The false equivalency of Roy Moore and Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken has a background as a comedian, so, yes, we will find inappropriate stuff there.

Al Franken did a stupid thing. He posed for a photo where he pretended he was about to grope a sleeping woman’s breasts.

The woman who took the photo said it was staged. Franken apologized and called for an investigation of the incident.

The woman in the photo claimed he kissed her, without her permission. If this is true, it is an assault. But given the conflicting testimony, and the fact that no one else has come forward with the same kind of story, I want to see the results of an investigation before I join the Franken-should-resign chorus. If he did, indeed, assault this woman, he needs to go. If he did not, his call for an investigation, his apology and her acceptance of it, are OK with me.

I say this as a survivor of assault that began when I was 3 and continued throughout my childhood.

I say this as a survivor of assault as an adult.

I say this as a woman who has been groped and harassed in the workplace.

I say this as a reasonable human being.

Moore, on the other hand, “dated” a number of teenage girls while in his 30s, and according to the testimony of not one, but five, women, he attempted to get physical with them.

Moore’s brand of religion is no different than that of fundamentalist Islam or Judaism. It denigrates women. It considers us the daughters of Eve and guilty of her Original Sin, which is seduction.

In this world view, women are evil and must be controlled by men. We can not make our own decisions, we can not be left to our own devices. We are not equal in any way, and we can be owned in much the same way as a dog. The only difference is that we are trained to please men sexually and we are good for nothing more than bearing their children and cleaning up their messes.

In this world view, we have no rights of our own, and we can be married off as soon as we start menstruating so that our husbands can train us to be good servants to them.

Moore is not a pedophile by definition — pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescent children and Moore “dated” adolescents.

He believes he did nothing wrong, and according to his religious beliefs, he is correct.

But according to social mores, according to the rest us, who do not subscribe to his backward religious views, he is a menace.

Like Mike Pence, he would love to legislate his views, views that would take legal rights away from women and people of color. Remember, this is a man who has complained in public about “new rights” given to black people in the 1960s.

In Moore’s view, women are always at fault when they are assaulted because their mere existence tempts men.

And don’t tell me I don’t understand his religion — I was raised in it. My parents never subscribed to it, but I went with friends to a church that believed all this drecht, and I suffered for it. I was part of that church, although I was able to walk away when I was 18 and saw just how harmful its theology was. Many of my friends were trapped in it by parents who bought these beliefs. They were forced to choose between their families and sanity.

So, yes, I can defend Al Franken while I call out Roy Moore. And I don’t think I’m rationalizing or being hypocritical.

To say their offenses are equal is just plain false. Moore is driven by a self-righteous, wrong-headed world view in which women are there to please him, care for his needs and bear his children, and he wants to force the rest of us to live by that world view. That is not the same thing as a bad joke, which is what the complaint against AL Franken seems to be.

I’m trying to look at the whole person here, and I can’t see any equivalency between a religious zealot and someone who got into politics to try to fight the takeover of Congress by people like this zealot.

As for the current occupant of the White House, he is a confessed sexual predator who only complains about sexual predation if it comes from someone who doesn’t support him. He is fine with a man who wanted to marry a teenage girl and train her to be a good wife, much the way others would train a circus animal, but he thinks Al Franken is a pig.

I’ve taken some time to think about this, and unless there are more complaints from women who have been victimized by Franken and until there is the investigation that Franken himself called for, I’m not going to join the call for him to resign.

Unlike Moore, Franken has a long history of defending women’s rights and the rights of people of color. Yes, what he did was stupid and in poor taste. But if that were the bar, the Mango Menace should have been gone before his political career ever started.




Why am I so pissed off about Brock Turner?

This is Brock Turner. He's a rapist who walked away from his crime with little more than a slap on the wrist.

This is Brock Turner. He’s a rapist who walked away from his crime with little more than a slap on the wrist.

That’s right, I’m pissed. Really pissed.

Brock Turner ruined a woman’s life. She will always be his victim, no matter how many people reach out to help and try to heal her after he raped her while she lay unconscious behind a dumpster.

The scars will remain throughout her life, affecting her ability to form and sustain intimate relationships, to trust other people, particularly men.

Sure, she was drunk. That doesn’t give anyone permission to violate her.

But a judge decided Brock Turner was just a poor, misguided boy who deserved compassion and a short — very short — sentence so that he could go back to life as usual.

Brock Turner has an immense amount of white, male and wealth privilege; the woman is meaningless in its wake.

We make excuses for this kind of “youthful hijinks.” He’s just being a boy. Boys can’t control their urges so it’s up to women to protect themselves.

