Brown Girl Magazine Staffers Respond to Aziz Ansari’s Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Aziz Ansari

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributors at Brown Girl Magazine but do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the publication. As a platform, we have decided not to take a hard stance on the recent account of the sexual encounter between a 22-year-old photographer named “Grace” and well-known comedian Aziz Ansari—instead, we are accepting guest submissions on the allegations and welcome all types of opinion. 

Let’s Say it Together, Ladies. ME TOO.

At this point, I’m honestly not even surprised of what Aziz Ansari has been accused of doing. He’s just one more attacker that’s part of an extremely alarming trend. I’ve seen a good amount of talk about whether the victim “Grace” was lying about what happened to her. And as someone that has been through the horrors of rape, in my opinion, there’s a very slim chance that she is indeed lying.

I remember looking at some statistics earlier this past year, and the chance of someone lying about a case of rape or sexual assault, especially when they’ve come forward themselves, is very little to none. One of the biggest reasons I say this is because of the details she describes of her encounter, and just how gruesomely honest they are. In addition to that, her identity wasn’t revealed, which to me is related to her not doing this for the fame or any sort of “outpouring of sympathy.” She, like many women, including myself, was just tired of staying quiet. Admitting that you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted is a very real struggle, and it doesn’t get any better on you when people don’t believe you. In fact, it discourages you from wanting to be forthcoming at all.

One of the most important things in a victim’s healing process is a strong support system. And I don’t mean the obvious, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” statements, but rather the reassurance that the victim is not at fault, or the establishment of a buddy system when going out again. I wasn’t able to find these things until a great deal of time had passed since I was raped, but I sincerely hope Grace is able to much sooner than I did. Let’s say it together, ladies. ME TOO. — Vaidehi Gajjar

[Read Related: Dear Aziz Ansari: Representation Does Not Excuse Allegations of Sexual Misconduct]

We Will Not Move on From Our Stories

Coming forward by claiming that you have been a victim of some form of sexual assault takes a lot of courage, but it can easily be shattered the moment someone tells you to stop lying. As another victim of sexual assault, coming out was not easy, let alone going through the horror and pain of walking down the hallways at school thinking that I wouldn’t be judged even more.

Growing up as a brown female, I’ve always been told that fighting back against men should never occur. But the reality is, we women need to start standing up for one another rather than taking each other down. Just because things look normal between a victim and their assaulter before things go wrong doesn’t mean the story is being made up, it means that it took the victim time to adapt to the fact that someone they trusted was also capable of hurting them. No, we will not move on from our stories, but rather we will fight together. This is me saying ME TOO. — Anjali Bhakta

A Manifestation of Rape Culture

The Aziz Ansari situation is undoubtedly a manifestation of rape culture. I am glad to see that Ansari’s sexual misconduct has sparked discussion about the grey area, which falls in between “healthy relationships” and “abuse.” Though it is crucial that we continue speaking out against the Harvey Weinstein’s in our society and ensure that they face consequences for their deplorable behavior, it is equally as important that we hold men like Ansari accountable as well.

A woman does not necessarily need to experience rape or abuse to feel violated and degraded. There are all too many men who get away with bad behavior by claiming “but I’m not a rapist,” “I’m not an abuser,” etc. Guys whose behavior falls in that grey area should NOT be let off the hook. The harsh reality is that a significant number of women have had experiences similar to that of Grace.

Many women have been in situations with men who view them as objects which exist for their pleasure. These men will try to coax, badger and bully women into giving them what they want. They only think about themselves and don’t for a minute stop to think about whether their behavior is making the woman feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Ironically, many of these guys who do not respect women’s boundaries and do not treat women as though they are fellow beings are the same guys who identify as “nice guys” and as being “conscious of gender issues.” They masquerade as “woke male feminists” when they are in fact self-centered, entitled, and oftentimes downright creepy.

It is time for us to take a stand against the power dynamics which exist in the dating world, speak out against ALL forms of male entitlement, and to ensure that women are truly treated with dignity and respect. — Natasha Sharma

[Read Related: #MeToo: Workplace Harassment Isn’t Just a Hollywood Thing]

A Conversation About Consent

By expressing this opinion, I do not mean to downplay the emotions or the experience “Grace” went through with Aziz Ansari, and I am truly sorry that she had such a horrible experience. However, I think it’s dangerous to equate the experience she went through to the experiences of other women who experienced sexual assault and rape.

