February 19 update
Way to go, Senate Democrats. You’ve been had.
Senator Franken resigned. We lost a strong voice in the Senate. I hope the DNC is happy.
I started this web site in the interest of showing just how different Democrats are from Republicans. Different, in a positive way. In the future, I will focus on the positive differences, but not today.
Today I’m going to talk about Al Franken, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota. A man whose colleagues have urged to quit—not because there is proof of egregious behavior, but because it’s politically expedient.
I celebrate the women (and men) coming forward this year, telling their stories. Many did so knowing that their actions could have negative repercussions on their careers. I was less happy with the hashtag of #MeToo, because the stories than lost their individuality. Still, it was good to see people speaking out against sexual harrassment and assault, especially against those more powerful.
I think it’s grand that Time decided to feature those who spoke out in its Person of the Year cover this week. It is fitting, it is proper, and it is right.
So now, let’s talk about Al Franken.
The accusations against Franken include the following:
- A photo showing him moving his hands towards the breasts of a sleeping co-performer on a USO tour
- The same co-performer saying he went too far in a kiss during rehearsal
- Five women who said he groped them during photo ops
- An elected official who said he tried to give her a kiss after a radio show before Franken was Senator
- Another woman who told Politico that that Franken tried to kiss her and then said: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”
The photo of Franken taken during the USO show was crass and childish, but I also suspect came about because of circumstances: tired people and a show where sexual innuendo formed the basis for much of the work. As for the kiss, it was part of the skit, and Franken performed it with other women.
Regarding the five women who accused Franken of groping them during the photo ops, I’m reminded of the accusations against George Bush Sr. He’s also been accused of groping women during photo ops.
Both Franken and Bush Sr have denied accusations of groping. I believe them. However, I also believe the women.
When you have people appearing in photos hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of times, there could easily be awkward instances where hands brush butts or breasts or squeeze a waist. All we can do is balance these events with the hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of instances where awkwardness didn’t occur, and give Bush Sr. and Franken a benefit of the doubt. With a suggestion that men stop hugging women when it comes to photo events—a handshake works wonders.
We’re not disbelieving the women. We’re putting the events into perspective. I just can’t believe that Franken would deliberately grope a woman when her husband is three feet away taking a photo. It would be the height of stupidity, and no one ever accused Franken of being stupid.
As for the women and Franken giving them a kiss after the radio shows, was this Franken as Senator, or Franken as Performer? We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the events; we don’t even know if this is something Franken did after his shows. The ethics investigation that Franken has asked for, demanded, begged for could fill in the blanks and provide context. And it could do so and still protect the women’s identity.
We can believe all the women and still find that an innocent context exists. And context is what matters.
Compare the Franken accusations with other recent ones:
- An actor lays down on a 14-year-old after a party and asks for sex
- A man is banned from the local mall because he stalks young women
- The same man is known to date and indulge in sexual activity with underage women
- Another man regularly appears naked in front of his assistants
- An elected official fondles the thighs of his assistant and demands sexual favors
- Several women accuse a powerful man of sexual assault and rape
- Other women accuse a performer of masturbating in front of them
The list goes on, but the point is: there is no possible innocent context for any of these events. There is no investigation that could show us that the person at the root of the events acted in innocence. All that an investigation can do is establish the legitimacy of the complaints, as the Washington Post did with the Roy Moore accusations. As the Washington Post continued to do when receiving a false accusation from a fake sting.
I compare the accusations against Franken with his entire history, as both performer and Senator. I’ve seen him, time and again, come out for legislation to benefit women. Women who have worked with him have come out in his support. Putting the accusations against him into context demanded that we at least give him the benefit of a doubt and allow the ethics investigation to continue. Doing so does not demean the women.
What does demean women is knee-jerk reactions based on equal parts of #MeToo and political expediency.
We women, we’re not fragile flowers. All we’ve asked for in the past was to be treated with respect, and when treated badly, to have our concerns and accusations taken seriously. What we don’t need is to be lumped into a magic number that tilts the scale into thoughtless action.
I’m disappointed in the Democratic Senators in Congress who ignored the context of the Franken accusations. I’m equally disappointed that they don’t respect the workings of the Senate to which they belong enough to allow an investigation to complete.
I suspect they did so to highlight the difference between Republican support for Moore and Democratic support for Franken. This type of political expediency leaves me cold. I expected better of my party.