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Friday, February 23, 2018

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#MeToo: What needs to be said before the hashtag


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#MeToo aims to target and publicize the horror stories of individuals in authority using their power to coerce sex or perpetuate sexual misconduct. The movement has met a sexual assault allegation scandal that adds an entirely new dimension to the discussion.

Comedian Aziz Ansari was recently roped into the movement by a piece on Babe.net by someone under the alias of Grace, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Critics of the movement blamed the incident on the sensitivity of women, while advocates of the movement immediately aligned themselves with Grace and blacklisted Ansari as yet another perturbed and manipulative abuser.

The truth lies somewhere between these two very conflicting realities or, perhaps, entirely outside of them — in a conversation our society does not yet possess the vernacular to have.

The conversation incited by this event ranges from inflammatory to immensely callous, and every opinion that attempts moderation is seemingly drowned out. The article is classified by some as a bad date, while others go so far as to claim the incident constitutes rape.

Men and women alike have used this hashtag as an opportunity to understand one another better and foster a deeper understanding of the trials and tribulations of the opposite sex, but this particular controversy has managed to bring that understanding to a screeching halt.

It is evident that both participants went into the night with contradictory expectations, which raises a number of questions: Does that put either of them in a definitively wrong or right place? Do we have clearly stated boundaries when it comes these situations? The answer is that black and white morality cannot be compatible with the dating world, because the latter is so intricate and diverse.

Until we foster familiarity with this conversation, it is going to be incredibly difficult to understand the social norms that exist adjacent to modern romance and hookup culture. Furthermore, we must as a society realize that leaving the etiquette of courtship and hookups too taboo for discussion is dangerous.

Grace and Ansari are only one part of a situation that has played out in many women’s lives and that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t necessarily demand punishment or social shunning for either parties, nor does it have to be counterproductive to the movement.

Ansari has been lumped together with the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar, but the key argument against this is Ansari’s claim that he was entirely unaware of the discomfort she felt; even from the publication, it did not seem evident that he used his power to coerce Grace into anything. Ansari did not possess the leverage over her that Weinstein held over countless actresses.

There is a broad spectrum of sexual misconduct, ranging from misogynistic statements like “boys will be boys” to rape. This scope has not been allowed to exist previously because the topic of sex has been too taboo for too long. The world surrounding this forbidden subject has morphed and evolved to reflect society’s dismissal of it.

Sex has become something with such a shameful connotation, something so deplorable that it must be kept discreet. The horrifying side effect of this hushed culture of intimacy is how easy it is to hide criminal actions when the topic itself is discouraged in conversation.

We have been trapped in this world, one where being a victim of sexual assault is something to be ashamed of, for a long time. The heartbreaking reality is cloaking these traumatic experiences in repression only allows for it to happen more frequently.

Silence comes at a cost — the women sharing their stories under this hashtag understand that. As an audience to the prevalence of sexual harassment, we need to understand this, too.

Opinion Editor Anusheh Siddique is a finance freshman and can be reached at [email protected]

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