A Return to Standards

First of all, I am sad that Al Franken had to resign. It’s unfortunate, to be sure, to lose such a progressive member in the Senate.

However, what we are seeing now is a return to demanding that anyone who represents us in government actually represent us and our standards. I’m not talking about purity; screw that. But the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of us would not do many of those things Senator Franken has been accused of. There is little doubt that Tina DuPuy, who is a progressive and very, very credible, wrote the piece that turned the tables on Franken. This is from that article, which can be found here:

Then I saw Al Franken. I only bug celebrities for pictures when it’ll make my foster mom happy. She loves Franken, so I asked to get a picture with him. We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice.

I’d been married for two years at the time; I don’t let my husband touch me like that in public because I believe it diminishes me as a professional woman. Al Franken’s familiarity was inappropriate and unwanted. It was also quick; he knew exactly what he was doing. 

It shrunk me. It’s like I was no longer a person, only ornamental. It said, “You don’t matter—and I do.” He wanted to cop a feel and he demonstrated he didn’t need my permission.

The article was published yesterday in The Atlantic and the episode happened in 2009, during the inauguration of President Obama, as well as Franken’s recount fight with Norm Coleman. There is no reason to question her account, and what he did was wrong. Period. There is no excuse for it. Yet, so many so-called “progressives” have excused it because Franken is a liberal and a Democrat. One person suggested it wasn’t so bad because it “wasn’t a sexual assault or a rape.” Another pulled the classic GOP “whataboutism” defense, suggesting that he need not resign because Roy Moore and Donald Trump are worse. Still another said Franken “needs to fight,” and this is another example of Democrats turning and running when challenged.

Come on, people; we either have standards or we do not. And the standard that women have value and should be treated with respect and dignity should be a minimum standard, I would think. To those “progressives” who dismissed Tina Dupuy’s account because “grabbing a handful of flesh” and “squeezing” isn’t so bad, I’ll ask a simple question; why was it necessary? How often do men put their arms around another man and squeeze the flesh around their middle? When embracing a woman for a selfie, is it really impossible to know where to put your hands? Is down by your side not an option? One guy suggested that, because she has her arm around his shoulder, there was nowhere else to put his hand. Okay, fair enough, but why squeeze? Twice?

And I will ask a simple question that I have asked before many times; Why does it seem virtually impossible for men to ask a woman, “Do you mind?” before he even touches her? Why would anyone assume it was perfectly okay to put their arm around a woman’s waist without asking permission? If a stranger has gone up to Franken’s wife or daughter and done that, would he be okay with it? I would think not, but I don’t know him; maybe he wouldn’t mind. That’s cool, but we don’t all live by that standard. And for those who claim he is “a mouth kisser” as an excuse for kissing women unwanted, all I will say is, do you have evidence that he mouth kisses men? I only ask because the issue is that he seems to feel entitled to kiss women that way. What (most) women are asking for is simple; they want to be treated equally with men in society and, especially, the workplace.

What we are seeing right now is a society that is in the process of instituting principles that align with our stated mission as a country. We want this country to be one that honors everyone’s rights equally. Women and men are citizens and rights belong to all citizens, without qualification based on sex, race or any other factor. We either believe that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity or we don’t. And if we do believe that, then we should hold everyone who represents us in government to a much higher standard than we now do. Standards of behavior, and what is and isn’t acceptable, cannot be fluid. Women deserve respect and men “just being men” and treating women like crap should not be acceptable from anyone.

What Al Franken is doing is the right thing. He has chosen to uphold a high standard of behavior for the Senate and for Democrats. That is ultimately a good thing. No one else is entitled to keep their job when they behave in such a way. Franken is setting a standard that every politician from now on will have to follow. And we’ll all be better off for it.


Also published on Medium.

13 comments

  1. Complete and utter BS. Democrats have now set the standard that any behavior before politics is worthy of calling for someone’s head over, despite all the good Democrats do after entering office. IE, if a video of another male Democrat leaks showing him partying and grab assing before he entered politics, even if he has championed women’s rights, he must go and there is to be no investigation or due process and let him testify. That’s the problem with Franken: he was willing to tell his side of the story, and we won’t know for sure whether these allegations are actually legit since these women won’t be deposed under oath. By this standard, Bill Clinton would’ve had to resign over allegations that were later proven not credible because there was an investigation done and the women accusing him were not found credible. You’re wrong, and this has set a horrible precedent that will bring down more great Democratic men without investigations done to find the allegations credible or not. What the hell happened to nuance and gray area, and due process? That’s out the window to “feel good” about having “standards” that are black and white, and thus are not attainable?

