The #MeToo movement was a wake-up call for every single human who was living under the misguided assumption that sexual abuse was not as widespread as a few victims and social rights activists were arguing it to be. I was shocked to find the humongous number of #MeToo tweets and posts being shared on social media. The magnitude of the problem was so widespread that it couldn’t be swept under the carpet anymore. This movement brought out so many sexual abuse cases to light. Out of all the instances, perhaps none has been as controversial as the case of Aziz Ansari.
On January 13, the website Babe.net published a lengthy account from an anonymous 23-year-old woman about her date with Ansari which she says went horribly wrong. She said that Ansari pressurised her into sexual acts even after she tried to voice her discomfort over them. This story got a divided response. Some people said that this was “painfully relatable and unforgivably irresponsible”. Others, on the other hand, pointed out that this was probably a case of an awkward sexual encounter and that there were no clear indications that she was sexually assaulted. Some called it confusion while some called it a cry for publicity. But let’s focus on the bigger question. Is the Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct story the end of the #MeToo movement or the beginning of a bigger revolution for gender equality?
Aziz Ansari has always proclaimed to be a feminist. In recent years, Ansari’s comedy has explicitly tackled thorny issues of sexism, dating, and power dynamics in relationships, often with canny dissections of terrible, entitled men. Therefore, it was not easy to digest this news. But just because this story is not as big or pervasive as the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it doesn’t mean that this doesn’t require our attention. Although we are only beginning to talk about sexual assault, what escapes the radar are uncomfortable and even painful sexual encounters which too many women have had to normalise in their day-to-day lives.
Every #MeToo story doesn’t involve brutal rape and exploitation, but that doesn’t make them any less important. I do not think that this is the end of the #MeToo campaign, as some are deeming it to be. On the other hand, I think it strengthens the movement, broadens its horizons. This incident was just disturbing, gross and wrong. It has shattered the illusion that a man who deems to be a feminist will never abuse his privilege and force his desires on women. Now, we know what to expect. Cases like these are much more common, and way more challenging to address than most of the sexual harassment stories because of an initial consent that is eventually manipulated. It shows how men are so used to this perverse way of treating women that many don’t even find it wrong. The #MeToo movement is not going to end just because people have different takes on this issue. I feel it only broadens the conversation and makes the society take women more seriously. And of course, raise their men better.