This week, Time magazine named its person of the year: the “Silence Breakers” who were part of the #MeToo movement.
The five women who appear on the Time cover are actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and strawberry picker Isabel Pascual. This year, all five women broke silence and told their stories of sexual assault or harassment.
Interesting factoid: #MeToo? In 80 years, no American woman has won Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ by herself:
No American woman has won Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” by herself in more than eight decades. Over the course of the 91 years that the magazine has proffered the title, in fact, only one has done so: Wallis Simpson, who earned the title in 1936 thanks to her relationship with King Edward VIII, a relationship which eventually led to his giving up his throne.
Time’s “Person of the Year” winners are themselves a reminder that power has long been concentrated in the hands of men. In 66 of 89 years, the winner of the title has been a man, by himself. Four times, the winner has been a woman by herself. (That’s only two times more than a non-human — “The Computer,” “The Endangered Earth” — has won the title.) On nine occasions, the winner has been a group of mostly men; on three occasions — including this year — a group of mostly women.
Time’s cover comes in the same week that Rep. John Conyers Jr. resigns over sexual harassment allegations after a half-century in Congress:
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned as Congress’s longest-serving member Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers.
Rep. Conyers resigned after coming under heavy pressure from his Democratic colleagues to resign.
Then today, Senator Al Franken announces that he’s resigning from Senate:
Sen. Al Franken said he would resign from the U.S. Senate on Thursday following mounting allegations of sexual harassment and loss of support by fellow Democrats, a stunning and rapid fall for a Minnesota politician who followed decades as a successful TV comic with a rise to the highest echelons of U.S. political power.
“Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the issues they face every day,” Franken said in speech late Thursday morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He said he would resign “in the coming weeks.”
While he bowed to political reality, saying he could no longer be effective, Franken sought to clear his own name.
“I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted through the last few weeks, but I know who I really am,” Franken said. Of the claims against him by more than half a dozen women, he said: “Some of the allegations aren’t true. Others I remember differently.”
Stressing that he wanted to be respectful of what he called a broader conversation about mistreatment of women by powerful men, Franken sought to draw a distinction between himself and two Republicans also accused of mistreatment of women, President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape of his history of sexual assault is in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls has the full support of his party,” Franken said.
Franken’s resignation has major ramifications for Minnesota politics. Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement for his fellow DFLer, and the seat will then be on the ballot in November 2018. That means both of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seats and the governor’s office will be up for election next year.
A Democratic source told the Star Tribune that Dayton is likely to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and that she is not expected to run in the special election.
In a statement issued soon after Franken’s speech, Dayton said that “I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple days.” He condemned Franken’s behavior while still praising him as “very smart, very hard-working and very committed to Minnesota.”
“I extend my deepest regrets to the women, who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken,” Dayton said. “As a personal friend, my heart also goes out to Al and his family during this difficult time.”
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By abandoning Franken along with former U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who resigned earlier this week, Democrats are drawing a distinction between their party and Republicans at a time when Trump has thrown his full support behind Moore, accused of sexual abuse of underage girls.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also called on Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) to resign after his former finance director alleged that he made unwanted advances toward her on the campaign trail. Kihuen, who has not denied the allegations, apologized for any comments or actions that made the staffer “uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, as I posted the other day, Moral bankruptcy: the GOP has become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump.
Dara Lind at Vox.com writes, Democrats are finally holding themselves to a higher standard on harassment (excerpts):
Months from now, this moment will have seemed inevitable. For years, the Democratic Party has positioned itself as the defender of gender equality and women’s rights against Republican attacks — of course it would take the problem in its own midst at least as seriously as any other institution.
But it would have been easy for Democrats not to. Lawmakers tend not to pressure members of their own party to resign; they much prefer the line that most Republicans are currently taking on Roy Moore in Alabama, that the final decision about fitness for office rests with the voters themselves.
In fact, Democrats very nearly did close ranks around their accusers. The Congressional Black Caucus rallied around Conyers. When Conyers did resign, he claimed it was primarily for health reasons. And because Conyers was attracting more opprobrium than Franken, his resignation could have been taken as an opportunity for Democrats to shut up and hope the problem would go away.
But by showing a willingness to call out their own colleagues, the Democrats turning on Franken have just sent an important message to the members of the diffuse cultural movement that styles itself “the resistance.” They’re communicating that their political party does not just see progressives as convenient partners, but as part of a progressive institution that must not only embody but espouse those ideals.
Countless American institutions are being revealed to have sexual harassment problems: the problem being not only the harassers themselves, but the institutional protection of harassers. For Democrats, that problem was unique: Their pro-woman rhetoric gave them a higher standard to hold themselves to, and would have made their failure all the more glaring. But at least some Democrats are passing the test.
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The only way that Conyers and Franken would be forced out was if Democrats decided that leaders of the party that claims to champion women should, definitionally, not have a history of harassing them.
They made that decision for Conyers. They [made that decision] for Franken. They are making it easier, by making those decisions now, to make the same ones for others who might be revealed to have harassment issues.
Democrats don’t have the power to decide that people who have serially harassed women can be forced out of public life, or out of politics. Republicans aren’t going to clean house just because Democrats do. They may very well not clean house at all. If Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate election, he’ll probably be seated; the president of the United States will remain a man who has bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” and has been accused of assault or harassment by more than a dozen women.
This is the nature of civil society, though: No person can dictate whether others live up to his values, or even their own. No organization can either. The only actions they can control are their own.
If you believe that a more just world is one in which sexual harassers lose their jobs, the only way you can act to enforce that norm is to take care of the sexual harassers in your midst.
It’s easy to see this as an act of shortsighted martyrdom: losing power by adhering to your ideals, winning a moral victory while losing the war. But that’s not actually how it works.
The Democratic Party isn’t just attracted to the idea of “the resistance” out of idealism. It’s attracted because that ideal — and the backlash against serial harassers in the post-Weinstein era (to the extent that the two are even different from each other to begin with) — reflects a new energy among certain groups of people (especially middle-aged suburban women of all races) that can be channeled into Democratic politics. Democrats have the power to help solidify the norm against harassment by acting on it — and they have the opportunity to show the resistance that their actions can generate real change, thus encouraging more activism down the line.
In a just world, these latest developments would bring more pressure to bear on Roy Moore and Donald Trump for their sexual improprieties. But we live in a world where half of the country lives within the media bubble of “Trump world” and are impervious to facts, or to reason, or to morality and justice.