Bleats

Aziz Ansari’s First On-Stage Comment On Sexual Misconduct Allegation Is Refreshingly Thoughtful

Compared to what we're used to hearing from men spotlighted in the #MeToo movement, this is much closer to what we should be hearing.

On Monday night Aziz Ansari performed at  a “pop-up” comedy show in New York, and Vulture reported the comments Ansari made on stage addressing the sexual misconduct allegation against him last year.

The Master of None star has been laying low since January, 2018, when an anonymous New York-based photographer accused him of coercing her into performing sex acts following an early 2017 date.

At the time, Ansari addressed the claims in an issues statement, explaining he and the woman in question had engaged “in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” and revealed he had “responded privately” to the female to discuss the incident.

“I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.” he continued. “I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”

At his comedy show this week, Aziz Ansari addressed the scandal for the first time in public, and his comments actually seem refreshingly thoughtful. According to the Vulture reporter, he sat down and changed his tone to somber before discussing the allegation and the fallout.

“There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” he said with an apparently wavering voice. “But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person.”

Ansari then recalled a conversation in which a friend told him it made him rethink every date he’s been on, commenting that,

“If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing.” he continued. “And I think it also just gave me perspective on my life.”

Ansari also admitted that he feared he would not be able to return to his career in the wake of the accusation. But as we know, more often than not, that is generally untrue for men involved in these kinds of scandals.

All in all, Aziz Ansari’s comments pass the (very low) bar for how we hope to see people respond to #MeToo. There is still need for improvement in how men can sidestep taking full responsibility for their actions, but this is at least a step in the right direction.

Lady Gaga's Unsealed Deposition In Support Of Kesha Is An Emotional Defence Of All Women

"Do you know what it’s like for survivors?"

Newly unsealed documents from Kesha’s ongoing legal battle against her former producer Dr. Luke reveal Lady Gaga’s firm support of Kesha in her September 2017 deposition.

Lady Gaga gave an eloquent and deeply personal defence of not only Kesha, but what it’s like to be a sexual abuse survivor and the ongoing trauma. Her deposition is both powerful and emotional, and all the more in the face of the the line of questioning Dr. Luke’s lawyers were posing.

For context, Lady Gaga was deposed to speak because of text messages between her and Kesha, which ended up leaking in June 2018. Kesha sued Dr. Luke in 2014, alleging he drugged and raped her while he was her music producer. Dr. Luke has denied these allegation and countersued for defamation – a court case which is ongoing. 

According to the documents obtained by PEOPLE and first reported by The Blast, Lady Gaga engaged in a heated back and forth with Dr. Luke’s lawyers, to the point where she told one they should be “ashamed”. 

The deposition was preluded by Lady Gaga’s lawyer reminding those present that Gaga herself is a survivor of sexual abuse and has PTSD from that experience. The deposition itself proved to be a trigger event, as Lady Gaga was crying at the time.

“I just want everyone to understand that, as she has publicly stated in other contexts, as a sex abuse survivor, and I know this from my own personal experience with family members, there are trigger events, and this deposition has proved to be a trigger event for Ms. Germanotta,” her lawyer said. (Lady Gaga was born Stefani Germanotta).

“And she has experienced in the past few hours some PTSD reactions which is causing some trauma and emotional reactivity. So she is crying now the record will reflect,” the lawyer added.

To begin, Gaga described meeting Kesha at Dr. Luke’s studio, recalling that the young star was in the back wearing only underwear.

When asked what Kesha told her about the alleged abuse, Gaga said: “What we discussed was, what I recall was her immense sadness and depression and fear. She was visibly very different than when I had seen her before, and — but I can’t say specifically what we spoke about. I just recall it was emotional and I wanted to be there for her.”

Dr. Luke’s lawyers rose the topic of his “reputation”, and how it has been affected by the accusation. Lady Gaga’s response was firm, and in clear support of Kesha’s accusations.

“Reputation, if you are asking about his reputation in the world, I don’t feel at liberty to speak for the entire world,” she responded according to the deposition transcript.

“So if you are asking what my view is of his reputation, I made my view of him and his reputation when I saw her in that back room. That was an image that — of something that happened to me, and I felt and knew in my heart that she was telling the truth, and I believe her.”