    1. Do you find Roy Moore’s accusers credible? Do you find Donald Trump’s accusers credible? By your own admission how can you since there have not been “investigations done to find the allegations credible or not.”

      Look, this is about power – the power of powerful men over less powerful women. Period. Bill Clinton should have resigned because of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky which no one disputes actually happened. You don’t get much more of a difference in power than between the POTUS and a lowly intern. Period.

      I am 60 years old. From the time I started to look like a woman to now I have had to deal with numerous assholes (like Franken) and outright sexual predators (like Moore and Trump). Every single one of these men was abusing their power. And I am not alone – the “Weinstein moment” has sparked a lot of consciousness raising discussions among my friends and not a one has not experienced this. So, #YesAllWomen.

      It wears you down. And even more when you are in an environment where you are next to helpless to say much about it in a place that you can’t afford to lose – a job, an internship, a place in an advanced degree program, etc.

      No, it is not about a “feel good” moment. But it certainly is about standards. It is about saying that we will no longer tolerate men abusing their power and getting in the way of women truly being equal in the world.

      By the way, Franken has not done a great job telling his side of the story – he’s mostly disputed the women’s accounts (he remembers it differently) or has said some of these things didn’t happen. Not so different from GOP’s approach – deny and say women lie.

      1. One of the Roy Moore accusers admitted to falsifying the yearbook signature, which is why there shouldn’t be a mad rush to believe all accusers without an investigation. All I am stating is that we need a gray nuanced area regarding sexual harassment, and in ousting Franken, Democrats have said “no nuance, no gray area, you get accused by multiple women, you must go with NO investigation or hearings!” which is a dangerous precedent to set. Women too make crap up, as was the case with Bill Clinton, and also Rolling Stone and the UVA rape story which was fake. We should listen to women, and also trust, but verify their claims, meaning maintaining a healthy skepticism.

        1. I don’t completely disagree with that. If I thought this was going to become the norm, I would agree with you 100%. It’s not, though. This is a transition. We are finally holding members of Congress to the same standard the vast majority of employees in this country are held to every day.

          Once this shit settles down, we can work on guidelines for accusations. However, right now, it is imperative that Democrats take over government at all levels. If there are a few sacrifices, so be it. Consider what Franken was able to say during his resignation speech. That will damn the GOP for a long time. And if we want such guidelines written, as you suggest, are they better written by Democrats or Republicans?

          I understand the upset, but if zero tolerance is what it takes for a couple years to stop politicians and others from acting like pigs, then so be it. A progressive woman will replace Franken, so we won’t be losing anything. OTOH, Republicans will be dropping like flies.

    2. I didn’t say they should be black and white. But for now, men are on notice that they will be required to respect women. This is not the time for “grey area.” It’s an epidemic and it needs to stop. And one more thing; if YOU acted the way Franken did at your job, how long would you get to keep it? Setting standards is just a start. First, you make it clear that such behavior is not acceptable, then you set guidelines for how to handle it. The fact that Congress has a FUND to pay for settlements points to a serious problem. This is how you start nipping it in the bud.

  2. As usual, I completely agree. I have still in Facebook purgatory so have more time to personal thought, and have been thinking the same. Hate to see it happen, but this is the right path to take. Thankfully it looks as though his potential replacement is a progressive woman!

  3. Totally disagree, Milt. And she had her arm around his shoulder? Do you think she asked permission? This is bizarre. Democrats do not always have to take the so-called “high road”. We BUILT the friggin road! Franken did nothing that equates to sexual abuse or harassment and should not have been called on the carpet by other dems. The only winners here, besides the non-victims, are the alt-right and the alt-left. More demexit for the berniebros to chortle over. Tis does NOT bode well for the democratic party, cannibals to the bitter end.

    1. Yes, we DO have to take the high road. No one else is taking it and voters are looking for someone who will end this perverse fascination with bad behavior. If a male politician is grabbing women without their express permission, they are not treating women as equals. No one forced Franken out; he realized that, in all decency, he had to resign and he did. But man, if Dems don’t take the high road, we are left with two parties with no morals who are trying to see who can be more dick-ish. Two Republican Parties is not an option. Leave the dick-ish behavior to the GOP/RW.

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