Robert Kirby’s Dilemma: Men and Women Together

Robert Kirby, humorist for the Salt Lake Tribune, was recently suspended for 3 months for interactions he had with a woman at Sunstone, a conference of Mormon fringe elements.

I first need to confess that I have a strong respect for Robert Kirby’s views, although I have never met him or talked to him.  Beyond his humor, his stated beliefs about Mormon doctrine, policy, and procedures closely parallel mine.  We are both males and roughly the same age.  But our backgrounds are totally different.  Enough said.

At Sunstone, it is alleged that Kirby started a conversation with a female co-panelist with an inappropriate comment.  The 2 then had a discussion that involved her being offered and accepting pot.  During their panel discussion at the conference, Kirby outed her for taking pot.  After the panel, the two had their photograph taken together, with the woman tilting her head toward Kirby.

Robert Kirby, Columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune

Last week, the woman, on her popular feminist facebook page, outed Kirby for his inappropriate behavior.  Kirby issued a public apology (which many called lame) and the Tribune investigated the incident.  The columnist was suspended for 3 months.  The newspaper implied that there may have been other incidents.  But they weren’t specific.

During post-facebook-post period, my daughter and I exchanged numerous texts.  She sort of sided with the feminist and I with Kirby.  I’ve also discussed the incident with female acquaintances.

I can agree that Kirby’s opening line to his co-panelist was inappropriate.  Since he apparently didn’t know her, offering her pot was certainly bad judgement, and outing her for consuming it was a serious faux pas.  However, since I don’t find pot consumption to be a serious issue (although it is still illegal in Utah), I’m ambivalent about this part of the story.  The photograph of the two of them together raises some interesting questions.

Kirby’s behavior was gauche.  Poking fun of institutions, and to a lesser degree people (particularly himself), is a big part of his act.  For this reason, he a very popular speaker.  I don’t doubt that he is “full of himself.”  However, in his column he expresses deep affection for his wife and 4 daughters.

The feminist co-panelist is an adult.  At what point is she responsible for her own actions?  After Kirby’s opening line, she could have refused to further engage with him.  She certainly could have refused the pot.  And what’s with that photograph?

Robert Kirby with Co-panelist

Kirby is not the woman’s boss.  As far as I know, he has no job-related or other hold over her.  They are equals.  Her excuse for going along with him was:  hero worship.

Kirby, in his apology, wished that she had talked to him privately.  A reasonable wish, under the circumstances.  But Kirby is a public figure and as such is fair game, I guess.  Feminist lined up to support the woman, including the likes of Kate Kelly.  Me, I’m not so sure.

Male/female relationship as it relates to power and other issues are currently under serious scrutiny.  And justifiably so.  But I’m not sure this is a very good case of an injustice.  Poor judgment certainly.

What if I had been approached by a famous “progressive” woman that I admired at Sunstone.  What if she had referred to me a lothario or gigolo?  If I perceived that it was in jest, I would continue the conversation.  I’m not easily offended.  When offered pot, would I accept?  I don’t know, but I wouldn’t feel any pressure to take it.  If I took it, I’m fair game to being outed.  Remember pot is not a big deal to me, and hell it’s Sunstone.  Beside, I could laugh it off.  And most of all, if I’m deeply insulted, I wouldn’t pose for a friendly photograph.

I realize that the reverse situation is hardly equal.  But it does provide something to think about.

This entry was posted in feminism, Personal Essays, Personalities, Social Justice and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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