Dr. Luke’s lawyers responded by asserting that Gaga had “no personal knowledge or information as to any interaction between him and [Kesha], correct, physical or otherwise.”

But Gaga hit back, stating:

“Yes, I do have knowledge. She told me he assaulted her.”

Things appear to get progressively heated, and in response to the lawyers asking Gaga if she has any details about the alleged assault beyond what Kesha told her, she responded:

“Well, you know — when men assault women, they don’t invite people over to watch as witnesses.”

“And when this happens in this industry, it is kept extremely secret,” she continued. “And it is compounded by contracts and manipulative power scenarios that actually include this very situation that we are all in right now.”

Dr. Luke’s lawyers proceeded to raise the idea of false rape accusations – a concept which the entire defamation case is reliant upon.

“You think there has never been a false accusation of rape?” they asked Gaga.

Gaga responded: “You — how about all of the women that are accused of being liars and how she was slut shamed in front of the world, how about that? … You are suggesting that she is lying.”

The lawyer then called Kesha’s case a “he-said-she-said situation.”

To which Gaga responded:  “I believe it to be true … I have factual knowledge of her depression. I have factual knowledge of her need for support and love. I have factual knowledge of the spiral that I watched that girl go down. I have factual knowledge of trauma. I am informed and intelligent about this issue. That girl has experienced serious trauma and she is in the middle of it right now. And you are all a party to it.

“Why on earth would this girl tell the entire world this happened?” Gaga continued. “Why on earth? Do you know what it’s like for survivors? Do you know what it’s like to tell people? Don’t you roll your eyes at me. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

After Dr. Luke’s lawyer denied rolling her eyes, both sides decided to briefly take a break from the deposition.

Lady Gaga’s statements during the deposition demonstrate how difficult it is to remain unemotional when discussing something that is so inherently personal, just as it’s difficult to remain unemotional when reading these discussions.

This Interactive Map Of Sydney’s Least Safe Spaces For Women Reveals That The City Needs To Change, Not Women’s Behaviour

There are far too many ‘unsafe’ pins on this map.

Over the past few months young women have been involved in a project by child rights organisation Plan International Australia and Monash University that is attempting to map out the spaces where women feel most or least safe across the city. The interactive ‘Free to Be’ map of Sydney now has more than 2000 location pins signalling spots that were considered ‘good’ and those considered ‘bad’.

And there are a lot of ‘bad’ pins.

The interactive map is accessible to anyone and the data was analysed for the Unsafe in the City report released on Thursday.

Women could provide detail anonymously to explain what made an area feel unsafe or record a specific incident they experienced there, and 72% of those negative incidents included sexual harassment.

The report found that,

“90% of young women in Sydney don’t feel safe after dark.”

“Fewer than one in 10 incidences of harassment and abuse were reported to authorities. In more than two-thirds of these cases, girls and young women reported that the authorities didn’t take action.”

It’s crucial that this kind of report is seen primarily as a way to highlight areas that need infrastructural change to city officials who have the power to make changes. It’s not just another way for women to censor our behaviour, as that is absolutely not a solution.

Visible security measures and sufficient lighting were cited by women as ways to increase a feeling of safety, and would also be an appropriate action to take for ‘unsafe’ hot spots like Central Station and Town Hall Station. It is not women’s responsibility to simply try to avoid these areas.

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena has spoken about her intentions for the project to prompt action and change.

“This is a very ambitious crowdsourcing project that is collecting real stories from real girls and women about how they experience cities. It’s not about labelling cities as ‘dangerous’. It’s about helping authorities and planners to reimagine public spaces so that everyone can enjoy city life equally.”

“We want to see those with a stake in city safety, whether it is councils, city planners, police or transit authorities, step up and take this issue seriously. We need a concerted effort to tackle this problem, which stems from deep seated inequality that still exists in all societies.”

The full report analyses Sydney, Delhi, Lima, Madrid and Kampala, highlighting that women do not feel safe in most public spaces. We just need to make sure the changes that come out of these projects is change to the city and change to perpetrators’ behaviour.

It’s not a how-to for women to further censor their movements, it’s about how to actually make things better.

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

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