Sexual harassment or just crassitude?

Apparently men can no longer be allowed in the workplace.

Going forward, men will only be allowed as house pets.

I keed, I keed…

Because, come on — men make crummy house pets. They’re big, noisy and messy, and exceedingly difficult to leash-train. They’d do better as livestock — kept outside in a corral until haltered and led by an experienced handler.

Man Saddles!

I totally just copyrighted that, and this column is evidence. It’s in print and dated. Don’t mess with me, because I’ll have at least one lawyer in my nifty little man stable.

Before your righteous indignation gets all in a bunch — exhale: I keed, I keed.

If you’re offended by inappropriate or shocking banter, pal, you’re reading the wrong column. I make no apologies. I am what I am. The chili pepper does not apologize for not tasting like strawberry ice cream.

Chili peppers gotta pepp.

You want sweetness and light, go watch kitten videos on YouTube.

Anyway.

The point here isn’t whether I harbor sexist views about men (OK, I do, but that’s still not the point) — the point is: Can we joke about anything anymore? If everything is so blasted serious, how will we know when something is actually harmful? Have we become haunted by our humorless Puritan ancestors?

When did we become so uptight? So thin-skinned and fragile, so hypersensitive and hypervigilant, that any whiff of sexuality propels us into sexual harassment hysteria, fleeing to the nearest authority to point the finger of damnation? Moreover, when did accusations become convictions? Back in the 1600s, women were convicted and sentenced to death for witchcraft simply because someone else claimed she was a witch. No proof, just accusations. Is it 1692 all over again?

I feel like I’ve tumbled into Bizarro World — down is up, up is down, and nothing makes sense, because be clear: I’m a feminist! I grew up in the shadow of Gloria Steinem and bra-burning and the (still infuriatingly unratified) Equal Rights Amendment. I have my Pink Pussy Hat and I ain’t afraid to use it!

But amid this high-speed montage of sexual harassment, I had a tipping point: Kevin Spacey. I adore him. I’ll watch a movie, even a shitty one, just because he’s in it. So when an allegation emerged from a then-underage person that Spacey hit on him while both were intoxicated at a Hollywood party three decades ago, and just like that, Spacey was bounced off his successful “House of Cards” series on Netflix, I had to pump the brakes.

Wait a minute… what was a minor doing at a drunken Hollywood celebrity party? Where were his parents? Did Spacey even know he was a minor? Hollywood isn’t famed for propriety, let alone with cocktails. Maybe Spacey was behaving like a jerk, but contextually speaking, is this alleged assault really so shocking?

“Alleged.”

What a precious little yester-year word.

Between the social media feeding frenzy and the regular media tossing bucket after bucket of tasty “gotcha” chum into the waters, there’s no such thing as “allegation” anymore. Guilty! Send him to the stocks and tattoo a scarlet SH (Sexual Harasser) on his forehead!

Am I the only one clinging to the winsome notion of due process? Constitutional rights? A fair and speedy trial? Better question: Am I the only one worried about abandoning them?

This is where it gets all Bizarro World-y.

Women have irrefutably been discounted and blamed for their abuse at the hands of men, beginning with Eve herself. When Adam — who bit the apple of his own free will — was confronted by God, Adam declared “she made me do it” without missing a beat. That was good enough for God — The Man said it, so it must be true. Sadly, it’s been this way for women ever since.

Women must be taken seriously when they’re abused, harassed and raped. But there’s a process: allegation, charges, evidence, trial, verdict. That’s the very foundation of our society, and if we abandon it, our country is in danger of utter disintegration.

Take the allegations against Garrison Keillor. An accusation emerged and he was canned on the spot. Garrison Keillor! The icon! Mr. Prairie Home Companion! An oasis of feel-good in an otherwise insane world!

In a follow-up Washington Post story, a befuddled Keillor said he didn’t even know what the allegations were — his employer never even laid them all out — but suspected an incident when he touched a woman’s bare back while trying to console her. She recoiled. He said he was sorry. That wasn’t good enough. Sound the alarms! It’s sexual assault! Especially if I’ll get my moment on E!

Wow. “Touch” equals “assault”? I better stop hugging people before I’m accused of pre-rape. That will be next. “Pre-crimes.” Maybe “Minority Report” was actually pre-reality.

Then there was another gal who came forward, claiming Al Franken groped her. While hugging her for a photo, she claims he grabbed her breast. Stephanie Kemplin, an Army veteran, recounted this story, misty-eyed and through tears of her trauma.

Give me a break.

First off, yes, people’s hands sometimes land on a breast, unintentionally and to everyone’s embarrassment. I’ve had it happen to me. I’ve even done it myself. What can you do but roll your eyes, particularly when the “offender” is horrified.

Second, if someone grabbed my breast, and I knew it was an intentional feel, whatever happened to ramming an elbow into his ribs? Kemplin was in the ARMY. She knew how to defend herself against this and far worse. And this “groping” was enough to traumatize her for 20 years?

Give me two breaks.

Seriously, people, where does it end? This lifelong feminist says enough’s enough. Every juvenile, lunk-headed male comment, every whistle, every pat on the shoulder isn’t sexual harassment. All men aren’t bad. They’re just not. Bad house pets, yes. But not intrinsically bad.

Vilifying half of the population isn’t the answer to equality. Worse yet, this endless torrent of sexual harassment allegations, both egregious and microscopic but given equal weight, makes it harder for truly harassed and abused women to get justice. Their voices are lost in the roar.

We need a litmus test. If your boss says your promotion requires kneepads, that’s harassment. If some random idiot says he’d like to see you on kneepads, that’s not harassment. That’s crassitude.

Yes, that’s a word, and perfect for our current sexual harassment confusion. And oh, what serendipitous joy that “ass” is the core of both “harassment” and “crassitude,” because that’s the best label for men who demean women and treat them like boobs on legs.

Is it harassment or crassitude? Simple: If you give him a middle finger and a well-deserved verbal vivisection, will you get fired? No? It’s crassitude. Did it happen at work? Yes? It’s harassment.

Ladies, the world isn’t our babysitter. It’s not the world’s job to take care not to rattle our tender sensitivities. If you go through life as a victim, all the world’s an assailant. That said, whether crassitude or harassment, we need to confront it, fearlessly. But we need to know the difference. And also… we need to lighten up a little. Puritanism makes your butt look fat.

 

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