With a reckoning underway through the #MeToo movement, a lot of men have been suddenly questioning their past behavior — wondering if they once engaged in sexual harassment or worse. Some of this questioning, however, has reached truly absurd heights, like a Daily Mail headline asking, “Is hugging still okay? In the wake of [Hollywood producer Harvey] Weinstein sexual assault accusations, men ask: What is acceptable to women and society now?”
For BBC Two’s The Mash Report, comedian Rachel Parris, with assistance from host Nish Kumar, presented a guide to help viewers get through this apparent confusion. She provided a series of hypothetical scenarios, showing a slide in each that is sexual harassment and another slide that is not.
Here is an example of an interaction that is not sexual harassment:
And here is an example of an interaction that is sexual harassment:
As should be clear, this is straightforward. The question about something work-related is not sexual harassment, while the sexual remark is harassment.
In showing how simple it is, the segment dismantles the straw man set up by pieces like the Daily Mail’s. No one is really confused as to whether hugs are suddenly all bad. But by acting like this is genuinely a serious question, pieces like the Daily Mail’s obfuscate the issue and can make the #MeToo movement seem unreasonable — effectively arguing, “They want to ban hugs! Ridiculous!” — when in reality, women just don’t want to be harassed in the workplace (or other settings).
Parris directly tackles the Daily Mail’s question about hugs at the end of the segment. In a role-play of two friends meeting at a pub, Parris hugs Kumar for an uncomfortably long period of time.
Parris explained: “If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Sometimes a simple greeting like a hug can be harassment if one of the participants is obviously using it for their own weird gratification. Hugging is absolutely fine, Nish. But is blood suddenly moving to the groin area? If it is, then it’s a bad hug.”
Kumar, seemingly bothered after the bit, comments: “Don’t look at the script, Nish. It’ll be fine, Nish. You’ll be able to wing it on the night. Of course we wouldn’t do anything to make you feel uncomfortable.”
Parris responds: “Welcome to womanhood.”