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On Thursday, December 7th, around 11:30 am, Senator Al Franken announced his resignation that will be coming in the following weeks. As a long-respected writer, his speech was unsurprisingly powerful and emotionally charged.
It was both historic and difficult to hear a strong progressive (who still voted for an inflated military budget) taking a leadership role (after much hedging) by claiming that public officials have a responsibility to their constituents.
Throughout the course of the allegations, he has claimed he doesn’t remember the events as unfolding the same way that his accusers claim. Franken also made sure to take swipes at the president’s own braggadocio in describing his assault of women. He then made sure to leave room to talk about Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate being named as a multiple-time sexual predator and pedophile.
While this may have vindicated a Democratic party so quick to remind the world of their moral authority, it was poorly timed. And it didn’t differentiate them from the Republican party in any clear way.
Much like Dustin Hoffman claiming that his actions don’t represent who he is, those who perpetrate also wish to write the narrative around their crimes. They get to measure the suffering of victims as “assault” versus “harassment”. They get to say, “Well, this is what we did back then.”
These cheap responses are indicative of a broken system of accountability where men, while perhaps feeling on edge in post-Weinstein times, don’t ever have to atone. And when they do, they expect a reward for their admission of guilt.
As has become the spirit of the times, those who are extended privileges also seek to cry foul when their privilege has been named a privilege. Dustin Hoffman is privileged to still be able to walk onto a set and call the shots. Al Franken is privileged to be able to stand before a microphone and cast doubt on his accusers. Roy Moore has the privilege of not being behind bars.
Meanwhile, virtually no men in power are unselfconsciously donning a cape and trying to stand up for the victims. The only people speaking for the women who were victims of these men’s abuses are other women who have been abused.
As has long been the history of dealing with misogyny, women have to be the victims of crimes, healers of one another, and teachers to men. Meanwhile, men cast aspersions at one another, comparing the severity of their crimes and going out with their pride intact.
I shed a tear when I heard Al Franken’s speech. It was historic and moving. He’s a powerful writer and a confident orator.
I only wish he would have let one of the many victims of the male abusers in power speak in his stead. This would have allowed the Democratic party to differentiate themselves from this arc of history which seems to be bent infinitely backward.
Patrick Bobilin is a writer, filmmaker, and New York County Committee member. He ran for city council in NYC on a platform of human rights, social justice, and ethical environmental practices. He’s also a huge fan of Jodeci and grapefruit-flavored seltzer. Read more about his latest work in politics at http://patrickfornyc.com.