Over recent weeks, the #MeToo campaign has seen people all over the world share the times they have been sexually harassed or assaulted: intended as an act of solidarity, the hashtag gave victims the chance to make their voices heard – and highlighted the sheer magnitude of the problem.
However, while many have praised the social media movement, others have criticised the hashtag. And, during a recent debate on ITV’s This Morning, LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari suggested that the accusations have gone “too far”, with anyone able to soil someone’s reputation with the hashtag.
“My concern is the good that’s been done with the hashtag #MeToo campaign,” he insisted to hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield. Ferrari then went on to suggest that MP Mark Garnier – who recently admitted that he sent his former assistant to buy sex toys – should not be accused of sexual harassment.
Willoughby, though, immediately cut in, questioning who should decide what is and is not sexual harassment. “Where is the level then?” she probed. “You can’t say ‘if it’s rape, you’re allowed to say it’. Where does it stop?”
Ferrari, seemingly uncomfortable at the interruption, replied: “There’s inappropriate behaviour which is ‘go and buy sex toys’ and then there is trying to sidle up or touching hands or trying to move it to a sexual position. There are two different trains here.”
Schofield also expressed doubts about the #MeToo campaign, asking why victims would name and shame people on Twitter rather than just go to the police.
“The thing is, for all the good that #MeToo has done, it has been widely used to name, with no proof, with no concrete evidence… and then someone’s name is attached to the #MeToo,” he said.
Willoughby fired back: “Even with [Harvey] Weinstein, some did go to the police thirty years ago and nothing was done. It does take extra measures. Doesn’t it just go to show the extent of the relief on women? The outpouring, because suddenly they are being heard, and they are being listened to, that shows how deep and dark it’s got.”
Her co-host, though, was unmoved by Willoughby’s argument. Seemingly conflating the ideas of ‘flirting’ and ‘unwanted sexual advances’, he suggested that many women wouldn’t be in happy relationships or marriages if their male partners hadn’t persisted in pursuing them.
“Does it rub all of that out?” he asked. “Any guy would be terrified that what he is doing is inappropriate.”
Willoughby refused to let Schofield have the last word, replying firmly: “We can’t liken it to that, because it will stop women from coming forward again.”
Viewers at home have since heaped criticism on Schofield and Ferarri over their comments – and praised Willoughby for shutting down the “tired” argument.
“Holly is the only person talking sense,” wrote one.
Another blasted the show for how the topic was handled, writing: “Totally triviallised the subject and discussed by two ignorant men who’ve no idea the daily sexual harassment women deal with.”
The controversial debate was aired on the same morning that Kevin Spacey released an “apology” statement, after he was accused of making sexual advances towards actor Anthony Rapp when he was a 14 year old boy.
Images: Rex Features