Emmy-winning television writer Lena Waithe has responded to the sexual misconduct allegations made against Aziz Ansari, whom she worked with on Netflix's Master of None. Like many have stated following the publication of the controversial Babe.net piece, Waithe thinks that the situation isn't "black-and-white."
In January, Babe.net published an account from photographer "Grace" (not her real name), who alleged that she went on a date with Ansari. Grace claimed, via the article, that the comedian coerced her into sexual acts, and would not accept her verbal and non-verbal cues that she was not interested.
"I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz," Grace told the Babe.net reporter. "I was not listened to and ignored."
Ansari has since responded to the allegations in a statement to Refinery29. He wrote:
"In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.
The next day, I got a text from her saying that although 'it may have seemed okay,' upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. 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. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.
I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue."
"In every situation, it’s not always black-and-white. And I know that’s simple for people, and it’s easy for people to [ask], 'Whose side are you on?' There are no sides, really, in some of these scenarios."
"I think a big thing is, we have to have a dialogue... I think if we’re unwilling to have a dialogue we're gonna continue to keep hitting our heads against the wall. We have to start re-educating ourselves about what consent is, what’s appropriate behavior at the workplace. We have to create codes of conduct. Those are things that we need. 'Cause also I think there’s an element of — how do you know if you’re breaking a rule if you aren’t aware of the rules? Or how do you know what appropriate behavior is if no one’s ever communicated to you what appropriate behavior is? Even though some people may assume. Well, of course we all know what appropriate behavior is, but some people may not know."
She reminded the world that we can't just have the conversation about consent once — it has to really sink in to the culture. She told The Frame:
"It’s about really educating ourselves and not stepping in it and just [saying], 'Oh, I’m sorry. My bad' — and sort of keep going. But it’s about really sitting with yourself and educating yourself in terms of what consent is, what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like. And all of us starting to really act accordingly based on this new information that I think we have now. We all gotta start talking to each other, start educating each other."
"There are so many other kinds of sexual misconduct. We’ve all — every woman I know, every woman in this room — we’ve all had these experiences. And in this current climate, it brings these things up and you go 'God, none of that was okay,'" Schumer explained on the podcast.
No matter one's feelings on the Babe.net piece, or Ansari's response to it, it's vital that we open up the conversation around consent, and what it really means. Education is the best way for people to make sure that they have their partner's explicit, enthusiastic consent whenever they engage in a sexual encounter. As uncomfortable of a topic as the allegations against Ansari can be, it's a part of the #MeToo movement that needs to be discussed — and good for Waithe for not shying away from discussing it.
Refinery29 has reached out to representatives for Waithe and Ansari. We will update this post should we hear back.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).