Thursday, November 16, 2017, 8:00am

About Al Franken, sexual harassment and assault, and consequences and redemption.

Senator Al Franken

Senator Al Franken, by Lorie Shaull. (Source & License.)

So we have a new phenomenon on our hands and it makes me curious. Women (and some men) are accusing (mostly) men of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and they’re actually being listened to. Men are facing consequences for their actions. And the phenomenon doesn’t appear to be slowing down, or going away. So what happens next?

Is there a way back for those being accused? Should there be? I’m not asking because I want to apologize for men, and clearly a lot of these assholes are predators and if they can’t be put in jail they should at least go away and never be heard from again. But this phenomenon is going to trickle down. Men who aren’t public figures will start facing these consequences too. And in a lot of cases, that’s great.

But maybe not in all of them? And then what?

Women aren’t the only ones who’ve suffered under a patriarchal system. Probably most of the men you know grew up steeped in a toxic masculinity that not only encouraged boys and men to harass girls and women, but actively punished them for not doing so. This might be the first time a lot of men have looked back at their past actions and wonder about who they harmed.

What do they do? Do they get to redeem themselves somehow, with apologies, promises to do better? Should they? Obviously, at a certain point, no. If you’ve got some asshole who’s been Louis CKing all over the women at work then screw that guy, clearly. But what about some thoughtless douche who drinks too much at the company Christmas party and grabs your ass? What if he does that every year?

Does he get to wake up tomorrow and say, “Holy crap, I’m an asshole,” and find some way back? And if so, how does he do that?

And what about public figures, particularly ones like Al Franken, who (so far, but don’t get your hopes up, dude worked at SNL during the 70s) did a dickish thing to a woman, but not, like, that dickish? And he seems sorry about it?

I know, I know, everyone’s gonna be all, “Oh, you’re just trying to excuse him because he’s a liberal,” and no, I’m not. He’s just the first one I’ve heard of who was accused of something relatively mild. “Mild” compared to penning women in a hotel room and masturbating on them, or spending decades holding their careers hostage so he could rape them, or molesting little girls.

Does there get to be a “mild”? I’m trying to put myself in Leeann Tweeden’s (Franken’s accuser’s) shoes. I doubt I would care much about the photo. It seems like the sort of photo you stage to tease someone who fell asleep when there’s a bunch of you jackassing around and that’s not the kind of thing I’d care a lot about. I’d be pretty mad over the kissing/skit thing, though. Would I take an apology for that? I don’t know.

If this continues, if we’re looking at an actual, cultural sea change here (and we’re damned overdue for it, by the way), then these are the kinds of questions we’ll have to grapple with, the kinds of social problems and consequences we’ll need to resolve. I don’t have any answers, either. I mean, just because I wouldn’t give a shit about that particular photo doesn’t mean Leeann Tweeden shouldn’t, and that’s the exact kind of issue we’re going to need to deal with, all the time.

5 Things to Read Today

  1. 790 KABC: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It (See also: Franken’s first response and his second response.)
  2. Buzzfeed News: A Daily Express Journalist Accidentally Revealed How He Was Ordered To “Put The Boot Into Corbyn”
  3. The Atlantic: The Making of an American Nazi
  4. ProPublica: A Gangster Place in the Sun: How Spain’s Fight Against the Mob Revealed Russian Power Networks
  5. io9: James Franco May Be Joining the X-Men Universe as Multiple Man

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