2017 will go down in history as the year women stood up to sexual harassment and the world finally listened. But it seems the candidates on this year’s ‘The Apprentice’ missed the memo.
As I sat down to watch the show Wednesday night, still revelling from the fact #MeToo and ‘The Silence Breakers’ had been named Time ‘Person of the Year’, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Two female contestants not only verbally harassed a group of male models, but one even physically assaulted them.
For those who missed the show, Lord Sugar tasked the candidates with organising a fashion show and Michaela and Elizabeth were given the job of booking male models for the occasion. Both women were grossly inappropriate from the moment the men entered the room, giggling and joking about the task being “all business and no pleasure at all”.
Michaela demanded to check to see if one of the models had a six pack, which could be justified during a casting for an industry that is, after all, based on aesthetics. But it was the way she did it, mock flirting and biting on the end of her pen, that made it clear this was not a professional request.
To add insult to injury, Elizabeth made a joke about slipping with the tape measure while measuring a model’s inside leg, physically groping his crotch in the process. Michaela found the whole thing hilarious and judging from the tweets posted by the BBC’s official account for the show, the viewers were meant to, too.
All business. No pleasure. #TheApprenticepic.twitter.com/X8ARGbPgPz
— The Apprentice (@bbcapprentice) December 6, 2017
Have I missed something, or is this not exactly the same behaviour we’ve spent the last few months calling men out for?
The #MeToo movement provided a much-needed platform for women around the world to say sexual harassment is not a joke: it’s vile, it’s intimidating and it can have long-lasting traumatic effects.
But by laughing at two women on primetime TV harassing men, we’re not just saying “sexual harassment against men is okay” we’re saying “all sexual harassment is okay”.
Michaela and Elizabeth’s actions – and the BBC’s contextualisation of them – risk undoing all the hard work the ‘Silence Breakers’ did to dispel the myth that harassment is tantamount to banter.
In my opinion, one if not both of the female candidates should have been fired …