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Al Franken resigned (or “resigned”) today and there are many things in play on the face of it all and surrounding it. I have made several attempts over the past weeks to write an opinion on Al Franken’s alleged improprieties.. many times getting as far as a number of paragraphs.. before abandoning the completion and compulsion to post. What has gotten in the way has been a bit of confusion I was seeing and events moving quickly. If I go through the effort to write a post I’d at least like to have it relevant for over five minutes. With each attempt to write about Franken I had a different approach; one being the female effect of his specific actions, one about the growing politics, one even trying to defend the seriousness of his alleged accusers as compared to others in the news of late.
Well…. now Franken has made a speech announcing his intent to resign his seat in the Senate… so we will try all this again. Why is it important to sort all this out? Because the facets in the entire affair are so many depending on the angle you might want to focus on; in other words, there’s something in this story for everyone. Rather than spew out paragraphs.. I’ll just make bullet points to suggest each facet as I see it.
Ok.. here we go.
Point 1 – My Disclaimer –
Before we get too far into this I better do the obligatory disclaimer so that any female readers deciding to just dismiss my opinion as typical male regurgitation in trying to minimize female suffering, I’m all for the cause of the women of the nation in getting men to understand what’s has been going on regarding abuses toward women… be it sexual, physical, emotional, suggestive, whatever… that men, in and outside of power, have levied against women, literally since the beginning of time.. but more specifically in our contemporary society. It’s gone far too long, unchecked, and kept hidden by intimidation. I have little issue with the recent falling from (public) grace those men of social power in positions of influence and accomplishment who seem to have a habitual record of repeated abuse toward women going back many decades. While we need to be extraordinarily cautious in making hasty knee-jerk emotional reactions demanding a person’s career ending when one or even two women come forward with unproven accusations, it seems to be a numbers game that determines public admonishment.
Point 2 – The First Victim Reporting
This is the “forced kiss” and “groping picture” accuser.
The “Forced Kiss” – When two or more humans experience the same encounter of events, even events of normal consequence and encounter in life, each person will have a variant in the interpretation of those events. Generally speaking we presume that common courtesy prevails and if someone involved in said events or simple verbal encounters is offended in some form, apologies will follow and life goes on. This young actress interpreted her encounter with him as objectionable and inappropriate… and honestly that’s all that matters. Here’s the breakaway I see from what made up this story. He unexpectedly and with some measure of force, kissed her in spite of her objections that a kiss rehearsal was not necessary. In fact, she alleges this was a tongue kiss, thus making the kiss even more repulsive to her. Likely many women can identify with her feeling in this kind of unwanted kiss from past experience. In actual practice many men… and women… presume to think a true kiss is only about using tongue. My own first kiss way back as a teenager was applied on me from an assertive young, and equally inexperienced teenage lady using tongue and it shocked the hell outta me and was not the sensitive first time event one might prefer to remember for a lifetime. Not minimizing Franken’s behavior one bit, but some guys plain just cannot kiss.. as can some women… but more the point, each person’s judgment of a kiss is different; someone’s “bad” kiss is another’s “good” kiss. This is not a debate about kissing, but about Franken’s accuser being not only a victim of an unwanted kiss but a bad kiss at that… from a guy she likely had no desire to kiss even on a good day, which adds to her consternation.
The “Groping” Picture –
A totally embarrassing photo for the actress.. no question. Now, this is NOT to suggest that in all venues and friendships or professional relationships might not be allowed between all parties. In this case Franken had no such friendship or professional relationship that might include this kind of kidding around. He was wrong.
Now.. in another aspect of this… he is being accused of “groping” her breasts. While Franken made no attempt to defend himself… it seems to me from what I see that Franken was not touching her at all, which makes a bit of sense to me. Why would he actually want a photo around where he would actually assault a woman with breast contact? Why would Franken even do that (actual groping) in front of any other person much less the photographer? Also, how would have he been so sure she would not wake up immediately from feeling his touch? I don’t see that he groped her at all… but to her when you add up the other improprieties it’s easy to presume she was groped in her sleep.
Franken apologized! Albeit after the accusation… and it was sufficient for Tweeden to accept his apology as being sincere. But here’s my observation from all this… if all the recent accusations to other public figures included some level of the public figure having asserting abusive power over their victims… where was Franken’s power over this actress? Yes.. she could easily presume (and apparently did) that “there’s-no-need-to-make-an-issue-of-it-because-no-one-would-believe-her” conclusion within herself at the time, this rationalization is not Franken’s fault. But I can also make this added observation here… wasn’t there a time in our recent past as a society where women were taught or advised by their mother’s how to take care of themselves from men who got “too frisky” or “too handy”? Didn’t this also include using firm or harsh language describing how to make your objection known to the guy that he was going too far? If it didn’t get an immediate apology from a guy then were you not supposed to leave the car and use that bus/taxi money mother told you to keep in your purse for just such emergencies? Wasn’t a slap across the face or a kick in the family jewels always a backup action for women? Have women exchanged all this kind of common response toward unwanted male behavior in preference of living the rest of their lives with some level of personal trauma over the event? Unless Franken was inebriated at the time, he might have backed down or apologized when confronted with what he just did. But the photo was an after-embarrassment for her and likely just added to her feeling victimized.
