#metoo Is Powerful, But Has Some Problems Too
Al Franken is a role model for repentance.
Credit: Alexa Mazzarello
The #metoo movement was the best thing — okay, one of the ONLY good things — that happened for women in 2017. The urgent truth-telling and support-sharing will fuel the Women's Marches in January 2018 and will add energy to our ongoing Resistance. I hope that hundreds of thousands, even millions, of women around the globe feel empowered by #metoo.
And for the record, yes, #metoo. But today I'm not talking about lesbians or other women being ogled, groped, harassed, molested, punched, or raped. Those stories and those truths deserve and are getting airtime and ink, but so does another aspect of this movement.
I want to talk about two other victims – two accused men who have been penalised or punished unfairly. Garrison Keillor and Al Franken are both Minnesotans, both performers and cultural critics, and both, in my view, the kind of men this country needs more of. Like all the #metoo movement members, these two men should be listened to, and believed.
Senator Al Franken resigned after accusations of some mildly inappropriate behaviour (an unwanted, and deflected, kiss during a rehearsal, a feigned grope for a photograph) that happened on a USO tour a decade ago. Both incidents against his co-performer Leeann Tweeden took place in a theatre and on a plane, in front of other people. He apologised at the time and has apologised subsequently. Tweeden said that she accepted both apologies and felt no need for protection from him.
In apologising privately, Franken took responsibility for his own misconduct. In apologising publicly and asking for a congressional ethics investigation, he became a role model for how abusers should behave. He also pointed out the "irony" of his resigning while "a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office." Franken was a stand-up guy, a good comic, and recently a productive, egalitarian, and effective member of Congress. He questioned Attorney-General Jeff Sessions about Sessions' stand on LGBT issues. He supported access to abortion, and single-payer health care. He sponsored and supported bills to end anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination in the workplace and in schools. He made policy that supported persons with disabilities and, interestingly, victims of sexual assault.
His resignation, despite the fact that it maintained his integrity and his credibility, meant a loss for the state of Minnesota and a loss for the Democratic Party at a time when it can ill afford one.
As all of us who have been affected by sexual misconduct know, abusers are everywhere. They are coaches and directors, mail carriers and cops. The men who have made serious mistakes, and who are seriously sorry for those mistakes, include our fathers, brothers, lovers, friends, and sometimes our sons. If every man in America who had offended a woman behaved as honourably and humbly as Al Franken has, the #metoo movement would change the world.