How Al Franken is Destroying the Illusion of Democratic Party Feminism
America is going through an unveiling of a sort – we have a spurt of disclosure of sexual misconduct about popular figures throughout the country. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of using his power to force women into sexual submission. Roy Moore has been outed for not only having hebephilia but acting on it as he forced kissing upon a 14 year old girl at the age of 32 and admitted to dating others of that age with permission of their parents. It is not too distanced from the phenomenon of children as young as 12 being married off to grown men, often those who have impregnated them, through parental permission. George Takei, who had been commenting on these previous events, was accused himself of forcing himself on a male model in the 1980s. I had originally hoped that Takei’s accusation would be one of the 2% of accusations that would turn up to be false, but then I learned that he wasn’t human but rather an ad (think South Park). Then, of course, Al Franken fondled a woman and photographed it and gave it to her, along with forcing kissing. Then he was accused by not one, not two, but three women of grabbing their asses while taking a photo with the Senator.
This of course leaves out many of the accusations in recent times, including those against former President George H. W. Bush, but includes the two key ones we need to discuss.
The response from Democratic Party loyalists in regards to the scandals against George Takei and Al Franken are endemic of a problem that has long pervaded the party. As they respond to the sexual abuse assaults the illusion that they are feminists just crumbles around them.
One article in defense of George Takei, written by a self-described protegé of his, decides to take the low road indeed. Amongst the finger pointing toward Republicans who have also committed sexual assault and the exclaiming of the virtues of “liberal men,” particularly George Takei, we come across an extremely troubling statement.
Regardless of whether any of these men are guilty of the crimes they have been accused of or not, one thing is for sure – the ones who hold left wing values have earned the right to make at least one mistake in their lives. (emphasis added)
Besides the misconception that the members of a right wing party hold left wing values, this presents a real life argument of what has been memed and rememed several times, the nice guy’s sex card. In particular, it is a suggestion of a free rape card, that men should be able to cash in their positive words to violate the victim of their choice. While usually directed at younger men who are sexually frustrated and confronted with a reality that there are a lot of assholes out there getting laid while they aren’t and in this frustration complain about their situation forgetting a woman’s right to their own volition and desires, this is a much more severe infraction suggesting that a man not only should be forgiven for forcibly violating a woman’s bodily autonomy, but that they have earned a right to violate it in the first place.
This is anti-feminist to its core. It creates a paradigm where women – and sometimes men, as with Takei – exist as rewards for men who feign sympathy for the plight of women and other oppressed communities.
The case gets worse for Franken. There is photographic evidence of the first allegation against him, a photograph which passed through his hands. He didn’t deny that he did it, but rather did a relatively good job of handling a true allegation: he apologized privately to the woman he wronged and she made it public, though he did say he remembered it differently. He even apologized for the subsequent allegations. It is not as good as if he had outed himself before they had to nor is it as good as if he had never performed the violations in the first place, but he did do a better job than most. There was no reason to doubt that he violated these women; of those who would know the truth, they all agreed it happened.
Note that the article about his apology to LeAnn Tweeden was from November 17, yet that didn’t stop Forward Progressives, a Democratic Party propaganda machine, from denying the groping ever happened three days later. They weren’t alone – several Democratic Party supporters and even some Green Party supporters have been saying the same thing since the apology was issued. Moreover, we get some very disconcerting talking points besides the denial narrative.
The anti-feminist rancor includes impugning her motives – she has bad politics opposed to Franken – and of course slut shaming her for posing nude and hell, even clothed. We don’t know why Tweeden decided that was the time that she needed to out Franken – it could be that all the other figures being outed gave her the drive or it could be that she saw people she agreed with politically being outed and wanted to make a political statement that it wasn’t only Republican men who were the abusers – a valid statement. However, in impugning her motives by saying they are only politically motivated and that was all that mattered, denying them on that basis despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, these Democratic Party supporters are making a strong statement that their defense of Franken is indeed politically motivated.
Glenn Greenwald reminded us in October 2016 that the greatest leaks in journalism’s history have often come from individuals with the worst of motives.
It’s often — perhaps almost always — the case that sources have impure motives: a desire for vengeance, careerism, ideological or political advantage, a sense of self-importance, some delusional grievance, a desire for profit. None of that is relevant to the journalist, whose only concern should be reporting on newsworthy material, regardless of why it was made available.
This same truth applies here as well. Tweeden is our source, and her motive for revealing the compromising information about Franken might have been impure – one Greenwald lists – ideological or political advantage. However, that doesn’t make the allegations in any way untrue and from Franken’s response to the allegations we know conclusively, for a fact, that they are true. The way in which Tweeden was treated is in no way made more acceptable by the fact that she is a Republican.
