A lot of powerful men are sweating through the #MeToo movement, as Saturday Night Live demonstrated with a recent fake ad for a deodorant called “Next.” It’s not just men in power squirming through the after-effects of the latest famous man hit with the business end of an exposé, Aziz Ansari: it’s pretty much all of us.
As discussed here on Fast Company, the Aziz Ansari situation was different than the others. For one thing, the publication that brought forth a sexual misconduct charge against him wasn’t a major outfit like The New York Times, but rather independent feminist website babe dot net. The writer of the piece struck a tone that could generously be described as “bloggy,” and was generally considered poorly suited for the subject matter. Furthermore, the actions Ansari’s accuser describe are a different, far more common form of offense than their predecessors in the recent conversation. The story of a man unwilling to accept “no,” but not using physical force to get to “yes,” ushered in a conversation about the parameters of what should be considered assault. And that conversation was deeply uncomfortable.
A lot of people couldn’t wait to paint this moment as the point at which the #MeToo movement went too far. Others have scientifically articulated why it hasn’t gone far enough. And a lot of dudes have made themselves very suspicious-looking by screaming about witch hunts and such.
This #metoo shit is getting out of control, guys getting their lives ruined over touching a girl’s back or hitting on someone. Fuck this country is getting soft
— Dan Bilzerian (@DanBilzerian) January 27, 2018
There’s a whole category of people in the middle, however, who know enough to know they don’t have the definitive opinion on the subject, and that if they try to even attempt to get to it, they will end up saying the wrong thing. Have you tried to talk about the Aziz Ansari incident? It’s practically impossible. I took a stab at writing about it, as mentioned above, but having actual conversations with people who have different opinions about what happened and what it means–that, as they say, is a spicy meatball.
On the most recent, Will Ferrell-hosted episode of SNL, one sketch illustrates the murky moral morass in which this conversation instantly engulfs its participants. The female half (Heidi Gardner) of a couple in a group of friends out to dinner starts the discussion, despite being cautioned against it by her partner (Beck Bennett.) Once Pandora’s Box is open, though, everyone at the table stoically attempts to weigh in. Nobody is successful.
Instead, everyone tries their best to tiptoe toward the thing they want to say without coming across as terrible to a percentage of the table. Each of their attempts begins with overtures such as, “While I applaud the movement,” at which point someone else chimes in to say, “Careful . . .” What they are all worried about is the sheer chaos that seems assured when somebody either says “the wrong thing” or tips the conversation into even more perilous waters. It’s an accurate snapshot of what it’s like to be on the ground level of this movement–which feels exciting and interesting to talk about, until it hits too close to home.