GUEST: Deepa Iyer, South Asian American activist who works and writes on race, immigration and post 9/11 backlash. Her first book is titled We Too Sing America. She hosts a monthly podcast called Solidarity Is This.
BACKGROUND: The #MeToo moment that burst into national consciousness with the revelations of Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults and rapes, has a new high-profile target: Aziz Ansari, the acclaimed comedian turned actor and screenwriter who became the first Asian American to win the Best Actor award at the Golden Globes just over a week ago. The feminist website Babe.net published a lengthy expose over the weekend from the perspective of an unnamed woman who went on a date with Ansari last year and left his home that night in tears.
Writer Katie Way explained that the woman she interviewed, who goes by the pseudonym Grace, "used verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how uncomfortable and distressed she was," during her sexual encounter with Ansari. Grace told Way, "I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz. I was not listened to and ignored. It was by far the worst experience with a man I’ve ever had."
The article has generated a tremendous amount of debate among South Asians, who are proud of Ansari's achievements, as well as among feminists and progressives about whether the story of what he did fits into the category of sexual assault. Some, like Caitlin Flanagan writing in The Atlantic came to Ansari's defence, others have asserted that the woman's experience was actually quite common, indicating a deep problem that exists in our sexual culture.