Joanna said it best by ig­nor­ing lewd buffoon

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

SHE has made her loathing known for the ‘Aga Saga’ tag for her best­selling nov­els, but Joanna Trollope has stayed silent about a speech at the Lon­don Book Fair where a prom­i­nent lit­er­ary agent said he’d like to snog her. ‘I of­ten see her in Kens­ing­ton and think I’d like to give her a snog”, said Tony Mul­liken by way of in­tro­duc­ing the 74-yearold author dur­ing the panel dis­cus­sion he was chair­ing.

Now ei­ther Mr Mul­liken is of that thank­fully dy­ing breed of ladies’ men who are so full of them­selves that they be­lieve no greater com­pli­ment can be paid to the fairer sex than a pub­licly-pro­claimed male ea­ger­ness to kiss them.

The other ex­pla­na­tion is that he was over­come with nerves and blurted out the first thing that came into his head.

Ei­ther way he must have come across as an ut­ter buffoon. In the looks depart­ment, he’s no Ge­orge Clooney, who is per­haps the only man alive who could get away with such a crass and gra­tu­itous com­ment.

He man­aged to draw at­ten­tion to his own mod­est phys­i­cal charms and in a room of so­phis­ti­cated booklovers, cut a pa­thetic con­trast to the ice-cool Joanna Trollope, who didn’t so much as ac­knowl­edge his ‘com­pli­ment’ with a with­er­ing smile.

In nor­mal times, Mr Mul­liken’s mor­ti­fi­ca­tion would be his pun­ish­ment and his cringey at­tempt to flat­ter Ms Trollope would be for­got­ten by all ex­cept him.

Thanks to the hys­te­ria cre­ated by #Me­Too how­ever, it’s no longer enough for the shame­faced Mr Mul­likens of this world to be taught a les­son about un­con­scious sex­ism and let get on with their lives. They must be named, shamed and im­paled on the spear of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, as if they were guilty of vile acts of sex abuse rather than a silly chau­vin­is­tic urge to make an el­derly wo­man feel de­sir­able.

So no surprises then that at the book event, some­one duly obliged. Tak­ing of­fence on Joanna Trollope’s be­half, writer Clare Mack­in­tosh det­o­nated a se­ries of out­raged posts on so­cial me­dia.

She made a for­mal com­plaint to the man­age­ment and told The Book­seller that in the #Me­Too era, the com­ment was ‘grossly in­ap­pro­pri­ate’. Gross is a word that is so fre­quently flung about in the fevered at­mos­phere of #Me­Too that it has al­most be­come mean­ing­less. Be­hav­iour is al­ways ‘grossly of­fen­sive’, whether it’s a pat on the back­side or a vi­o­lent sex­ual as­sault.

A wolf whis­tle has be­come so gross that it can con­fer vic­tim­hood on women.

Pre­sen­ter Laura Whit­more has a long list of oc­ca­sions where she felt, as she says, ‘vi­o­lated’.

A stranger felt her leg in a night­club last year; when she was 16, a bloke slapped her on the bot­tom in a club and so on.

Of course no one should have to en­dure un­wanted at­ten­tion from sex­pests, even in night­clubs where a cer­tain amount may be ex­pected given the num­ber of drunken sleazy men and, in­deed, women who will try it on with any­body.

But be­ing groped or slapped on the back­side is hardly com­pa­ra­ble to the al­le­ga­tions of rape and sex­ual as­sault against Har­vey We­in­stein, and to pre­tend oth­er­wise risks triv­i­al­is­ing those who have suf­fered the lat­ter.

To be fair to the Strictly Come Danc­ing star, she’s not claim­ing they are – but she is guilty of us­ing #Me­Too as cover for re­hash­ing her un­happy his­tory with the Bri­tish tabloids who, she claims, ex­ploit her as ‘blonde bait in a se­quinned dress’. Whit­more wants to be taken se­ri­ously, rather than feted as a glam­our­puss. Per­haps her agent can guide her in this re­spect. That is part of their job, af­ter all.

The orig­i­nal fo­cus of #Me­Too on sex­ual ha­rass­ment and rape has been di­luted enough by star­lets hopping onto the band­wagon com­plain­ing about be­ing groped and fon­dled and cast­ing them­selves as vic­tims. Let’s not al­low it be hi­jacked fur­ther by show­biz stars with even less to com­plain about.

LI­BRARY fines are set to be scrapped in the drive to in­crease de­mand for the ser­vice. Surely an even bet­ter way of at­tract­ing bor­row­ers is later open­ing hours and Sun­day ser­vice.

ROOM To Im­prove pro­ducer Linda Cullen’s one reser­va­tion about the hit show is the vi­cious tweets that some home­own­ers at­tract. It’s true the green-eyed mon­ster looms large on so­cial me­dia and the out­bursts must make painful read­ing for Der­mot Ban­non’s, pic­tured, TV clients. Per­haps the lat­est de­sign in­no­va­tion in his lav­ish new spa­ces might be the ab­sence of WiFi, even for a few days, un­til the in­ter­net warriors move on to their next quarry.

NOT even their great friends the Oba­mas have been in­vited to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s nup­tials as Queen El­iz­a­beth de­cided it was best that no po­lit­i­cal fig­ures fea­ture on the guest list. So much for Meghan’s vow about how, to­gether, she and Harry would change the world.

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