It didn’t take long for the very serious #MeToo movement, centered around women who had been raped, degraded, sexually abused, and seriously harassed, to give way to ridiculous claims that, “Oh, this guy patted me on the arm one time.” But if the movement hadn’t already jumped the shark – and we’re quite confident that it had – then the absurd controversy currently burning up the academic world ought to do the trick. Just so there’s no hint of bias from us, we’ll let The Chronicle of Higher Education explain exactly what went down.
From the site:
The fuss started when Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, and Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, ended up in the same crowded elevator during a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco last month.
She said she offered to press the floor buttons for people in the elevator, whom she described as mostly conference attendees and all, except one other woman, white middle-aged men. Instead of saying a floor, Lebow smiled and asked for the women’s lingerie department “and all his buddies laughed.”
Now, that may not sound like much, but you’ll be shocked when you hear what Professor Lebow did next. After making the joke about the women’s lingerie department, Lebow…hold on, we’re scanning the article…hmm…well damn.
Nope, sorry, that’s the whole thing. That’s the full extent of what happened. A middle-aged professor made a lame joke about getting off at the women’s lingerie department, his “buddies laughed,” and life went on.
Except, since this is a “women’s and gender studies” professor we’re talking about, it of course could not simply be left alone. According to her complaint (yes, of course she filed a complaint), she got off the elevator with her friend who said, “I wonder if we should have told them that it is no longer acceptable to make these jokes!”
No. Longer. Acceptable. To. Make. Harmless. Jokes.
Sharoni, reports The Chronicle, “was shaken by the incident” and it “took her a while to figure out that Lebow thought it was funny.”
Like, really? What kind of world do these people inhabit that they’re shaken by something so trivial and stupid? And, yeah, we get that not everyone would necessarily find Lebow’s joke funny – it was fairly weak – but how could you not know that it was MEANT to be funny? Is Sharoni a robot? Or has she been so cloistered in her “gender studies” bubble that she’s forgotten what it’s actually like to communicate with normal human beings?
Lebow responded to Sharoni’s complaint with an explanatory email that should have been the end of it. Well, actually, the end of it should have been when Sharoni walked off the elevator, but this is where we are now.
“Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation, coercion, or humiliation of women,” Lebow wrote. “As such evils continue, it seems to me to make sense to direct our attention to real offenses, not those that are imagined or marginal. By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous — and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee — you may be directing time and effort away from the real offenses that trouble us both.”
Sharoni forwarded his email to the investigating association, which told Lebow that his remarks were not frivolous, but indeed “offensive and inappropriate.” They’ve given him until May 15 to write an “unequivocal apology” or face professional sanctions.
We mentioned earlier that the #MeToo movement has jumped the shark, but that’s actually not descriptive of what’s really happening here. This isn’t just about a movement descending into self-parody. This is about innocent people facing professional repercussions because normal human interaction has suddenly been deemed problematic by the Political Correctness Police.
The backlash to this incident and others like it will be extraordinary. And, like Lebow said, the people who will be hurt by it are those who need their claims of actual victimization to be taken seriously.
Great job as always, feminists.