Given that The Bold Type started writing its second season at the height of the #MeToo movement, it was almost expected that the show would tackle sexual harassment in the workplace when it returned, but we never expected it to take such an interesting new angle on the situation.
The Season 1 finale really spoke volumes on the issue of harassment and assault in the workplace (months before the Hollywood scandals started leaking, by the way), when Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) revealed that she'd been assaulted by her editor during her first year as a journalist. When faced with the choice of ruining her career by reporting it or staying silent, Jacqueline decided not to speak out. Her admission and the incredibly moving scene where she took the weights of protest from Mia (Ana Kayne), an activist calling attention to the issue, meant that whatever the show cooked up for Season 2 had a seriously high bar to match, both storytelling and performance-wise.
Perhaps that's why when Season 2 picked back up, The Bold Type chose to focus on a more subtle but still insidious element of workplace harassment.
Sutton (Meghann Fahy) and Richard's (Sam Page) relationship was undoubtedly consensual, but it still broke company rules about interoffice relationships. The fact that they were able to carry on this relationship in secret for so long hints at some pretty negligible oversight within said company, but that's a topic for another day. When they realized the rules put in place forbidding their relationship would no longer be an obstacle for them, they had to once again decide whether being together was the right choice.
For Sutton, it was a harder decision to make than just, "Do I love this man and want to be with him?"
Thanks to some cattiness going on inside the Scarlet Fashion Department, Sutton was forced to face some seriously ugly slut-shaming when a co-worker accused her of sleeping around to further her career. Suddenly, the issue wasn't just whether she should be with Richard, but what being with him would mean for her career and reputation.
"We wanted to explore the idea that as much as we're trying to all make sense of how to move through the workplace post #MeToo, there's also just the aspect of work life that's gossip and innuendo and how that affects people," showrunner Amanda Lasher tells TV Guide. "For a young woman, the undeniable thing is that your romantic life — even if you don't define yourself that way, the world can define you that way."
Essentially, Sutton came to the unfortunate conclusion that being with Richard would only fuel the rumors that she didn't deserve the jobs she'd gotten or connections she'd made since the public perception would be that those decisions were based on who she was dating rather than her own personal merit.
While this kind of harassment is less obvious and less traumatic than the rampant sexual harassment we've seen come to light recently, it's still based on the objectification and shaming of women for who they are or aren't sleeping with. This particular storyline just so happened to focus on the bullying element that unfortunately seems to follow women around everywhere.
"I think we're all looking at this idea of bullying, and that can take on many, many forms," Melora Hardin says. "I think that it is important to not shame people because there are people that are more at ease with their sexuality or their expression of their sexuality, and that doesn't make them a 'slut.' To see somebody kind of bullying, in a very quiet way or in a slut-shaming way, whatever that terms is, I think is important and very relevant."
More importantly, we got to see Sutton stand up for herself and directly confront the girl who was causing her to second-guess her professional interactions with men. Sometimes the best way to address bad behavior is just calling it out, which is exactly what Sutton chose to do. It obviously didn't change her mind about being with Richard (yet!), but it was a personal victory, nonetheless.
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Freeform.