Aziz Ansari, star of Master of None and Parks and Recreation, has been accused of sexual assault. It is upsetting news for various reasons; firstly, Ansari has been applauded for his respectful treatment of women and is an outspoken feminist. Master of None’s second season even featured a storyline surrounding sexual assault, in which Ansari’s character fiercely condemns the perpetrators behavior. Secondly, it is no longer shocking to hear that another beloved star has been accused of sexual assault; it has almost become a daily occurrence. Lastly, the internet’s reaction to the allegation is disturbing.
Online magazine Babe published an article detailing a woman’s experience with Ansari on a date last year. Ansari has been accused of trying to pressure the woman into having sex, and ignoring verbal and non-verbal cues that she was not interested. The article is graphic, disturbing, and likely true. It includes screenshots of texts sent between the pair, and after the woman told Ansari how he made her feel, he replied ‘I’m so sad to hear this. All I can say is, it would never be my intention to make you or anyone feel the way you described. Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.’ His response implies that the accusations around him could very well be true; I am not doubting the woman’s story. However, I disagree with the way Ansari has been accused, and the internet’s complicity.
This is the text Grace* sent Aziz Ansari after their date which left her feeling “violated”. She tells Ansari how uncomfortable he made her feel, saying “you ignored clear non-verbal cues” and “kept going with advances.”
— babe (@babedotnet) January 14, 2018
When the allegations against Weinstein began, women were coming forward and sharing their experiences to highlight the systematic abuse of power that Weinstein, and other Hollywood executives, have continuously exercised. It took multiple women, articles and stories to finally stop this abuse in its tracks, leading to incredible campaigns such as #MeToo and Time’s Up, that are working to end sexual assault and gender inequality. However, and this is not at all a defense of Ansari’s actions, these campaigns were not created as a mode to publicly accuse, and consequently ruin, a person. The internet has jumped on these allegations with equal disgust and fervor. Here, presented to them, is another celebrity to tear to pieces. Whether or not it is justified, the reaction to Ansari is just one example of the internet’s passion for destroying people. Just this week, Chrissy Teigen was absurdly accused of insulting the Time’s Up movement, and YouTuber Shane Dawson was wrongly, and dangerously, accused of being a paedophile. It is worth noting that even the website that accused Ansari has also published an article ‘outing’ Camila Cabello as racist, and has accused Tyra Banks of fat shaming.
There has been no pause for a response from Ansari. No second to question the validity of the article. Ansari has been immediately shunned, his fans have turned on him. Yes, Ansari’s behavior detailed in the article is not okay. However, we have no idea if this is the tip of an iceburg of sexual misconduct, or if it is, in fact, a one-off date gone wrong, a miscommunication or mistake. But the distinction does not matter. With the help of the internet, this one night of Ansari’s life will come to define him. Once accused of sexual assault, he is now guilty until proven otherwise.