As for the slut shaming, this isn’t the first time we have seen Democratic loyalists perpetrate this extremely sexist technique in regard to their political opponents. Much was made of Melania Trump posing nude before she married Donald. During the 2016 election these same folks were making an issue out of these nude pics to illustrate how they felt that Melania Trump was unfit to be the First Lady – a position that has all the power and importance of the modern British royalty, keeping tabloids profitable. It illustrates that they have no regard for a woman’s autonomy and feel that they get to govern what a woman can and cannot do, or at least should and should not do, with her body.
In this particular context, it perpetrates dangerous lies about sexual assault in general – that how a woman dresses or acts has a bearing upon whether she is sexually assaulted, and beyond even that – that how she dresses or acts makes her deserve it. When these Democratic loyalists point out her modeling, they are making the argument that she deserved whatever she got because she dared show her body at some earlier point in the past. It is justifying rape and violence against women based on their audacity to take ownership of their own bodies.
There are, of course, other events that surround the Democratic Party and rampant sexism recently. Lena Dunham, known for her faux feminism and being a Hillary Clinton superfan, decided to take it upon herself to weigh in on a rape charge leveled against a writer for her overrated show Girls, an event she was not in attendance of, and publicly called the victim a liar because she knew the accused. Another case of tribalism above truth and justice.
Susan Sarandon was recently interviewed by the Guardian where she relayed some of the responses that came from the supporters of Hillary Clinton once she came out against her and for Jill Stein.
[S]he says, that she had to change her phone number because people she identifies as Hillary trolls sent her threatening messages. “I got from Hillary people ‘I hope your crotch is grabbed’, ‘I hope you’re raped’. Misogynistic attacks. Recently, I said ‘I stand with Dreamers’ [children brought illegally to the US, whose path to legal citizenship – an Obama-era provision – Trump has threatened to revoke] and that started another wave.”
Wait, from the right?
“No, from the left! ‘How dare you! You who are responsible for this!’”
These Democratic Party loyalists see rape as a valid means to control women they see as stepping out of line, no better than the “deplorables” they “despise.”
Perhaps it all goes back to the 1990s when Hillary Clinton demonized her husband’s accusers. Gloria Steinem had invoked the name of feminism falsely to defend Bill from accusations as well. The right of women to bodily autonomy only really applied in the abstract, or when charges of violating that were levied against Republicans, but to suggest a Democrat had done it meant the need to shame the victims and deny all charges. Hillary would demonize other nations where women suffered more to much applause, call herself a feminist, but not do a thing practically against patriarchy at all.
Perhaps this is why she decided to choose Tim Kaine to be her vice presidential running mate, a full year before the convention, despite him being a pioneer of informed consent, the practice of forcing doctors to lie to women about abortions in order to dissuade them from having one. In the Age of Hillary, feminism was to mean the empowerment of Hillary Clinton while embracing patriarchy to attack your political enemies.
The women’s march that was all the rage in the wake of Trump’s inauguration was originally a rather inclusive event to struggle for women – all women. However, as the Democratic Party decided to take note, and apparently control, things began to change. First, we have the issue that sex workers were alienated from the march at the last moment, as a line supporting sex workers, written by Janet Mock, was replaced with another that stated quite the opposite, before being brought together in a meaningless fashion.
Original: Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.
Edited: We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights.
Conjoined: We stand in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights.
Final: Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in full solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights.
The final document did not correct the issue, as it can be viewed today. Anyone aware of the actual sex workers’ struggle for rights know that paramount is the recognition that what they do is empowerment, not exploitation as the added text tries to convey. Ned Stark famously said that nothing before the word “but” counted, and this second statement is one big but. People are legitimately exploited and trafficked for sex, but these individuals are not sex workers, as even Amnesty International understands.
Sex workers face the struggle of being not only unprotected by law enforcement, but targeted by them. Especially those engaging as prostitutes or escorts know this pain as if they come across a client who poses a danger to them, harms them, rapes them – the police will be looking for their arrest, not the client’s. Police regularly plan stings that don’t look to liberate trafficked sex slaves, but rather bust and imprison sex workers. It is a climate that not only punishes them for using their bodies as they like, but which makes it much easier for sex traffickers to capture and begin trafficking them. To add the second line is to dismiss the sex workers’ struggle for rights.
Then came the iconic pussy hats, which alienated women of color who felt that they only represented white women’s pussies and trans women who were dismayed that they reduced womanhood to genitals. The Democratic Party coopted the Women’s March and ruined it, turning it into a political statement against Donald Trump instead of an intersectional statement of the inherent rights of women.
To the Democratic Party, feminism and women’s rights aren’t things that drive their ideology, they’re merely tools to help them win elections. If being pro choice will help you win an election, then you’re going to be pro-choice but not really do anything about it. If regulating a woman’s, or a trans man’s, reproductive system helps you win that election, however, then that’s completely another thing. Democrats are willing to budge on women’s rights because they don’t give a shit about women’s rights; they are not willing to budge on the rule of the rich, however, because they do honestly care about the welfare of the haves. This is why attacks upon women who are the victims of individual members of their clique are embraced as a legitimate choice. Just look around and take note of the charade.
Featured Image via TMZ. Fair Use.
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