In a viral sketch that has been viewed over 11 million times in just two days, BBC Two’s The Mash Report explains sexual harassment and debunks the idea that not sexually harassing someone is hard to do. The segment covers questions that have come up in the wake of the #MeToo campaign and wave sexual assault allegations against powerful men. Questions that completely miss the point like, “Can I even hug women at work anymore???” (The short answer is, “no.” The longer answer is, “Why are you even hugging women at work in the first place, Daryl?”)
The Mash Report is a weekly satirical news show in the UK, created by the people who run the Daily Mash website. (Think The Daily Show but British.) In this recent viral segment, uploaded on Monday to The Daily Mash’s Facebook page, show correspondent Rachel Parris speaks with host Nish Kumar about what constitutes sexual harassment. “Even talking to a woman is now completely off-limits. Isn’t that right, Nish?” Parris asks. “No?” Kuman reponds confused. “No, it’s not, Nish. But it’s fun to pretend to be confused about that, isn’t it?” Parris responds in an angry, frustrated sort of laughter familiar to anyone who’s had to explain what sexual harassment as of late.
“Is it OK to give a woman flowers? Yes, as long as you don’t put your penis in them.”
Parris goes on to list actual news headlines from places like The Telegraph. The news stories she lists imply current conversations around sexual harassment are making it harder for men to figure out how to interact with women at work and in the world. Parris quotes sociologist Carolann Peterson who recently told the Daily Mail, “Men do need to recognize that a sudden arm around the shoulder or a pat on the butt isn't the innocuous gesture some might have thought it was.”
“Nish, it’s an absolute minefield,” Parris jokes. “What could possibly be wrong with spanking a colleague or the prospect of a sudden arm grabbing you from the shadows?”
Parris then has Kumar join her on stage for an awkwardly long hug, exemplifying what constitutes an inappropriate form of workplace physical conduct. “Hugging is absolutely fine, Nish,” Parris says. “But is blood suddenly moving to the groin area? If it is, then it’s a bad hug!”
In December, Twitter roasted the men who were specifically curious about hugging women at work. CBS Los Angeles shared an article titled “In Wake Of Weinstein, Men Wonder If Hugging Women Still OK.” The piece starts out with a quote from a sales associate worried about whether he can compliment a female coworker’s outfit or hair. “The potential problem,” he said, “is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.”
The irony of that sentiment was not lost on Twitter. “Revised headline: After hearing victims' stories, men ask ‘how can I make this about me?’” one user tweeted. Of course, the primary issue at hand is that many women and femmes don’t feel safe in the workplace because of this kind of behavior, because sexual comments have become a normalized workplace staple.
Writer Anne Victoria Clark also recently published a handy guide for those still confused about how to avoid sexually harassing someone: “The Rock Test.” The test asks people to imagine how they’d interact with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and then just treat women that way. You know, respectfully, like a human person, etc.
While “The Rock Test” and Parris’ segment for The Mash Report address the tip of the iceberg that is rape culture, they do provide a helpful, hilarious jumping off point for anyone confused about how to treat women and femmes. “If you do stick to my handy guide,” Parris concludes, “we will manage to walk that terribly fine line between being a decent person and a complete wanker.”