Fire the lawyers — we’re under hashtag law now

Notice to all lawyers and judges: Clear out your desks, gather up your stuff. You’re all fired. Your services are no longer needed. Take your place in history next to trebuchet builders and town criers — your skills are obsolete.

There’s a new legal system in town and it’s called “viral hashtag.” Yes, #MeToo is the new justice system, and was even declared “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. Personhood. Wow. That’s a pretty lofty accomplishment for a… thing? Idea? This really muddies the waters for those of us who are still grumbling over corporations being deemed “persons.”

And poor laws. They’ve been the foundations of American government for 241 years, and they get no respect, no personhood at all. The Rule of Law… still just Pinocchio.

Before we proceed, let me make it absolutely clear: Sexual harassment is real. Inequality is real. Sexism is real. That’s why the #MeToo movement was so powerful — women have had it with being treated like “less than” objects and sexual toys. I am one thousand percent on board with this. I’ve been a feminist since hashtags just indicated numbers, and not a hair-trigger to re-tweet. But lately, the feminism wagon has veered off the trail and is crashing through the weeds, pulled by a runaway hashtag horse.

The evidence is the unfortunate announcement from Senator Al Franken that he will resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, for which he never had the opportunity to stand in a courtroom in front of a jury and receive either a conviction or an acquittal.

People! This is amongst our most sacred Constitutional rights! The Sixth Amendment separates us from those who would separate us from our heads simply because of, yes — an accusation!

In Franken’s case, the accusations occurred when he was still a comedian (and, of course, comedians never do or say anything raunchy or wacky or marginally socially acceptable). Nevermind that Franken acknowledged that the photo of him “grabbing” a woman’s breasts was inappropriate, apologized profusely and agreed to cooperate completely with an ethics investigation, nevermind that at least one of the accusers was anonymous… Franken was guilty as (un)charged.

Amongst Franken’s incidences of “sexual misconduct” was an attempt to kiss someone.

Whaaaaaaat?

Pump.

The.

Brakes!

Since the beginning of human existence, an attempted kiss has been an acceptable way to show romantic attraction. Now it’s “sexual misconduct”? Franken wasn’t this woman’s boss. He had no power over her. At very worst, he was horny. But, horniness isn’t illegal.

Yet.

Some clarity — and sanity — please! An attempted kiss from your boss is definitely sexual harassment. Some poor cluck with the hots for you, and clumsily attempting to show it, even if you think he’s gross, isn’t. It isn’t even “sexual misconduct,” let alone assault.

Isn’t, isn’t, ISN’T!!!

You know when it is? If you attempt to kiss someone, s/he says no and maybe gags a little in disgust, and you try again. “No” is the clue, guys. “No” means “Stop.” Dogs easily learn what “No” means, guys, and you can too.

That said, we’ve tumbled into Puritanical hell. We’ve become completely sex-phobic. Any expression of sexual attraction is now a condemnable offense, deserving of one’s career and reputation being immediately destroyed. What’s next in these murky “sexual misconduct” waters? There’s no definition — actual, legal, or otherwise — of “sexual misconduct” to distinguish it from “sexual harassment.”

“Sexual harassment” has specific parameters: it occurs in the workplace, particularly when the instigator holds power over the victim’s career or advancement; it is chronic and ongoing (yes, the law clearly separates a single incident of crude behavior from that which occurs repeatedly); and it continues after the victim has made it clear that this attention is unwanted.

However, our current working definition of “sexual misconduct” is “anything a man says or does that makes a woman uncomfortable.” What’s next? Winking? Smiling? Tipping a chin? Looking at a women for longer than three seconds? How are men supposed to express attraction to women these days? By formal legal contract? Pity we fired all the lawyers. Until we draw some lines, we’re stuck with the current “sexual misconduct” definition, which is anything a woman says it is, and the penalty is immediate social and professional excoriation.

Could we give men a tiny break? Unlike women, who hormonally fizzle out mid-life or so, men are hard-wired to be sexually active creatures from puberty to the grave. It’s how the species survives. Even when they aren’t consciously thinking about sex, their biology is quietly monitoring the scene for potential places to plant their seed.

Thankfully, the vast majority of men learn to control those urges, and those who indulge them even when the attraction isn’t mutual end up in the unemployment line or jail, and rightly so. Most men, when their attempt to get close to a woman is met with a firm “Not interested, pal,” will retreat in humiliation and look elsewhere. Don’t feel too sorry for them, however — that’s only about a 15-second time lapse, because they’re hard-wired to keep trying. Their biological clocks tick too, and much faster, for their entire lives.

So, given the curse of male biology, combined with our current society where all women are potential victims and all men potential harassers, abusers or rapists, and every glance, comment or touch sounds the alarm of sexual misconduct or worse, I’ve landed upon a solution: The Reverse Burqa.

Henceforth, when in the presence of women to whom they’re not married, all men shall be required to be covered from head to toe, beginning at puberty. Unlike the traditional female burqa, the male burqa will not have arms, thereby protecting women from any potential groping. In other words, a full-body condom. And, because they’re men, and they’re enclosed in a sheet any time they’re near women, we already know what they’ll be doing under there. Because… they’re men.

This will suffice until we develop “Minority Report” level prescient technology that identifies any sexual thought a man might have before he can act upon it, seizes him and transports him forthwith to the nearest government castration center.

Or, we could just go back to following laws rather than hashtag hysteria.

