Does anyone say “department store” anymore? If you’re a Millennial or maybe even a tad older, you may not even be aware of what a department store is. If you’re thinking, Walmart or Target, or even Kohl’s, think again.

Until the 1970s or so, department stores were grand affairs; multi-story edifices, arranged in “departments,” and organized by floor. You needed to take an elevator, usually operated by a real person, to get to the floor that stocked whatever you were looking for. And as the elevator approached a floor, the operator would shout out the stops like a train conductor: “Fourth floor, kitchen appliances! Fifth floor, ladies lingerie!”

These days, you won’t find too many department store elevator operators, but even if you could, Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, recently showed that it’s no job for an amateur. A lot can go wrong just calling out the floors.

While attending an academic convention, Ledbow was riding in a hotel elevator―not in a department store elevator―with other passengers, including a number of women. Instead of saying the number of the floor he wanted to another passenger to press, Lebow quipped “Ladies Lingerie” as his floor choice.

Anyone who’d ever taken an old-fashioned department store elevator ride would have gotten the joke, and probably chuckled. Anyone not schooled in department store lore but possessed of good manners and an unexcitable mind probably would have ignored the comment, or thought this guy wandered into the wrong building. And that would be the end of it.

But that was just the beginning of it for Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College. Sharoni was also on that elevator, and Lebow’s seems to have crack ruined her whole day.

Sharoni didn’t think Lebow was only joking. She couldn’t imagine anyone having the temerity to “make a reference to men shopping for lingerie while attending an academic conference.”

Right. Who does that? But still . . . what’s the problem?

Put another way: How many jokes does it take to offend feminists in an elevator? Just one, of course. You can always find a feminist who’s offended by an innocent gesture or a candid assertion. Especially if that feminist is also a professor of women’s and gender studies. Just being in her orbit is an offense waiting to happen.

That’s surprising because  It seems to run counter to one of feminism’s anthems. Helen Reddy made the case years ago roaring, “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman. I can do anything.”

Anything, that is, except listen to a man crack a joke about ladies lingerie. This was simply a crack too far. And no way to treat a lady.

Sharoni claimed that she was “shaken by the incident.” She especially regretted not saying anything immediately. “I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that we froze and didn’t confront him,” she said.

So she did what all dyed-in-the-wool feminists do when they feel aggrieved and filed a complaint. But with whom? The Otis Elevator Company?

No. She presented her claim against Lebow to the International Studies Association Committee on Professional Rights and Responsibilities. This is this group that was holding its annual meeting at the hotel. Both Lebow and Sharoni are association members.

With a name like that, you can probably figure out what happened next. Yes, officials launched an investigation. Of course they would. Welcome to the current year.

Now, what exactly was there to investigate? Remember, this is all about a joke. An oldie, but a goodie. Here’s where Lebow, a professor not a comedian, did what comedians would never do. He explained the joke.

Lebow said that when he was young, guys like him would be in an elevator somewhere―not in a department store―and it was a “standard gag line” to call out “Hardware” or “Ladies Lingerie.”

The joke explanation bombed. So Lebow apologized—sort of.

“Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation, coercion, or humiliation of women,” Lebow wrote.

Now, can we all get along?

Of course not. Apology not accepted. Rule number one is that appeasement never works. Not with Kim Jong Un, and not with crazed leftists and feminists.

In fact, the committee took his apology to be “offensive and inappropriate.” They claimed it was a “more serious violation,” than the elevator comment!

The funny thing is, it really was. Lebow showed some spunk in writing the rest of his apology:

As such evils continue, it seems to me to make sense to direct our attention to real offenses, not those that are imagined or marginal. By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous—and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee—you may be directing time and effort away from the real offenses that trouble us both.

Good one, huh? Well, no. Tough crowd. The committee didn’t much appreciate him calling the complaint “frivolous” so they demanded that Lebow offer Sharoni an “unequivocal apology.”

Lebow refused. Good for him. He could have saved himself time by skipping the apology altogether.

Indeed, we need a new hashtag. #NoMoreApologies. Not for hokey jokes. Not for your taste in prom dresses or Halloween costumes. Not for . . . just about everything.

Michael Caputo, who had to endure a Senate Intelligence Committee inquisition for the terrible offense of being a Friend of Trump who worked briefly on the campaign, may have given us the ultimate response to all the leftists’ accusations and slanders: “God damn you to Hell.”

Caputo said that to his inquisitors. His indignation was righteous and his words should become a national slogan. Any time decent people are ambushed by the fanatics on the Left, they need to reach out and touch this slogan. “Oh, you didn’t like my comment. You don’t like the sandwich I’m eating, the book I’m reading, the picture I’m painting, the song I’m singing . . . God damn you to Hell.”

And it’ll work just fine on social media. If you post something sweet and innocent, and receive a torrent of hateful comments, just reply: God damn you to Hell. #GODDAMNYOUTOHELL

Mark Zuckerberg recently said he’s looking to make improvements to Facebook. He can perform a valuable service by adding another choice alongside the Like button.

Then when comments come in, you’d be able to click on one of these:

You’re welcome.

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About Steve Lipman

Steve Lipman is a writer in Los Angeles whose irreverent approach to the serious issues of the day goes where angels fear to tread.

Photo: Sorry I'm not sorry retro sign concept illustration.