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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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.