 

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Trump is not entitled to our bodies or our votes

There’s this old brain-teaser drawing of a young, fashionable lady who becomes an old hag after you stare at it for a moment. The predominant image is in the eye of the beholder. I was reminded of this drawing after watching the most recent presidential debate, because although we were all seeing and hearing the same thing, clearly I was seeing and hearing something entirely different than others.

The most striking result of that cage match was that the Republicans declared a Trump victory. You know that “yaddity-yaddity-yaddity” sound cartoon characters make when they whip their heads around in disbelief? That.

Aren’t debates scored upon the content of answers, the elegance of the delivery and the overall composure of the debater? In what sort of bizarro-world did Trump excel on any of those points?

Forget the bravado and bluster (which is pretty much all Trump has going for him), if you actually pay attention to what was said (google the transcripts), you’ll discover that Donald Trump didn’t answer most of the questions, even when the moderators repeatedly steered him back to the question. His strategy was to deflect the issue with inflammatory reminders about the horror of ISIS or to pour gasoline on the flames of irrational Hillary hatred.

The only specific actions Trump stated were his intention to grant huge tax cuts for corporations (Bernie supporters, pay attention) and to declare that once elected, he’ll use his political power to jail his opponent. This, of course, is what dictators do. Clearly Trump’s been studying the Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein playbooks. Whose strategies will he adopt next? Bashir-al Assad? Idi Amin? Hitler?

The debate brought to mind our local Academic Decathlon, for which I served as an essay judge for about 10 years. There was a scoring rubric for the essays, and one criteria was how well the student addressed the writing prompt. If the student didn’t respond directly to the prompt and rambled off into the weeds, his/her score was a zero.

Even by high school essay competition standards, Trump’s debate performance was “zero.”

On the rare occasions when Trump managed to stay on topic, he repeatedly just declared things to be “a disaster.” Our military, our healthcare, our inner cities… all disasters. Beyond the fact that these things simply aren’t true — even if they were, labeling the problem isn’t the same thing as solving the problem. When pressed for solutions or policy, Trump’s default answer is that he’ll “take a look at that.” Period. Taking a look at the problem also isn’t the same thing as solving the problem.

“That turd is a disaster!”

OK, so how do we clean it up?

“We’ll take a look at that.”

Trump is no more qualified to pick up after the family dog than he is to run our country.

Beyond the lack of content in his rambling diatribes, the way he lurked behind Hillary’s back was unsettling — particularly in the context of the avalanche of  evidence exposing his lifelong disdain for women.

Most of us women have experienced the sixth-sense feeling when someone is walking too closely behind us. Some of you reading this right now will immediately recall what that sickly gurgle in your stomach feels like. It’s a feeling of being stalked, like a prey animal, and it triggers the “fight or flight” response. Those of us who know that sensation of prickly heat down our backs surely flinched a little watching it play out on television.

Even more flinch-worthy was watching Trump repeatedly interrupt Hillary and shout her down. Even though she remained calm and composed, continued speaking and didn’t give in to this bullying tactic, in the end, he can yell louder than she can and she got drowned out.

All the women in the room: Raise your hand if you’ve ever been plowed over by this verbal bulldozing tactic, either personally or professionally? (Both my hands are way up.) How many times have you not been heard, simply because the male with whom you’re disagreeing can yell louder and, often times, longer? This is a simple male domination strategy. It’s how they’re wired. Men attempt to outshout each other, nose to nose, until one of them tires or concedes, or they just do what men do and start throwing punches. Most women aren’t wired this way, and even those who are, or learn to be, have a tough time out-yelling a man.

This behavior, taken in the context of the insults and indignities Trump has expressed and continues to express toward women, reveals that he is a sexist pig at best and a bona fide misogynist at worst. This alone disqualifies him from being elected president of a country where more than 50 percent of the population is female. Not only would his presidency put women’s rights at risk, but it would serve as a role model of the worst sort for our young men. Do we really want our sons to look up to a man who says it’s OK to grab a woman’s genitalia whenever he pleases? Do we really want our daughters to look up to a man who condones this? Moreover, isn’t it astounding that we are even having this conversation in the context of a presidential election? The bar of conduct has fallen so low, you’d have to dig it out of the mud to get underneath it.

Trump does not value old women (read: over 30) or ugly women (not beauty pageant contestants) and amongst the women he does value (beauty pageant contestants or those who look like them), he feels entitled to kiss and grab them whenever and wherever he wants, simply by virtue of his celebrity. Imagine how his sense of entitlement will balloon if we endorse his perspective and elect him president.

There’s another historical ruler who viewed women the way Trump does: as property. He had his way with them, married or not, willing or not (and they were all willing, because the other option was death), and tossed them aside or had them beheaded when he tired of them: Henry VIII. The parallels with Trump are uncanny, from the serial wives to the megalomania to the weird little round mouth.

Women have made great strides since the days of the Tudor court. Will we participate in electing someone who will shove us backwards, to the days when our value is measured by our sexual desirability? Will we elect a man who will have the power to appoint Supreme Court judges that can strip away all the rights women have achieved? Remember, Trump declared that a woman who has had an abortion should do time in jail. Yes, he said that too. It’s hard to keep track of all the misogyny that has tumbled from his mouth, just by the sheer volume of it all.

Don’t be duped into writing off Trump’s words in the recently exposed Access Hollywood tapes as merely “locker room talk.” Vulgar language isn’t the issue. It’s the vulgar intent, which declares that powerful men are entitled to do with women’s bodies as they please.