Samantha Bee Rallies Around #MeToo

Samantha Bee Rallies Around #MeToo

She Proves That the Movement is Here to Stay

For anyone who’s been paying attention to the news cycle in regards to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements this week, it seems like the conversation has devolved dramatically. Indeed, the catalyst seems to have been the story about Aziz Ansari that published five days ago. The article is a first-person retelling – by an anonymous woman designated as “Grace” – about a date in which Ansari continued to try and engage her in sexual activity, despite her verbal and nonverbal cues that she was uncomfortable. She left in tears, and has described it as the “worst night of [her] life.”

The piece has ignited something of a firestorm within the debate over the merits of the #MeToo campaign. It has had a strangely unifying effect, but not in the way that “Grace” or would have intended. See, there are now many people on both sides of the debate – those who think #MeToo is valid, and those who think it’s a witch hunt – who are attacking “Grace” for her accusations against Ansari. To be clear, they’re not questioning her story’s veracity, they just think that it’s inappropriate for her to be lumping a “bad date” in with legitimate claims of sexual assault and rape.

What we are now experiencing is the proverbial backlash. This is the inevitable resistance against the Hollywood reckoning that was brought on by the revelations of sexual misconduct surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK etc. (and etc., etc., ETC.). Peppered with claims that the movement has “gone too far” and is “ruining men’s careers”, it’s the sort of sustained defiance that is designed to wear down and demonise the propagators of equality. It’s geared to make it seem like pushing for less sexually inappropriate behaviour and a more conscientious treatment of women the whole world over is more trouble than it’s worth. And Samantha Bee isn’t having a fucking bar of it.

With her characteristic wit and charisma – plus an indignance that radiates throughout the whole segment – Bee takes the critics of #MeToo to task. She addresses their qualms, concerns and head-on attacks against the movement one by one, offering a tidy rebuttal at each step while questioning why it is that women are still required to prove that their sexual autonomy is worth fighting for. It is easily the best encapsulation of #MeToo that I have seen, not to mention a crucial reiteration of why this movement was (and continues to be) necessary.

What it amounts to is a searing analysis of the standards that have dictated what behaviour is and isn’t considered bad enough to call someone out for. In little more than seven minutes, Bee obliterates the notion that the purpose of the #MeToo movement is to destroy men or to conflate rape, sexual harassment and generally shitty actions. Instead, it’s to firm up some consistent ideal of accountability, to suggest that just because there are degrees of badness doesn’t excuse the lesser version of it. As Bee puts it, “It doesn’t have to be rape to ruin your life, and it doesn’t have to ruin your life to be worth speaking out about!”

It’s the exact sort of well-reasoned yet incendiary response that is needed at a time when a woman can be further victimised and ostracised for coming forward with a story of traumatic incidence. Much as plentiful white Americans have basically decided that there is no appropriate way for a black man to protest racial injustice, Bee’s segment argues that the flaws of the system are not represented by those reporting and identifying sexually fucked-up behaviour. It is, indeed, the perpetrators who prevent reasonable discourse, as well as the people whose interests are harmed by a growing platform that rallies against sexual impropriety. And yeah, there may be no way to keep this movement going without pissing a ton of people off, but there aren’t many people better suited to that job with a smile on her face and a joke at hand than Samantha Bee.

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