I can remember sitting on the couch in the living room with my boyfriend when I was 16. My father told me later I shouldn’t cuddle so close because boys aren’t known for being able to control themselves. I told him they should be pressured to learn self-control, not have excuses made for them.

What I didn’t tell my father was that I had already been violated by someone he knew and trusted.

I didn’t tell him the abuse started when I was 3 and continued until I was 12 because I knew it had to be my fault somehow. Males can’t control themselves, so women have to do it for them.

I must have had one hell of a come-hither look when I was 3 to tempt my abuser so. I must have made myself irresistible somehow because it’s never the man’s fault. That had been made very clear to me.

So, let me tell you what it’s like to be a survivor of the kind of theft that was perpetrated on me — and on Brock Turner’s victim.

We are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs to dull the pain.

We are more likely to endure clinical depression and have severe self-esteem issues.

We are more likely to enter into abusive relationships because we don’t realize we deserve better than that.

We are more likely to become obese in a subconscious effort to be less attractive to men who might want to have their way with us.

We are more likely to die by our own hand.

The shame and guilt remain with us all our lives, no matter how hard we try to erase it. We can integrate what happened into who we are and not let it define us completely, but we can not go back to who we were, nor will we ever be who we might have been. That has been taken from us.

So, we don’t have a lot of sympathy for abusers and rapists.

But God forbid Brock Turner should endure disruption to his life because he’s such a good swimmer.

This is not an isolated incident. I could recount a number of cases of people I know who have never seen justice.

Just the other day, a 23-year-old man was given a non-sentence for molesting an 8-year-old. The judge in that case said he was “just a boy,” and he didn’t want to ruin his life.

Well, what about the real child whose life he ruined? Does that life not count?

There was the lesbian woman who cops decided was the guilty party because she probably just wanted to try sex with a man and then decided to accuse him of rape when she didn’t like it. The charges against her rapist were dropped.

If you doubt me, read the book, “Missoula,” by Jon Krakauer. It chronicles in painful detail the rape culture at the University of Montana, and if you think it’s only at the University of Montana, think again.

Time and again in our culture, male athletes are given a pass — unless, of course, they’re protesting the oppression of people of color. Then they’re vilified.

Yeah, I’m pissed, and you should be too.

Forgive the creeps at Waking Life? Not yet.

Waking Life in West Asheville. Photo from Asheville Blog.

Waking Life in West Asheville. Photo from Asheville Blog.

We had a bit of a storm break out in West Asheville over the weekend when a local blogger, Emily Trimnal of Asheville Blog, broke the news that the owners of Waking Life Coffee were the authors of a disgusting, misogynistic blog about their sexual conquests.

Shop owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens wrote posts about the women they had “conquered,” often making fun of the women’s trust in them.

As soon as they were outed, they were sorry as hell. They posted some navel-gazing drivel about their motives and how really uncomfortable they had been the whole time.

In the aftermath, many, including myself, have decided we would rather die of thirst than give their business a penny.

Others have posted that Jacob and Jared don’t deserve to have their business shut down. Let’s be forgiving because, after all, how are they worse than others who use and abuse women sexually?

They aren’t worse, perhaps, but they are as bad, and just because we don’t know about some abusers doesn’t mean those we do know about should get away with it.

As a survivor of abuse, I believe these men deserve whatever karma dishes out to them. And I think having your sex life exposed by men who see you as nothing more than a place to park their penises for an evening is abuse

Let’s talk about what their victims are going through as they read about the fact that they were nothing more than a conquest. Imagine you trusted someone, perhaps even believed he liked you as a human being. You even thought this relationship might have the potential to be something special. They you discover what you really were — a notch in some dick’s dick.

And of course, we as a society usually blame the women for allowing these miscreants access to their bodies. She wore something alluring. She went to a bar. She invited him into her home.

This does not give anyone permission to disrespect, belittle or otherwise abuse you any more than a lame I-knew-I-was-doing-something-wrong gets you off the hook.

As my friend, Jodi Rhoden, pointed out on Facebook this morning, the only reason we believe this story is that the men themselves confessed. If the women had come out and said this had been done to them, would we have been so quick to condemn the men?

Our word is valued less than that of men. When we accuse, we are scolded for dragging men’s reputations through the mud because, after all, it takes two to tango.

Let’s say Jared and Jacob really are sorry, and not just because they got caught but because they had an epiphany. That’s all fine except the damage is still done. Women are still humiliated, their reputations in shambles. The hurt is there for good. The scars last a lifetime.

It’s not up to me to forgive these two men; it’s up to the women they humiliated. And even if they are forgiven, the scars of their deeds remain. You forgive so you can move on in your own life, so that you, not so much your abuser, can have peace.

