After first dismissing the sexual misconduct allegation against him as little more than a joke gone wrong, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) issued a longer statement unequivocally apologizing for his actions and saying he will cooperate with an ethics investigation into his behavior. “I look at [a photograph of himself grabbing at Leeann Tweeden’s chest] now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it.” Franken added: “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.” The senator concluded: “The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories.”
To say I’m dismayed about the allegations against Sen. Franken would be an understatement. I’ve long held him in high esteem and I have nothing but respect for his commitment to his job, his country, and the people of Minnesota. Now I find myself grappling with this reminder that sexual harassment isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not the province of Republicans; it’s the province of Penis-Americans who believe women to have been created for their entertainment and sexual conquest.
An attempt at a joke this may well have been…but a joke is only funny if all parties are equal and agreeable participants. That what Sen. Franken is alleged to have done isn’t viewed as a joke by Ms. Tweeden is the only thing which matters. If she feels violated, if she believes the Senator’s behavior toward her to have been grossly inappropriate, then it absolutely was.
This sort of immaturity needs to stop. Yesterday.
A Los Angeles-based radio anchor on Thursday accused Sen. Al Franken of kissing her without her consent and groping her while she was asleep. The incident allegedly occurred in December 2006 when the two were flying back to L.A. from a USO Tour to entertain deployed troops in Afghanistan. Leeann Tweeden said that, upon returning, she found a photograph showing Franken grabbing at her breasts while she slept. She also recalled how Franken had written skits for the show with a role for her that included a moment when his character would come at her for a kiss. Backstage before the performance, he allegedly badgered her to rehearse the kiss and then stuck his tongue down her throat when she relented. “Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry,” she wrote. “I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat.”
Clearly, something needs to be done. Whether it’s Roy Moore’s history of sexual predation or an incident with one woman, as with Sen. Franken, men need to figure out how to treat women with respect and dignity. We need to figure out how not to view women as sexual conquests who just haven’t capitulated yet.
More than anything, we need to look at ourselves and be honest about our behavior towards the women in our lives. I look at my own behavior, and while I don’t believe I have anything in my past which could be considered sexual harassment, I’m not without sin. I’ve behaved inappropriately towards women in my past, and I’ve apologized for my indiscretions. I certainly hope there’s no one out there with a story I’ve forgotten about, but I make no claim to being a saint. I’ve always endeavored to treat women with respect; I can only hope that’s been the case consistently throughout my adult life.
We need to respect women now coming forward to tell their stories. We need to listen and we need to allow them to relate their experience in their own way. Once that’s happened, and who knows how long that process will take, we need to take a good, long look at how we can make women feel valued and respected.
It shouldn’t be difficult…but for some it apparently is.
I don’t necessarily know what the solution is; I don’t know how to fix a problem which has existed since Adam discovered that having a penis can be all sorts of fun. Somehow, though, we need to make it clear to women that we don’t view them as things, as sperm receptacles expected to satisfy our “needs.”
Guys, we need to grow the @#$% up.