The history of sexual harassment goes way back. We could choose to go as far back as good ol’ Bill Cosby. But for the sake of space and just this article, we’ll start with a far more familiar name. Harvey Weinstein- the Hollywood giant and movie mogul who had used his position and influence to sexually harass women. Threatening them with loss of movie roles and damaged careers for years on end. Oh before that there was the issue with Uber that led to the axing of more than 20 workers. But Weinstein was the watershed moment. A trend was started; the hashtag #me too was used by various women to share their stories about facing sexual harassment at the workplace and in other places.
As expected, #metoo got really emotional. This is totally understandable. Women were able to air negative sexual experiences that they had kept bottled up for years. Some as far back as high school or early college. It was an awakening. It was like realizing you’d been sick for a decade without knowing it while all the symptoms were obvious and staring you in the face. Except that this had lasted way more than a decade and had become part of our culture.
The spreadsheet that spread misery
Then the spreadsheet showed up. Reportedly, it was just something created by a woman for her friends and co-workers to compare names of known sexual harassers. Then it somehow got out onto the internet. And any woman from anywhere could include the name of any man she wished to embarrass (or worse) under the cloak of anonymity. Needless to say, this was the first big flop of the #metoo movement. A vanguard for female liberation and the rejection of male domination was turned to a tool that could be used in bringing down random men whose crime could have either been direct rape or just asking for a female co-worker’s phone number.
Apart from the spreadsheet, #metoo was also marred by a lot of negativity. A lot of articles were published by obviously angry women (justifiably so) who however went extremely extreme in airing their views. There was an article that suggested that men be chased out of workplaces completely. There was another that espoused the view that it’s wrong for men to make comments (non-negative or non-sexual included) about the appearance of their female work counterparts or to pay them complements in any way.
The Aziz Ansari incident was the culmination of a series of pointers to how far off the track #metoo had gone. A celebrity comedian had sex with a young woman and he apparently did not pay attention to her body language which turned out to be emotionally negative for the woman in question. However, the point remains that the act was consensual and does not necessarily count as sexual harassment. But the movement chose to hold Ansari up to the same opprobrium that was accorded to Weinstein and the rest. We can only hope that #metoo gets brought back on track.