You can’t undo this kind of damage. When you see human beings as objects and use them as such, you have caused permanent harm.

The owners say they will close up shop for a few days, and when they reopen they will donate profits to Our Voice, a nonprofit that works to fight violence against women.

I have a better idea. Let’s stay away from Waking Life and donate to Our Voice. That way, an agency that does great work gets our support and two misogynists don’t.

These two have betrayed the women they abused and they have betrayed their entire community. They deserve whatever consequences they get.


Sex in the news hits close to home

Jerry Sandusky, left, with his good friend, Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno.

Fans of Penn State are feeling a little shattered as news of a sex scandal breaks and more details ooze out of the slime.

Coach Joe Paterno had every reason to know children were being molessted by his friend Jerry Sandusky, who ran a program for vulnerable children. Instead everyone involved just pretended nothing was happening. Even when victims came forward, nothing was done to stop Sandusky’s access to children.  A district attorney declined to prosecute even though there was plenty of evidence. I will say, however,  that after several incidents, including a rape that was witnessed by another person, Sandusky was told he couldn’t bring children into the football building.

In other words, he was free to continue his reign of terror outside the football building.

Let me tell you what happens to the victims of child sex abuse. I know the story well because I am a survivor, and I feel the effects to this day.

My molester was someone my family knew and trusted. He started the abuse when I was 3 and it continued until I was 11, mainly because no one talked about it in the 1950s, and no one would have believed me. My attacker was a pillar of the community. He was beloved because he was so good with children.

I can still see my chubby fingers closing around the quarter that was my hush money.

As I got older and finally gathered the courage to tell him no, I knew I was giving up being his “favorite.” But I also knew I was a dirty little girl. No one had to tell me that; I felt it with every fiber of my being. I never dared to tell anyone, and I still don’t talk in public about who my abuser was.

But when I was in my early 30s, my sister confronted me, admitting that she knew what was going on. I had never even told my husband, who was pretty shocked by the revelation.

Children who are molested almost universally have low self-esteem. Molesters tend to “groom” them carefully by allowing them to do or have something they’re not allowed to have or do — having beer or other alcohol or drugs, watching a forbidden movie, taking money. They’re told to keep it a secret. Gradually, the secrets get bigger and bigger until the abuser has power over the child — or at least the child believes he (or she) does. Often, the abuser is someone who others in the community adore — like the coach who runs a program for disadvantaged kids. That, too, is a form of power. Who will believe the accusations of a troubled child over the word of a trusted community member?

Children who have been molested tend to become depressed adults, and they are plagued by low self-esteem. They often marry abusive partners because they feel they don’t deserve to be loved and treated well. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to have unprotected sex, even to be promiscuous because in their experience, sex gets you love.

Without help, their rates of suicide are much higher. Even with help, what was taken from us will never be returned, and we will never again be who we were.

At worst, the abuse will define a person; at best, we will intergrate it into who we are. In any case, it is there always, ready to be brought to the surface when we hear about it happening to someone else.

I still have to look myself in the mirror every now and then and tell myself I was the victim of a crime.

This is what these children face. They will never get over the fact that Sandusky was allowed to abuse them at will and nobody would do anything to stop it.

So, do I feel sorry for Joe Paterno because his legendary reign at Penn State will be tainted?

No. Not one bit.

And now to Herman Cain

In another case of “trust me, I didn’t do anything inappropriate,” Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain wants us to believe all five of the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct are lying, even though two of them received settlements from the National Restaurant Association.

Sorry, Herman, I’m going with what the women are saying. Too many powerful men (and once in awhile, women) abuse that power by demanding sexual favors. “You do want a job, don’t you?”

I think most women have encountered something of this behavior, especially older women. We Baby Boomers ventured into a hostile workplace in many cases.

I once left a job because a colleague kept pressing me to have sex with him (I was much younger and cuter then). I couldn’t get him to stop. I complained to the boss, who laughed and said, “That’s our Bob.” I started a search for a new job and was ready to quit in a couple of weeks. My letter of resignation detailed the inappropriate behavior, although I’m sure the boss threw it out.

I didn’t leave quietly, though. First I called Bob’s wife and told her the story. Apparently I wasn’t the first. I don’t know what happened after that, and I don’t really care. I only hope Bob got what was coming to him.

When a woman comes forward to say a man has behaved inappropriately with her, I tend to believe it, especially when there are five of them. Most women won’t do it because they get dragged through the mud (remember Anita Hill?). They just want to get on with their lives and put the harassment behind them.

So, Herman, I with all due respect, I believe you’re a lying sack of crap.

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