Weiss is known for her right-wing views and has previously written in defence of cultural appropriation, so many people weren't surprised by her stance on the allegations against Ansari.
While many people agreed with Weiss on social media, many others said they were disgusted by her views and criticised the New York Times for publishing them.
The Atlantic published a similar defence of Ansari yesterday with its article "The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari," and triggered a similar stir on social media which continues to rumble on. The piece, by Caitlin Flanagan, claims the Babe article amounts to nothing more than "3,000 words of revenge porn" against Ansari.
Flanagan, who "was a teenager in the 1970s", says Ansari's behaviour was not only normal but expected when she was younger, in an attempt to invalidate the allegations, and makes a number of confusing claims about Ansari's accuser based on nothing but speculation.
"Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No," she writes, later adding: "Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret."
She continues: "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." Unsurprisingly, many people on Twitter were quick to describe The Atlantic as "out of touch".
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