Point 2 – The Other Accusers
What I am suggesting here is that Franken was wrong all the way around. But I think his victim’s lack of a followup response at the moment all this occurred (except for the photo) may be part of a changed social conditioning regarding a common sense response toward male aggression. Yes… women can indeed respond in some form to certain levels of unwanted male aggression in normal confrontations. While men with power have since the beginning of time abused their power with women this alone shows this is not an easy problem to solve. Franken’s subsequent accusers have alleged he did ass-grabbing during photo shoots. Sorry, while wrong and very inappropriate, this is by far the easiest form of male “aggression” that should solicit an immediate apology when it occurs if confronted immediately with the violation by the victim. Does the fact that there are so many women coming forward with their stories of Franken ass-grabbing during photo shoots suggest something of a sexual perversion? Again, context.
Were any of these stories about some abuse of power by Franken? Not that I recall… he’s not had power to that extreme. Female staff members have asserted that he has always behaved properly. I fully can read from him that his apparent shock & awe with these accusations is legitimate and I can easily draw a conclusion that his claim to have not remembered those events as his accusers did strongly suggests to me that while these events were happening he had absolutely no malice… no overt intent to satisfy some sexual play or lust, no serial ass-grabber, as has been demonstrated by other public abusers to a far greater extreme.
Point 3 – And All This Is Worth His Resignation?
By his own urging, Franken has indicated propriety and cooperation with a Senate ethics investigation. Compared with all the other public figures Franken’s “violations” are more “inappropriate behavior by omission” rather than his attempt to be a criminal or civil sex pervert. Obviously initiated by female Senators, the snowballing effect in demanding his resignation has taken on political ramifications and strategies (to be discussed shortly). But by and large, the ethics investigation is the current system for such accusations. It does not matter what female members of the Senate wish to discredit as not being enough of an effort, or thinking an ethics investigation is a dodge. If they don’t like the process then change it. If they don’t like the secret “boy’s club” public money in Congress legally going to pay offs of female accusers then change it. But to me there are levels of what should be called as true physical assault and sexual abuse toward women and what can be interpreted as basic inappropriate social behavior. I have found that in most applications of some “zero tolerance” nonsense throughout society has simply led to a loss of any application of common sense on case-by-case basis.
Point 4 – The Politics of It All
It’s pretty much apparent that Franken’s resignation following nearly the entire democratic membership of the Senate demanding it publically in the last couple days is purely a political move. With Franken gone the democratic Minnesota governor can pick another Dem replacement, thus not losing a seat. The Democratic party becomes the family values party.. and when Roy Moore wins there’s now lack of a moral higher ground precedent the GOP has to defend… and the Dems setting the mood to bounce a newly elected Moore right out of the Senate. I might add, I thought it a little suspicious that Franken said he would resign in the “coming weeks”. Is this a hedge in the event the Senate GOP does not oust Moore if he gets elected? Can Franken end up staying in office? Might he end up choosing to fight back?
Point 5 – SHOULD He Fight Back?
I have no reason to doubt his accusers are not truthful. I tend to believe them. But I also tend to believe that Franken is not one of those guys who finds some level of sexual gratification as a motivation for any of the things he’s being accused of, and that I believe is his point… as it would be my point as well. It falls into the area of malicious intent… and my reputation. I will accept my behavior as being interpreted as inappropriate… and even habitually inappropriate as seemingly in Franken’s case. Maybe my clowning around went too far, where I place my hands during photo shoots has been inappropriate, maybe an off color joke… but to be placed in the same category as some sort of sex pervert and forced to resign by my fellow associates… that might be where I draw the line in keeping my reputation. I think he should fight for his reputation by forcing a public awareness that not everything a male does to a female has to be judged a threat. As I mentioned earlier… has any of Franken’s accusers attempted at the time of the event to actually confront Franken with their discontent of his contact? “Hey, Pal, how about keeping your hands to yourself.” “You’re touching me inappropriately, Mr. Franken.”
His fighting back would not be to cast doubt on his accusers.. but rather force a recognition that not every act offending a women need be considered abuse and a threat to their dignity.
I guess we will see what develops.