Her account is an all too familiar story among women, and I agree that this should not be the case. Women should not feel pressured into sexual encounters and pursued endlessly until they give in. Her account is important because it highlights issues in our societal norms about consent. It shows how men perceive consent to be transient, something that can be coaxed and convinced out of women, rather than a hard no.
However, with that being said, I think vilifying every man that has ever acted this way would be more harmful to this discussion than helpful.

We need to have a conversation with men about what consent is and how to define expectations during a date or sex. Explaining to them why we do not appreciate the way they acted and how we would prefer they act in the future would be more productive than assuming they are never capable of changing and shutting them out from this conversation. Understanding their perspective could also give insight into how we change societal norms around consent.

We also have to hold ourselves responsible and empower each other to express how we feel. If we do not like something, if we do not want to have sex, then we have to feel empowered to say exactly that. We do not have to wait for someone to ask for our consent, we can choose to give or not give it before being asked.

I want to make clear that I understand not every woman has the power to say no. That for many women who experience sexual assault or rape, they were trapped and never given the opportunity to speak or leave. And for many women, even after they said no, they were ignored. These are the women the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements represent. Grace’s experience, while horrible and unacceptable, is not one where any legal action can be taken or should be taken. It is, rather, an opportunity to start a conversation about consent that includes both men and women. — Yesha Maniar

[Read Related: #MeToo: Sexual Assault is Real and No One Deserves It]

The Facade of Being a “Male Feminist”

I’m so tired of Aziz Ansari, and guys like him. Stop carrying the banner of “male feminist” or “male ally” if you’re not willing to ride out for the movement. Being an ally to women or supporting social justice causes doesn’t mean you get a free pass at fucking women. At this point, I don’t think a lot of men (and some women) really care about consent or rape culture anymore. There are so many think pieces, essays, academic studies, and just regular Twitter threads on the issue. Some people just don’t want to believe it.

I truly believe misogyny is a part of certain people’s existence. These people may know it’s bad but are okay with degrading women and perpetuating sexist notions for all genders. I just hope men like Aziz Ansari can see through the fallacy of their “nice guy” mentality and work towards being actual nice people. — Marina Ali

Consent is Not a Grey Area

The most alarming thing about this whole Aziz Ansari and “Grace” thing is that with everything going on in the media (#MeToo, Harvey Weinstein, etc…), people still don’t seem to understand what consent means.

For all of the people supporting Grace, there were twice as many people jumping up to defend Aziz Ansari. Aziz was pressuring a woman to have sexual interactions with him that she was not interested in. I do not understand how people are saying this is not sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Aziz didn’t get explicit consent from Grace, so this was sexual assault. ILLEGAL sexual assault. This is not a grey area. This is black and white. The only measure of sexual assault is if it was consensual. If it’s not consensual, then it’s assault. Make sense?

Our society teaches us not to talk about sex, which trickles into how we communicate about our desires. If we aren’t talking about sex at all, how are we going to know how to ask for what we want or how to say no to what we don’t want?

Asking for consent is simple and straightforward. It can be as simple as verbally asking, “Can I kiss you?” to what Aziz should have asked, “Can you go down on me?” Either way, this sexual encounter was non-consensual and so it DOES qualify as sexual assault. The people who don’t see this are products of our sex-negative culture. — Sheena Pradhan

[Read More: Why More Men Need to Stand Up With the #MeToo Movement]

The Difficulty of Saying ‘No’

While Grace’s account is one that many women have (unfortunately) experienced, it downplays and belittles what actual sexual assault and rape victims have gone through.

Grace’s experience is more of an example of how difficult it can be for women to say “no” – from her story she expressed how she wanted things to slow down, how she didn’t feel comfortable, and how she wanted to leave. All valid thoughts and all of which could be expressed verbally at any time, but weren’t.

She doesn’t claim she was forced into anything, only that she “felt forced.” This is a larger societal issue at hand in which women feel like they must meet some set of expectations, not an issue of Aziz Ansari taking advantage of someone who is helpless. We cannot wait for a partner to ask our comfort levels at every step of the way, especially once we’ve consented. After that, it’s our responsibility to express how, when, and what exactly we are comfortable with.

Was it a cringe-worthy experience with Aziz Ansari that showcased how he’s aloof, annoying, and disrespectful? Yes.

Did Aziz take advantage, hurt, abuse, or ignore what Grace was conveying? No.

