The first time I was really miserable when a celebrity died was January of last year. I was sitting in my lounge drunk off my ear and the news came through that David Bowie had died. I don’t know much about popular culture or music or anything of artistic value really, but I knew Bowie and I knew how he was and I knew the freedom with which he lived his life and he was one of the phenomena that hauled my sorry and miserable ass through my coming out years.
Turns out I didn’t even know Bowie that well because after his death, it came out that he had statutorily raped a 14-year old girl in the 1970s. While there is contestation over the story, I saw no reason to not believe the woman who wrote about this experience with Bowie, and it upset the glamoured vision of him I had in my mind.
While I was blind to the foibles of my hero, I am not in society generally. Sen. Al Franken’s behavior toward women is one of the least surprising news stories I have ever heard, because men in power have always assumed they have the right to do what they want with bodies they desire.
While Franken apologized, and his apology was accepted by his victim, we know for a fact that harassment goes on around Capitol Hill because taxpayers have doled out $17 million on behalf of our elected representatives to settle sexual harassment claims and discrimination. Condemnation of Franken was welcome from Democrats who have sought to avoid criticizing their own most notable politician of the ’90s, President Bill Clinton, and stayed silent last year during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign regarding how she helped destroy the reputation of a 20-something White House intern to save her husband’s political career.
We know what Joe Biden did to Anita Hill during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, but Biden still parades around touching young women inappropriately — one needs only see footage of him swearing in senators during his time as vice president, and his leering fingers and whispers into the ears of their young female family members. And I haven’t even touched Roy Moore, who is still odds-on to be the next junior senator from Alabama, nor the president, whose “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments were actually all about how to manipulate women into not being able to say no.
Bipartisanship is present on Capitol Hill, despite an alleged long period of divisiveness. It’s just that it manifests in helping out perpetrators when convenient, destroying the reputations of victims when politically expedient and wielding the immense power we give our elected officials over the women in their offices.
Like Bowie, I turned on Franken easily when this story came out. May we all see those privileged men who abuse their power and privilege for sex and rape and assault and harassment meet the public condemnation they deserve, and not defend them just because we like them. May the universal condemnation of Al Franken be the first of many.