Aziz Ansari, comedian, creator of one of the most socially progressive shows of our time and an ardent feminist campaigner has been accused of taking sexual advantage of a woman. The news might not be easy to digest, but it’s essential that we know it – and as women everywhere know, it is all too common to be shocking.
Far too often, men live under the guise of feminism in order to carry out abhorrent actions against women. Taking advantage of a public position which allows them to pull on the kudos, benefits and emotions and intelligence of women, they find themselves exalted for treating women like human beings.
As we have seen in the media industry, in the legal industry, and Hollywood itself, these men are more than happy to capitalise on the sacrifices of women, willingly or unwillingly, in public or in private. It is hard to celebrate a man who thinks that he deserves a medal – or an Emmy – for shouting about his basic treatment of women.
Women are smart, and women are sexual, but they’ve often lived their lives in a system which is shaped around the sexual dominance of men. Sex education starts and begins with the male orgasm, and even the way that we date embarrasses women for asking men on a date.
This is evident even in my own experiences – my first kiss came out of coercion, leading to me giving in after the sixth time of asking. He stuck his tongue down my throat. I was five, he was eleven. In this case, Ansari was 34, and his alleged victim 23. As a public figure who represents himself as a feminist, he indicated a sense of trustworthiness that is one of the most corrosive forms of gaslighting used in sexual attacks. And as the account indicates, the bracing demands that the comedian is accused of making are not the actions of a man who is a feminist – they are the actions of every man who has ever been a predator.
The allegations against Ansari are not just disappointing, they’re worrying. In 2018, we have men marching up and down a red carpet, publicly supporting an anti-sexual harassment campaign while being accused of sexual misconduct and assault towards women.
People are so unconvinced by the duplicity of their actions that they believe they are worthy champions of the cause. But while they attempt to relegate those dubious experiences, “missed” passes and drunken lapses to the confines of their memory, the women in question carry the baggage, doubt and trauma, yet again privy to a sophisticated game of doublethink in which they feel they failed again.
There are several things we can learn from this account, and they’re not easy to swallow. Whether or not you decide to call yourself a male feminist, it does not make you unaccountable for your actions. What you do in private is not equal to what you do in public – it means more.
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There is no amount of public do-goodery that can compensate for permanently altering the life of a victim. There is no amount of feminist branding that you can co-opt if you fail to understand the basic tenets of whether or not a person is sexually engaged with you. We are not stupid, and nor are you. But in the case of so many so-called male feminist, they have knowingly created an image of themselves in order to use their power to exploit women.
There is one age-old phrase that will ring true no matter at what point we find the feminist conversation: actions speak louder than words, and just because you say you’re a feminist, it doesn’t mean you are one.