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I, Tonya, Too.

Everybody funny; now you funny, too” – G. Thorogood

Here’s a fun-stirring intro: It would seem this “me-too” stuff has calmed down a bit. While it’s certainly a worthy movement at its core, the string of celebrity and semi-celebrity accusations was reaching such fever pitch, it couldn’t possibly sustain. Somewhere between Louis CK’s exhibitionist prong-pulling and Aziz Ansari’s bad date, the campaign peaked and returned to earth like a Chinese space station. Along the way it hit well-deserving targets like the piggish Harvey Weinstein and just about every male middle-school teacher in Ethiopia. Obviously there are many more worthy examples, and most will never be reported or publicized. But it also brushed up against some complex bits of male-female relations that are acknowledged privately but find little place for public platform. Sexual aggression is largely unwelcome but sexual assertiveness can be a trickier issue. Self-confidence can be sexy but only when displayed appropriately and with justification. Power is a tricky attribute to wield but to deny its place in the universe is to deny the cosmos itself. And if you’re “pretty sure she wants it” you’re likely far more repulsive than you ever imagined. These are all nuanced conversations that, recently and within the more volatile scope of this subject, can only be safely discussed among women. Simply removing the less-evolved sex from the discussion, however, doesn’t subtract the human element or potential rancor. Despite cliched prophecy, even if us guys disappeared en masse tomorrow, not everything would be Kumbaya.

The problem is that none of this stuff is even up for debate in today’s culture and any suggestion of gray areas gets one lumped in with more egregious offenders. So, as with most things these days, we watch our step religiously and keep our mouths shut. (Under-read bloggists not withstanding.) Of course nothing breeds trouble like suppressed emotion. As George Carlin once pointed out “the classroom is the best place (to get laughs) because, well .. no one is allowed to laugh there ..” Just replace “laughs” with “votes” in that bit and you’ve gone a long way toward understanding the last U.S. election. Huck Finn is a decent book, but is it worth getting labeled “racist”? Using plural pronouns to refer to people in the singular is illogical, but is it worth being painted as a transphobe? Most of these examples lend themselves to political polarization but this can be as inappropriate as it is unfortunate. The “me-too” debate really brought this home by crossing political lines and broadening the divide to one half of the population versus the other. And to be fair, if we were to remove either of the two major, prevailing political parties tomorrow, does anyone really believe it would fix anything?

It is perhaps unconscionable to deny the genuinely troubling aspects of some of these situations. But is it so wrong to point out that some of the most strident, self-appointed enforcers of “properness” are as as grating and unlikable as those they wish to correct? Though many will miss the reference, there’s a reason Belushi’s guitar-smashing “I Gave My Love a Cherry” moment in the film Animal House resonates. There’s a reason that seeing Beavis and Butthead school teacher Van Driessen crash through the front window of the bus and fall down the canyon, bumping his head on each pointed surface en route, releases cathartic joy. Humor is a universal barometer and pressure-gauge for cultural climate. (Granted, “Animal House” came out in 1978, but Youtube clips are as popular today as ever.) This isn’t to say that laughs can’t be misplaced (see “Clay, Andrew Dice”) but at least they put it out there for debate. And it’s the one circumstance under which reflexive response cannot be suppressed. Louis CK will definitely be making a comeback at some point and the opening material for this comeback wrote itself. To be fair, it was already the bulk of his subject matter anyway, but people seem to have conveniently overlooked this.

If you see something, say something” is a post-911 mantra for the New York City subway system, and with good reason. “If you think something, keep it to yourself” would be equally apt for life above ground these days. This is particularly relevant if you happen to be a “straight, white male” which would have been abbreviated to AAA for “asshole, asshole, asshole” by now were it not for the American Automobile Association. I’m inclined to add an additional “A” in my case for “ageing” though the Animal House reference speaks for itself. And if you’re among those in my limited readership thinking “I’ve noticed this guy is running out of material,” well … me too

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