In Belgium, they recently convicted a man of sexism. It’s true.
For the first time since a law was passed four years ago, a criminal court there convicted a man of “sexism in the public space.” The Belgians were a little slow on implementation, but still, the conviction is something.
The man was fined almost $4,000 for verbally abusing a female police officer who tried to question him after he was seen jaywalking.
Viewed through the lens of the #MeToo movement and through the soul of every woman who has suffered an unwelcome catcall and stare while walking down the street, this development is welcome indeed.
Yet, somehow this law makes me dream even bigger. I long to legislate boorish behavior across a wide spectrum of issues in all sorts of public spaces.
MAKE SIDEWALKS SAFE FOR WALKERS
For example, we need laws to punish people who walk three abreast on a sidewalk, forcing other pedestrians to dodge trash cans, the occasional tree, and all too frequently stumble into the street and the path of oncoming traffic. These sidewalk trio-hoggers clearly violate public safety and nuisance laws.
Let’s cite them under “The Three Little Pigs” Law.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
We all cringe, curse, and complain about inconsiderate and clueless cell phone users who don’t look up while they walk, talk LOUDLY, and text.
They don’t look up to see if they might collide with their fellow pedestrians or innocent babes in strollers. They don’t look up to see if they might collide with cars or trucks. They just text and chat. And the worst of these offenders? Young vaping, vapid walkers.
You can ticket jaywalkers. Now let’s ticket these cell phone junkies.
We’ll call it “The I See and Fine You Now” Law.
CAN YOU PAY ME NOW?
Then, what about those people who get to the cash register, yack with the cashier, and only when the total has been tallied reach for their wallet? What exactly are they waiting for? Do they think that today is their lucky day and that somehow the store is going to comp their purchase?
Let’s name this bill “It Pays to Pay Attention; It Costs if You Don’t.”
And if the person has been yammering on their cell phone the whole time, the penalty should be doubled and their cell phone confiscated.
BAN MUSEUM SELFIES
“Look, there’s a priceless work of art! Let me stand in front of it. Fluff my hair. Smile like an idiot. Fumble with my phone and snap a selfie.” That, sadly, is the mindless mindset of some sorry subset of the museum-going public.
If museums won’t take a stand against selfies, then it’s time for the law to step in. What those selfish selfie-takers are doing is, in fact, a crime, a form of theft. They are stealing time and enjoyment away from the rest of us, true art lovers, who would actually like to look at the artwork and contemplate its beauty.
We’ll call this measure “The Art for Art’s Sake” Law.
The offenders’ punishment: a beating with their own selfie sticks, of course!
ON WITH THE SHOW
And don’t get me started on the plethora of problems proliferating in movie theatres and at live theatre performances. Well, since you asked …
- Why do people think “no texting” rules during a show don’t apply to them?
- Why do people think it is OK to put their feet up on the empty seat in front of them in the movies? This offensive behavior prevents people from sitting there and it is gross, probably unhygienic. What would their mothers say? Do they put their feet up like that at home?
- Why do people think it is OK to flop their coats over the back of their seats in tiny theatres where the person behind them scarcely has enough leg room to bend their knees without suffering from the bends?
- And what about excessive public displays of affection (not just in the theatre or movies, but anywhere)?
Regarding that last point: Handsome Hubby (HH) and I were at the theatre the other night. Why did the guy sitting in front of us feel compelled to rub his wife’s bare shoulders throughout the entire first act of the play? It was extremely distracting. And what was distracting in the first act became unbearable in the second when – not content to rub just his wife’s bare shoulders – the amorous fellow decided to lower his hand down the back of her sweater to caress more and more flesh.
About 30 minutes into the second act, I started alternately kicking the man’s seat and shooting vicious looks at HH for never engaging in such unrestrained tasteless public displays of lust toward me.
We clearly need a whole host of enjoyment-enhancing entertainment laws (along with better tasting popcorn). Do I hear the sound of applause in support of this pronouncement?
I don’t know what to call these laws. Naming rights are available – for a fee.
They used to say “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” Well, whoever “they” are, I bet they don’t repeat that expression anymore. Sky-high airfares. Fees for luggage. Fees for better seats. Fees for early boarding. Gate changes. Delays. And that’s before you even board the plane.
What about the boorish on-air behavior of your fellow passengers? The bare feet. The toenail clipping. The gum snapping. The music blaring out their earbuds and into your brain. The seatbacks that slam down on your knees.
Alas. Simple etiquette and basic courtesy are discarded long before the Departure Gate. So, I ask you – what legal recourse can be applied? What punishments fit the crimes for these destroyers of decency and decorum?
Even as we sort this out, I know what we should name these regulations – “Our Wrights In-flight.”
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
In the good old days, there were respected (and feared) arbiters of good taste and etiquette. First and foremost, our mothers. And there was Emily Post.
Post was an internationally-renowned expert on etiquette. She published her first book in 1922 and kept going strong for decades, telling us how to mind our Ps and Qs in a column that appeared in 200 newspapers across the country. She also spoke on radio and founded The Emily Post Institute, which continues to this day.
Emily Post died in 1960. It’s unfortunate. We certainly could use her help today as we sit and suffer check-to-jowl at crowded restaurant tables, endure crowded public transportation and manspreading, and bump up against people who post spoilers on social media spoilers.
REINCARNATION FAILING …
Yet, sadly, we cannot bring back Emily Post. Therefore, we need legislative action. Perhaps we should follow Belgium’s lead and it’s newly-enforced anti-sexism in public places law. It’s a good start. In fact, I’d say it’s great!