I want to say thank you to the Democratic senators who stood up against the actions of U.S. Sen. Al Franken. It shows American women that it is finally time to revolutionize the way predatory men are systematically coddled from sexual-misconduct allegations by veering away from the traditional processes that allow them to covertly continue their vulturous actions.
Commenters on the internet are outraged that Franken did not receive support from his own party and that his promised resignation from the Senate was, essentially, a decision of a small group of Democrats in Washington who called for it without the input of their constituents or the general American public.
Mob rule of the Democratic Party? No. How about the 4 million women who marched for their rights and safety in January and the women who participated in the 261 sister marches around the world? How about all of the women who shared their story with #MeToo, and the social-media users who came together to condemn rapist Brock Turner? We elect our senators because we trust them to recognize and take actions on the movements their constituents create. This is exactly what the 32 senators did.
Men in power preying on women vulnerable to them is a tradition rooted from the beginnings of American society. Sexual coercion was prominent for female slaves, and Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” described how female industrial workers had to keep silent on the sexual advances made by their male bosses and co-workers. While rape and sexual assault were still a crime back then, taking advantage of women became ingrained and accepted in American society because of the women’s fears of losing their jobs, lives and communities. The only way to rid this tradition is to fight it nontraditionally.
Nontraditional means believing the women who share their experiences without hesitation. It means sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and rape should be taken with zero tolerance from both the right and the left. It means when six women come out against Franken, he should find his moral compass and resign before due process, which has systematically protected powerful men in the political, corporate and academic sectors.
People are using Franken’s case to criticize the Democrats for reacting negatively toward Franken without due process. I view this as the start of what is going to change the culture of letting men who commit sexual misconduct live life unharmed. Women are tired of seeing the system go in favor of the accused. The prosecutor in the case of Turner, the Stanford University swimmer found guilty of three felony counts for sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated woman, argued that Turner should spend six years in prison. The actual sentence was six months, and Turner was released after three. Erica Kinsman, who accused football player Jameis Winston of rape, got ostracized by her community to the point where she dropped out of school. He plays in the NFL with a $23 million contract.
As a young woman, I’ve gotten groped and grabbed and have felt my bottom patted in multiple public areas while simply walking past a man. If you ask the man who pushed his genitalia against me while I danced with friends, it is 100 percent likely that he will not remember, since I was just another girl for him to grind on and it was done without a second thought. When Franken says he doesn’t remember because he takes a lot of pictures, why should anyone believe him rather than the individuals who can specifically recount their uncomfortable encounter with him?
The Democratic senators who stood up and called for Franken’s resignation went against the traditional norms and processes that we’ve seen regarding sexual misconduct in American history. They believed the women and took action to show Americans that their lawmakers are listening to their voices. While I would like the country to create a more fair and normalized process of investigating these cases, the so-called controversial actions made by U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, etc., were the correct response to bring light to a system that needs to change. They did not fragment the Democratic Party. They united all of the women who have silently suffered for years, and I thank them for that.
Clara Jeon lives in Minneapolis.