I have great respect for the women who are now coming forth and accusing various men of inappropriate behavior. We know men can be pigs. Many of these women have suffered for years in silence and it has impacted their lives in many ways.
But it is also time for us to determine how we differentiate what the consequences should be for the men being accused. They must be based on what they did. Not all their actions and transgressions are the same. Each incident, and each man, should be viewed separately. There are some men who have been serial abusers and others who did something wrong once. Even if all the actions a man has been accused of may have been wrong the repercussions may be different. It may be appropriate to give some of the men a chance to make apologies and not have their lives destroyed.
In the case of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) some suggest we don’t know the full story. What we know is from a picture as well as from what the woman involved said. So we can respect her and also respect the senator’s apology when combining it with the fact she has said she accepts his apology. Why wouldn’t that be enough for the rest of us to accept it?
Then there is the case of Judge Roy Moore running for the Senate in Alabama. Among other offenses he is accused of is pedophilia and people say they believe his victim. According to the law pedophilia is not only an offense to the individual victim but an offense to society. There are some heinous acts that fall into that category, including rape or attempted rape and I am sure there are others.
The point I’m trying to make is there are differences in some of the offences and inappropriate actions men have been accused of toward women. Recently, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a New York Times interview said she thought Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Lewinsky scandal. But as many pointed out, while what Bill Clinton did with Lewinsky was wrong, Lewinsky was a 22-year-old woman who has often said her relationship with him was consensual. Let’s also remember Clinton was punished. He was impeached, though not convicted, and was stripped of his license to practice law. He has also been appropriately labeled a sleaze for the rest of his life.
So some legitimately question why Gillibrand brought this up now and was she the right person to do it. To many it seems she made a political calculation as the writer of the column also reports, “In previous years Ms. Gillibrand has also noted Mr. Clinton’s support for her own run for office. “I was lucky enough to receive guidance and mentorship from Hillary during that run, and was truly honored that President Bill Clinton campaigned for me in my first run for Congress in 2006.”
If it was for political reasons I think it might have backfired on her. Attacking someone you claimed to respect and used to help advance your career can only make your motives questioned. The senator claims it was to make a point on what is happening today. But she is a very smart woman and there are many other ways to make the points she tried to make.
What is clear are the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others including those against our current president have opened up a floodgate of memories for many women. Many of the men accused had the power to impact their lives and careers. If this new courage women are showing finally brings us to a more equal playing field it will be a great step forward for our society.
Maybe this new recognition of women’s power will finally give us the impetus needed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. It is past time to include women officially in the Constitution, which is something the American people have been unwilling to do up to now.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.