I have a modest proposal to put an end once and for all to all the sexual tomfoolery going on in Congress and congressional offices. I got the idea after I read about an ad Dana Nessel, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Michigan’s attorney general, has been airing on the web.
She says the way to stop the national epidemic of sexual harassment, bullying and assault is to vote for the candidate who doesn’t have a penis.
“Who can you trust most not to show their penis in a professional setting?” Ms. Nessel asks rhetorically in the ad. “That would be the candidate who doesn’t have one.”
Well she’s got a point there, but she may not be on to the best strategy for getting elected. That’s because roughly half the voters do have penises and may resent having them turned into a wedge issue.
Still Nessel’s ad got me thinking about an alternative approach that would accomplish what she’s after, at least as far as Congress is concerned, and would be even more far-reaching.
Here’s how it would work.
We would pass an amendment to the Constitution that reads as follows:
Section 1: No person with a penis shall be allowed to run for election to or serve in the United States House of Representatives, or to serve on the staff of the House, or serve on the staff of a member.
Section 2: No person without a penis shall be allowed to run for election to or serve in the United States Senate, or serve on the staff of the Senate, or serve on the staff of a member.
Section 3: Members of the Senate and House shall be elected by the citizens of both sexes residing in the states and districts they represent.
Section 4: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
In other words, only women could run for the House and men for the Senate, but men would still vote for female candidates for representative, and women would still vote for male candidates for senator.
This, together with the requirements that Senate and House staffers be the same sex as the members, should dramatically reduce the incidence of grab-ass on Capitol Hill.
Still additional measures would be required.
For instance, even though the chambers would be segregated by sex, there would always be the danger that some of the senators will have a few too many and try to stage a panty raid on the House side. To preclude this possibility, it will be necessary to provide physical separation between the bodies.
Fortunately this can be easily done by building a big, beautiful wall bisecting the Capitol along an east-west axis directly under the dome and extending it to the east and west edges of the Capitol grounds. The Senate and its offices would be north of the wall; the House and its officers would be south of it.
In consideration of the aesthetics of the building, and in order to maintain full transparency in public places, the wall could be built out of 30-foot-tall panels of bullet-proof glass. Think of it as a repurposed glass ceiling that neither gender could penetrate.
Apart from restoring a measure of decorum to the Congress, there are other public policy goals that would benefit from sexing the Congress.
For example, it would correct the unconscionable under-representation of women in Congress that dates from the founding of the republic. Since 1789, there have been 115 Congresses convened under the Constitution, and fewer than 300 women have served in them. No women served in Congress until 1917 when Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana) was elected to the House in the 65th Congress.
There are 105 women in the 115th Congress (the current one) — 84 in the House and 21 the Senate; 19.6 percent of the Congress is female, despite the fact that the U.S. population is 51 percent female.
But if only women could serve in the House and men in the Senate, the balance of women to men in Congress would be 435 to 100, which would start to correct the historic imbalance.
And if women had majority representation in one chamber of Congress, they would have a lot more political clout than if they had minority representation in both chambers.
Of course, there would be times when fraternization between senators and congresswomen would be unavoidable — such as when Senate-House conference committees meet to resolve the differences in legislation or when a joint session of Congress is convened for the State of the Union address.
Events such as these will have to be chaperoned.
The chaperones will be chosen from a pool of private citizens who have the unique skills necessary to ride herd on congressional tomcats and cougars. (Let’s not forget cougars; power can corrupt girls as well as boys.) The National Chaperone corps would consist of the cream of American-chaperones crop — retired high school teachers who have chaperoned at least a dozen sophomore proms, former NFL referees who know how to deal with excitable boys, and retired military snipers.
Two of the latter, one female and one male, could be discreetly deployed in the House Press Gallery (it’s above the speaker’s chair) during the State of the Union. If Senator Franken tried to, uh, reach across the aisle, one of the snipers could dart him.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.