March 19, 2019

UPDATE (Breaking): There are accusations that Kristen Gillibrand did not take sexual harassment in her own office seriously. It was announced today that Gillibrand's deputy chief of staff is resigning over the controversy. - eds.

People are still understandably very, very upset that Al Franken is no longer a U.S. Senator. He was serious, smart, and absolutely lethal in his questioning during Senate Judiciary hearings. His priorities were and are progressive, and his approach was unique. Refreshing. Welcome. To almost everyone.

It sounds like at least six or seven women who came forward with stories of their experiences of his groping or kissing them without their permission didn't welcome his approach. From Vox:

They described specific, detailed incidents in which he put his hands on their behinds or breasts during photos. Others recalled him trying to forcibly kiss them. Franken apologized repeatedly but said he wasn’t sure if he’d done the things he was sorry might have happened. “I take thousands and thousands of pictures, sometimes in chaotic and crowded situations,” he said. “I can’t say I haven’t done that. I’m very sorry if these women experienced that.”

Now, let's talk about this for a moment. This "chaotic and crowded situation" Franken was so often in as an entertainer and politician. Schwepps (yes, the soda company) did a very interesting study regarding unwanted touching and groping in crowded situations. They created a sensor-equipped dress to monitor how often a woman was touched or groped in a bar without her consent, and where on her body. Three different women wore the dress over the course of the evening.

Women around the world have long reported that men, strangers included, touch them all the time without permission, much less an invitation. Even when asked not to. It's a particularly invasive form of objectification. Isn't everyone supposed to be entitled to personal space?

The results? The women were touched or groped, without invitation or permission, a total of 157 times in just under four hours, in spite of and over the women's objections. That's nearly 40 times an hour. Once every minute-and-a-fraction. This is the sort of thing that is consistently dismissed, belittled, laughed at, and that women are told they are too sensitive if they object. Now, if you still think that is nothing to complain about, I will personally meet you at a party and touch you on your nose every 70 seconds. That's not even sexual. Let's see how you like it.

Back to Al Franken, he couldn't say he hadn't done it. He was sorry "if" these women experienced his groping and uninvited kissing. Including an Army Veteran in 2003, by the way, who had lined up to take a photo with Franken during his USO tour. When he put his arm around her, she claims he cupped her right breast for around 10 seconds, only stopping because she had to change positions for the photo.

As these allegations came to light, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 30 of their colleagues called for his resignation. He acquiesced, despite the fact he could have very easily remained for the ethics investigation to finish. Many lament this end to Franken's Senate career, and possibly his 2020 presidential bid, should he have had those aspirations.

Ironically, many have also determined it will end Gillibrand's 2020 presidential bid, since they continue to hold incredible anger and resentment towards HER for having pressed the matter, and being willing to lead the call for his resignation.

Indeed, Gillibrand is continuing to be challenged on the campaign trail about this matter, and if social media comments are any indication, the challenges are accompanied by tremendous hostility and resentment. This despite the fact that Franken has not responded to several of the allegations of groping, and in his resignation speech, he said he denied some of them, and remembered other of the women's claims "very differently."

For some, Gillibrand is somehow the villain, not Franken.

Here's her accounting of the situation and the reasoning that led to the decisions she made.

In terms of Senator Franken, this is a very hard issue for so many Democrats, because the truth is we miss him and people love him. But he had eight credible allegations against him of sexual harassment for groping. Two of them, since he was a senator, and the eighth one that came out was a Congressional staffer. And I had a choice to make, whether to stay silent or not, whether to say it's not okay with me, and I decided to say that. Now, Senator Franken was entitled to whatever type of review or process he wanted. He could have stuck it out, stayed in the Senate, gone through his Ethics Committee investigation for as long as he wants. He could have sued all of the eight women who came out against him. Those were his choices, but I had to make my choice. I am a mother of boys. the conversations I was having at home at the time were very upsetting. Theo said, "Why are you so tough on Al Franken?" As a mother, I had to be clear. "It's not okay for anyone to grope a woman anywhere on her body without her consent. It is not okay to forcibly kiss a woman — ever — without her consent. it was not okay for Senator Franken. And it is not okay for you, Theo, ever." So I needed to have clarity. If there are few Democratic powerful donors who are angry because I stood up for women who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, that's on them.

I'd like to harken back to Franken's final Senate speech again...where he asks those who love him not to worry:

This has been a tough few weeks for me. But I am a very, very lucky man. I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love, and that loves me very much. I am going to be just fine.

Boy, isn't that the truth. Over one year later, and people are still crying over having lost him in the Senate, despite the tremendous strides women have made politically in the last year and a half. Despite the fact that we have five, count them, FIVE women running for the Democratic 2020 nomination. Despite the fact that we have since he resigned, still managed to take the House and run Trump into the ground with the investigations thanks to some of those Democratically-led committees. Of what, exactly, has Senator Gillibrand deprived us, other than shaky moral ground?

Al Franken was right. He is going to be just fine.

Please note that misogynistic terms and commentary are not tolerated in the comments section. B, C, D-words will mean those comments are deleted. Don't be that guy. -- eds.

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