Al Franken is a victim. He is the victim of the hysteria that has consumed, and is now fueling, what started out as a good #MeToo movement. It emerged as a social force that made it safe for women and men to speak out about their personal experience with sexual assault inflicted upon them by people using their positions of power to conceal their misconduct. The movement that was finally giving a voice to true victims in this country has spawned an ugly monster towing a bandwagon of opportunists—and it has run over my junior senator from Minnesota.
I’m upset by what has happened to Senator Franken and I don’t even identify as a Democrat. I’m politically Independent because I am not a fan of tribalism. But, I am outraged that it was even possible for his colleagues in the Senate to usurp reasonable process and force Al Franken to resign. The role of senator is one that the former comedian has taken very seriously. He approached the job with impressive intelligence and appeared to have fully committed himself to representing the people of Minnesota for the sake of improving the society that I live in. Since 2009, I’ve watched him go through the process of transforming himself from an entertainer for the masses to an advocate for the people.
I have deep respect for process. Due process should always be afforded to someone who has been accused of wrongdoing—whether it is in a legal or social context. There are two sides to everything and we Minnesotans have been denied the opportunity to hear Senator Franken’s side of the sexual misconduct accusations through an ethics committee review, because some of his fellow Democratic senators pressured him to resign last week. I find the actions of those senators to be impulsive, disrespectful, and opportunistic. Apparently, they were fed up with hearing accusations about Senator Franken and arbitrarily decided there was a cutoff point to the number of anonymous, trivial, and questionable charges that could be lobbed at a senator. Those senators behaved like that annoying kid on the playground who changes the rules of the game for their benefit. When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took up the cause of forcing Al Franken to resign it appeared to have opportunism written all over it. When news of her campaign to remove Franken from the Senate broke, I guessed that her motivation wasn’t because she cared so deeply about that supposedly wounded woman who claimed that she had her fat rolls grabbed by Senator Franken when she posed for a photo with him. I predicted that Senator Gillibrand’s motion against Senator Franken was the first in a series of strategic moves that would promote her as a politician. I figured she would be gunning for Roy Moore next if he was elected to the Senate by Alabama, and then she would go after President Trump for his sexual misconduct. I got the order wrong, but her actions clearly smacked of a calculated game she was playing and I was horrified to see so many other Democratic senators jump on her bandwagon destined for “moral superiority.” Opportunism is not synonymous with morality. One example of morality is NOT throwing your colleague under the bus and denying him the opportunity to due process in the court of public opinion for the sake of your party’s gain.
I think it is wrong to take the position that every woman who makes an accusation about a man being sexually inappropriate should be believed. I think that policy is a great way to promote sexism. Why should a woman be believed any more than a man? Why doesn’t a man have a right to share his side of a story? I know plenty of women who are liars and will say something just to have the spotlight focused on them. I know many men who will do the same. Why should one sex be considered more credible than the other? Why are some Democratic representatives advocating for this kind of sexism while also claiming to support the dismantling of gender barriers? I fully expect some women to throw stones at me for sharing these honest thoughts publicly. That also would not be an example of morality.
The whole #MeToo movement was originally focused on abuses of power. Abuse of power knows no gender barrier. And abusers aren’t defined by gender; they are defined by their intent. Affording someone due process is what allows us to discover intent when certain actions occur. This social climate where the accusations of a woman are all it takes to determine a man’s guilt is a threatening one to be in—if you’re a man.
I’m thankful I’m not a man, otherwise I’d be really worried about people accusing me of sexual misconduct for my past actions. I grabbed a Kindergarten teacher’s boob once. I have no idea exactly how it happened, but I was talking with her about my son’s intellectual capabilities, and I was excited that she recognized his strengths and I demonstratively reached toward her and said, “I know!” As I did that, somehow her boob wound up in my open palm. I laughed and said I was sorry. I have a unique sense of humor and have probably also been guilty of saying things that have unintentionally sounded sexually inappropriate. I’ve accidentally touched other women’s butts in various situations and have often laughed about how funny it must have appeared to others. And I can’t even count the number of women’s fat rolls that I’ve grabbed in the past. I’m a very affectionate person and have thought it would be less offensive to cradle someone’s fat in my hand while posing, rather than extending my short arm around someone in what would show up in photos as an awkward outline of their body. Is it fair that Al Franken can be accused of sexual misconduct for such actions and I can’t, because I’m a woman? Does anyone actually want to live in a society where we are paralyzed with fear over giving someone a hug?
I believe that a lot of women are suddenly changing the rules of the game and are applying new standards to past scenarios to get attention while making something out of nothing. This diminishes the experience of people who have really been victims of sexual assault and misconduct. Al Franken appears to have been a mere pawn in what is possibly nothing more than a political game of proving that one party is holier than the other so they can win whatever they want. I believe that Senator Gillibrand is abusing her political power and skirting acceptable process for her own gain. Will she be allowed to do that all the way to the Presidency in 2020, and will everyone stay silent about it just because she’s a woman?
I am a woman who is going to roar about this completely sexist “Women First” movement until it stops being an undercurrent causing instability in our society. I hope that while moving forward from this odd moment in U.S. history the monstrous wounds that Al Franken’s peers in the Senate and the rest of the country have inflicted on him by denying him due process in the court of public opinion will quickly heal. I want him to continue doing dynamic things for Minnesota in his new role as private citizen. Instead of considering how to effectively improve the lives of women across America in tangible ways, the Democratic Senate succeeded in removing a fellow senator from office who was an effective champion for women. That’s hysterical.
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© 2017 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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