Vinay Menon: To say that calling a man bald is sexual harassment is a hare-brained insult

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My guess is the Rock has been sexually harassed many times.

But I doubt it’s because he has no hair. So let’s try to comb through a U.K. legal decision this week, in which a tribunal ruled that calling a man “bald” in the workplace qualifies as sexual harassment.

As the Independent reported, the case was brought by electrician Tony Finn. He was fired from a manufacturing firm after a verbal row with supervisor Jamie King. It seems Mr. King called Mr. Finn a “bald c–t.”

The tribunal noted “industrial language” was prevalent inside the British Bung Company, which itself kind of has a profane ring to it. Fine. When I’ve been around those in the trades or construction, well, the salty banter does not sound like they’re filling potholes on Sesame Street.

I once heard a plumber refer to my clogged drain as a real son of a bitch.

But the complainant wasn’t bothered by the C-word. It’s “bald” that was the four-letter obscenity. And this is where the ruling gets weird.

Since hair loss is more prevalent among men than women, the judges noted, using the b-word as a pejorative is sexual harassment. Or as the Independent put it: “Commenting on a man’s baldness in the workplace is equivalent to remarking on the size of a woman’s breasts …”

I fear this logic may need some Rogaine.

The tribunal is arguing there is no difference between a Kojak put-down of a male employee and a creepy comment to a female employee about her chest? There is a big difference. The female employee is being sexually objectified. The male employee is getting insulted with no carnal intent.

Both scenarios are wrong and gross, you understand.

But when Mr. King called Mr. Finn a “bald c–t,” it’s not because he longed to rub fragrant potions on the electrician’s skull during a romantic bubble bath. There is no male pattern baldness linguistic equivalent for, “Check out the rack on her.” You can’t shave the “sex” out of sexual harassment.

But as the tribunal wrote: “In our judgment, there is a connection between the word ‘bald’ on the one hand and the protected characteristic of sex on the other … We find it to be inherently related to sex.”

Tell that to Jada Pinkett Smith. But not if Will Smith is in earshot.

There is no question baldism still exists. But it’s way better than it used to be when toupées and infomercial spray-on hair were punch lines. Michael Jordan was not just the greatest NBA player ever — he was also the greatest ambassador for bald. He made shiny domes cool. And now some of the coolest men in our culture have less hair than newborns in Scandinavia.

I can tell you right now, if Stanley Tucci had feathered bangs and a mullet, there is no way CNN would pay him to eat his way across Italy. His baldness is so elegant and sophisticated, it makes me implicitly trust whatever he has to say about the Tagliatelle al Ragù or Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Baldism is not even close to other forms of still accepted discrimination, especially ageism. I can joke about vegans or Scientologists with zero fear of getting cancelled. No tribunal will ever side with the flat-earthers.

You know who else gets the short end of the stick? Tall women. It’s now way easier to be a bald gent than a six-foot-two lady. Society no longer cares if a man has hair. But if you are a woman who can squeegee a third-floor window without a ladder, cultural biases and gender tropes are still stacked against you.

Here’s another oddity, per the Independent: this week’s ruling was “made by a panel of three men who in making their judgement (sic) bemoaned their own lack of hair.” Hmm. If I were a lawyer for British Bung Company, I’d be exploring a possible appeal based on a conflict of follicle interest.

I’m not casting aspersions on the judges. But if I were a judge and a plaintiff said, “Your Honour, I was called a brown, four-eyed freak with shockingly small feet,” it might be hard for me to be objective.

The tribunal sided with the electrician and concluded he was wrongly fired. The insult he endured was uttered with the purpose of violating his “dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment …” Damages will be awarded at a future hearing.

Fair enough. But … sexual harassment?

If the electrician was minding his own business and strolling through Yorkshire when female construction workers started catcalling and demanding baldy show them his jackhammer, yes, that is sexual harassment. If one of the electrician’s colleagues had a Patrick Stewart fetish and was sending him unwanted bald porn, yes, that too is sexual harassment.

But a “bald c–t” slur, while greatly offensive, is not sexual harassment any more than stealing a turnip from the market is manslaughter.

I think we can agree no one deserves to be demeaned on the job. We go to work to earn a living, not a tongue-lashing from an unhinged overlord. But when the law is an ass, this does not mean the law has a hot ass.

Electrician Tony Finn was personally and professionally wronged.

But this was not sexual harassment.

To call it that is an insult to real victims of sexual harassment.

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