Grace safely left although she felt “violated” — a feeling which many women have experienced and I hope no longer experience. I hope that her narrative allows us to understand that feeling even mildly violated is reason enough to verbally and clearly express that you’d like to unsubscribe from a situation.

By expressing blanket statements about “men being pigs” and being unable to critically discuss allegations surrounding sexual abuse, we are risking the validity and effect of the #MeToo movement. — Rani Shah

Victim Shaming

I am sure that by the time you’ve read all these opinions, your head is spinning, so I’m going to keep this as short as possible—here’s the fact of the matter. She was uncomfortable. Aziz Ansari had to have known, because no one is that oblivious. While this may not be classified as rape, it doesn’t take away from other women’s assault experiences — victim shaming is more prevalent than ever and we need to stick together. At the end of the day, there was forced discomfort. And that’s enough, to say, #MeToo. — Karishma Sharma

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Oak Creek: A Story of Hate, Hope and Healing

Every year on August 5th, the Sikh American community remembers one of our community’s most devastating tragedies in recent memory — the Oak Creek massacre. On this day in 2012, a white supremacist gunman entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin where he shot and killed six worshippers and severely injured others. This violent attack was the deadliest mass shooting targeting Sikh Americans in U.S. history, and at the time, was one of the worst attacks on a U.S. house of worship in decades. Six worshippers — Paramjit Kaur Saini, Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh Khattra, and Satwant Singh Kaleka — were killed on that horrific day. An additional community member, Baba Punjab Singh, was severely paralyzed and ultimately passed away from complications related to his injuries in 2020. Others, including Bhai Santokh Singh and responding police officer and hero, Lt. Brian Murphy, were seriously wounded during the shooting. 

[Read Related: Oak Creek Gurdwara Massacre’s 4th Anniversary: Young Sikhs Express Optimism for the Continued Struggle Against Hate and Ignorance]

In 2022, the community came together to demonstrate that we are undaunted. My organization, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) joined in supporting the anniversary observance at Oak Creek: a remembrance event centered around the theme of “Heal, Unite, Act.” The Oak Creek Sikh community hosted a series of in-person events, including the 10th Annual Oak Creek Sikh Memorial Anniversary Candlelight Remembrance Vigil on Friday, August 5, 2022. The program included a representative from the White House, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz, and representatives of the families who lost loved ones. Being there in Oak Creek 10 years after the tragedy was deeply meaningful — both to see the inspiring resilience of this community and to remember how much remains to be done.

In D.C., SALDEF continues to fight for policies that improve the lives of Sikh Americans. I had the honor of chairing the most recent iteration of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council at the Department of Homeland Security, providing recommendations at the request of Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. Consequently, the three subcommittees published a report that emphasized the importance of greater accessibility, greater equity, and greater transparency in counterterrorism efforts that for too long revolved around surveilling populations like the one that was senselessly attacked at the Oak Creek gurdwara in 2012. Leading the FBSAC as a Sikh woman, and representing a community that was highly targeted alongside Muslims by both white supremacists and in post-9/11 counterterrorism profiling, was an opportunity to push the Council to advocate more fiercely for further information-sharing between communities and law enforcement, extending grant opportunities for security for Gurdwaras and other houses of worship, and building trust between the government and Sikh communities. In addition, I advocated for accountability for the damage needlessly caused to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) communities by federal agencies historically pursuing “counterterrorism” objectives which has resulted in eroded trust rather than the development of strong partnerships. 

Although we have made great strides in this country, there is still more to do. Through our work we have partnered with many across the nation to come together and find solutions through tenets central to Sikhism and America — unity, love, and equality. SALDEF continues to strongly endorse the policy framework articulated across the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350 / S. 963); Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act; and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) Improvement Act (H.R. 6825). We believe strongly in mandating federal agencies to create dedicated offices to investigate domestic terrorism; allowing prosecutors to feasibly indict perpetrators of hate crimes; and allowing religious nonprofits to access federal funding to enhance their own security.

[Read Related: Anti-Sikh Hate is on the Rise: Here’s What we can Do]

While 11 years have passed, the effects of the Oak Creek shooting are never far from the minds of Sikh American advocates and the community we serve. SALDEF will not stop taking a stand against senseless violence and hate crimes. We continue to work in unity with our community and movement partners, and fight for better policies that will actively keep all of our communities safe. Through tragedy, we find hope. We know there can be a world where people from all backgrounds and cultures can practice their faith freely and, even though it has eluded the Sikh American community in the past, we still believe this world is possible.

