The past few months have seen a wave of change as sexual-assault allegations arise against prominent figures. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey and many more, there is undoubtedly a call to hold those accountable for their poor behavior.
One of the more recent allegations is against Al Franken, a democratic senator from Minnesota. A photo circulated across the internet last week which depicts Franken groping a young woman while she sleeps. The photo was taken during a 2006 on a United Service Organizations trip to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The victim, Leeann Tweeden, writes:
“I felt violated…Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab [me] like this and think it’s funny? I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.”
This is not Franken’s only scandal. Since the photo war released, two other women have reported abuse by Franken. One says the senator groped her while taking a photo together at a political event in 2007, and the other “accused Franken of cupping her buttock and then suggesting they visit the bathroom together at a 2008 Democratic fundraiser,” according to Rolling Stone.
Franken has apologized profusely, calling his actions “inappropriate.” In a statement, he explained, “I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that…I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.” As of Saturday, however, he refuses to resign despite some pressure from colleagues and hopes to regain the trust of his constituents.This response is transparently hypocritical. When Harvey Weinstein came under fire for repeated mistreatment of women, Franken wrote on Facebook:
“The women who have shared their stories about Harvey Weinstein over the last few days are incredibly brave. It takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks. And as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it’s far too common. That’s what Gretchen Carlson addresses in a New York Times op-ed she authored. In it, she says… ‘I’ve realized that the disappointing responses women often face when they go public both embolden harassers and encourage victims to stay silent.’”
When allegations were about someone else, Franken held strong to his “belief” that harassment cases should be taken seriously. However, Franken signals that he hopes to avoid all responsibility by refusing to step aside.
Perhaps Al Franken does truly regret his actions and would no longer even think of treating a woman the same way. Admittedly, we all make mistakes and cannot be held accountable for each and every slip in character. However, if Franken refuses to resign, he creates a precedent that validates misconduct.
If Franken, a man who publicly defends women’s rights, refuses to step aside in respect for women across the country, how can we hold those less supportive of women in general accountable for severe threats to equality in the form of transparent harassment?
We can take the example of Roy Moore, who made sexual advances on girls as young as 14 years old and continues to deny guilt despite concrete and substantial evidence against him. For a comprehensive timeline on Roy Moore’s allegations, look here:
To truly stand against more serious perpetrators like Moore, even smaller issues must be addressed. In order to find justice for all acts of assault, we cannot begin down the slippery slope of deeming some misconducts permissible and some not. If Al Franken and Democrats hope to retain credibility and continue to support all Americans regardless of gender, they must hold themselves to a high standard and accept any and all consequences for their actions. In this light, Franken must resign. If he does not, he and his supporters will send a message that harassment is not a serious issue.
We must be vocal now in order to show that we do not tolerate sexual predation, and that our elected representatives cannot be excused over and over again for modeling poor behavior.
If you disagree with our stance on this, please leave us a comment. We are here to encourage discussion, and would love to feature alternative views.
Action 1: Write Al Franken and demand his resignation.
Senator Al Franken
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Franken,
My name is _______. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal arose, I was very grateful that you took a stand against harassment by quoting Gretchen Carlson in saying “I’ve realized that the disappointing responses women often face when they go public both embolden harassers and encourage victims to stay silent.” It is because of this that I could not be more disappointed by your decision to remain in office after allegations against you arose. I recognize that you might genuinely regret your actions and that you are probably not a bad person, but I worry that by not resigning you are creating a precedent that validates misconduct and rape-culture. Furthermore, if you – a man who publicly defends women’s rights refuses to step aside in respect for women – how can we hold those less supportive of women (for example, Moore and the President) accountable for threats to gender equality? I implore you to send a strong message that harassment cannot be tolerated by resigning so that Democrats (and Republicans) may maintain credibility on this issue. I believe you have made light of a very serious issue by not resigning, and that in order to find justice for all acts of assault, we cannot begin down the slippery slope of deeming some misconducts permissible and some not.
______ (on behalf of Youth Write Now)
** If you are a woman, we recommend that you add something personal about what it feels like to you when you see so many harassment cases.
Action 2: Write the chair of the DNC and ask that Democrats maintain credibility by putting forward candidates that address sexual assault seriously.
Submit via this online form: https://www.tomperez.org/contact-1/
Dear Mr. Perez.
My name is _______, and I am from _______. I am writing concerning recent allegations against Senator Al Franken. I am disappointed by his decision to remain in office. I recognize that he might genuinely regret his actions, but I worry that by not resigning he is creating a precedent that validates misconduct and rape-culture. Furthermore, if he – a man who publicly defends women’s rights – refuses to step aside in respect for women, how can we hold those less supportive of women (for example, Moore and the President) accountable for threats to gender equality? I implore you to send a strong message that harassment cannot be tolerated by not putting the support of the Democrat Party behind candidates that harm so that Democrats may maintain credibility on this issue. We must be vocal now in order to show that we do not tolerate sexual predation, and that our elected representatives cannot be excused over and over again for modeling poor behavior.
I believe Franken has made light of a very serious issue by not resigning, and that in order to find justice for all acts of assault, we cannot begin down the slippery slope of deeming some misconducts permissible and some not.
To show that Democrats value women, we must not support candidates like Franken, no matter how ethical they might be in other areas. To win in future years, please help the Democrats take the lead on gender equity.
___________ (on behalf of Youth Write Now)