In the last few weeks, the conversations we’re having about sexual assault and harassment are going seriously off the rails, and I think we need to recenter ourselves and our priorities before we keep talking about this issue. I’m looking at you, fellow progressives, and especially women. We’re ready to throw Roy Moore into a deep, dark hole for his proven penchant for molesting young girls, and rightfully so, but why are we so willing to jump to the defense of a democrat with a history of abusing women?
The problem as I see it is this: folks are either quick to equate child molestation with any kind of allegation of sexual misconduct (such as groping, exposing oneself to female coworkers, etc.) or, worse, they are willing to completely dismiss any behavior that does not reach the level of child molestation. It’s crazy, but here we are. Either way of misrepresenting the issue of sexual misconduct is a serious problem that threatens to derail any hope we have of improving the situation for women, both in the workplace and in their everyday lives.
Roy Moore is an obvious scumbag, and those of us on the blue side of the aisle can all agree that a man who was barred from the local mall as well as the YMCA for going after teen girls doesn’t belong in the Senate and, in fact, belongs in prison. But then the allegations against Al Franken hit the fan and people lost their damned minds. I have to admit, I was upset to hear about his conduct because I was a fan of Franken’s going way back to his SNL days, and I was an even bigger fan of his measured, intelligent performance in the Senate. I’m severely disappointed in his actions (which he has admitted and apologized for, so there is no reason to continually use the word alleged), but I’m not rushing to paint him with the same brush as Roy Moore, who is a child molester. However, simply because Franken’s conduct doesn’t reach the disgusting level of pedophilia doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be held accountable. He absolutely should, without question, especially if we’re the progressively minded people we claim to be.
Recently, Bill Clinton’s bad past actions where multiple women are concerned has been brought up. It’s amazing to me to see how many people, including women, are jumping to his rabid defense. The selective embellishment of the past is truly an astounding process to behold…but it’s also extremely unnerving. These ardent defenders of Clinton’s honor are the same folks who will call out Moore, Trump, Ailes, and O’Reilly. As long as it’s a republican, we’re ready to drag them over the coals and demand they immediately vacate their posts and recede from public life in perpetual shame. Clinton may be a democrat, but that doesn’t absolve him of past guilt. He is no different from Trump when it comes to his personal conduct–another powerful man who used his position to move in on the women around him. It’s not acceptable when anyone does it–democrat, republican, Franken, or Moore–and while we can appreciate the specific nuances in every case, we shouldn’t give anyone a pass simply because he happens to rest his heels on our side of the aisle.
Let’s get things straight: I don’t see any value in relitigating Clinton’s actions, not because they aren’t important (we should most definitely judge them as unacceptable and disgusting), but because we have men in office right now (or trying to get into office) that we need to worry about keeping out of those powerful spaces because of their predatory and abusive behavior towards the women around them.
We need to demand accountability on all sides, period. We’re currently experiencing one hell of a culture shift, and that means even some of our own will be swept away when we clean out the trash. This is what it means to say that all men can do better. Even men we know, admire, and love. They can all do better. Refusing to admit that doesn’t move us forward. It only knocks us further back.