For weeks I’ve watched with mixed feelings as more and more women speak out about sexual harassment from notable men in entertainment, broadcasting, and politics. I celebrate their bravery in being willing to speak up, and I despair that so many men apparently are guilty of such reprehensible behavior.
It has crossed my mind, briefly, that especially during an election season one might have cause to question the veracity of a woman making sexual accusations against a male candidate. What a great ploy this could become, getting a couple of women to publicly accuse an opponent of sexual harassment. And yet, the only right thing to do is believe them. Men who deny, of course, must also be believed. So who’s telling the truth? That’s why we have courts. But courts don’t move quickly enough to ward off “October surprises” or save a career.
I hate this. I hate that so many men suddenly seem to be guilty of vile behavior toward women. The media are having a field day and seem to think that accusations alone are enough to end careers. Employers seem to be agreeing with them. No more “boys will be boys.” At least for the moment.
For the most part I’ve felt the accusations are legitimate. And it’s easier to believe them when there are several accusers, especially when the accused is someone you don’t like. Outrage and disgust come easily.
But yesterday the newly accused was Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). I loved him as a comedian. I had doubts when he went into politics but felt he had proved himself to be intelligent, thoughtful, and moderate. So yesterday I didn’t feel angry or disgusted. I just felt deeply, deeply saddened and disappointed.
Yes, women should speak out. I’m glad that so many are. And those men who engage in such despicable behavior are now on notice that their victims may no longer remain silent.
I’m naturally biased, but I’m inclined to think most women wouldn’t lie publicly about something so personal, embarrassing, and perhaps traumatic. But in the back of my mind I remember that #MeToo and #BelieveHer are great bandwagons. As long as the parade lasts. And only as long as they aren’t misused.
I’d like to think all this will result in a fundamental, permanent change in our society. But I have my doubts.