Photo Courtesy of Amrita Kular

The opinions expressed by the writer of this piece, and those providing comments thereon (collectively, the “Writers”), are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any of its employees, directors, officers, affiliates, or assigns (collectively, “BGM”). BGM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Writers. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you have a complaint about this content, please email us at This post is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
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By Kiran Kaur Gill

Kiran Kaur Gill is an accomplished professional with exemplary executive experience. In her role as Executive Director, she is responsible … Read more ›

Op-Ed: An Open Letter to President Biden in Light of Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to the States

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit
The following open letter is written by Hindus for Human Rights, an organization advocating for pluralism, civil and human rights in South Asia and North America, rooted in the values of Hindu faith: shanti (peace), nyaya (justice) and satya (truth). They provide a Hindu voice of resistance to caste, Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), racism, and all forms of bigotry and oppression.

Dear President Biden,

As Indian-Americans, human rights organizations, and concerned allies, we are writing to urge you to engage publicly and meaningfully to push back against the Indian government’s escalating attacks on human rights and democracy, especially ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States.

Despite objective evidence that India’s democracy is under critical attack, you have not spoken out about this crisis. In early 2023, Indian authorities conducted retaliatory raids on the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices for releasing a documentary about Prime Minister Modi. The week before the Summit for Democracy, the Indian government made three successive attacks on Indian democracy. First, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party expelled Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. Second, the Indian government shut the internet down in Punjab, severely impacting the rights for Sikhs to peacefully organize and protest. And third, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that Indians can be found guilty by association for terrorism. And yet, not one representative from the Biden Administration said anything about even one of these developments. Instead, while Islamophobic violence gripped India in late March, you invited Prime Minister Modi to speak at the Summit for Democracy. Mr. Modi visits DC at a time when the state of Manipur has experienced heavy communal and anti-Christian violence after Modi’s ruling party pushed an initiative to undermine Indigenous rights in the state.

Even when confronted with questions by Indian reporters about human rights in India, your administration has only had private two-way conversations about how both of our governments can always improve. Quite frankly, we find it unacceptable to see such equivocation on Indian democracy from an administration that has been strident in its defense of American democracy and the rule of law. 

India is one of the fastest autocratizing nations in the world, mostly thanks to the current government. Freedom House has rated India as a “partly-free” country for the past three years, and has blamed Prime Minister Modi’s government for a rise in discriminatory policies, including persecution against Muslims and caste-based violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities; harassment of civil society, protestors, academia and the media, and the targeting of political opponents. It has also rated Indian-administered Kashmir as “not free,” citing violations of human, civil, and political rights after the Modi government revoked the territory’s autonomous status. In Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, India has dropped to 161 out of 180 countries in 2023. India has appeared in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Indexwhich examines accountability for unsolved journalists’ murders — every year for the past 15 years and currently ranks in 11th place worldwide. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, in 2022, India was one of the top 10 countries that jailed writers globally. The Varieties of Democracy Institute characterizes India as an “electoral autocracy” and blames India’s descent into autocracy on Prime Minister Modi. And the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has said India has been one of the top 15 countries at risk for a mass atrocity event every year since 2017, which reflects the toxicity of Indian politics under Modi. 

Given the magnitude of this crisis, we ask you to engage directly with Indian-American and human rights civil society leaders to explore solutions to address India’s human rights crisis. We also ask you to employ the tools at your disposal to ensure that the Indian government cannot attack Indians’ human rights with impunity. As the 2022 Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor report details, several government individuals have committed human rights violations that, under U.S. law, would qualify them to be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. Indian security forces that have engaged in human rights violations should have security assistance rescinded, under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. 

Finally, we urge you to publicly call on the Indian government to honor its commitments to human rights, including calling on Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet to halt the use of anti-terror laws to arbitrarily detain political critics. You can publicly denounce the rising numbers of political prisoners and the weaponization of the rule of law in India to shut down criticism. Even if you are not willing to personally criticize the Prime Minister, you have ample opportunity to criticize the Indian government’s misuse of public trust and public institutions to consolidate power and undermine the will of the Indian people.

As President of the United States of America, you hold a unique position to lead the fight against authoritarianism. Prime Minister Modi will listen to you when you speak. But he and his allies will only change if you take a stand publicly. We urge you to listen to those of us who care about India and ensure that one man cannot steal the futures and the rights of our loved ones in India.

— Signed by countless organizations and individuals leading the charge (linked here).