So said Senator Al Franken in response to the second brave woman who stepped up to accuse him of touching her inappropriately several years ago. His not remembering is at the heart of the problem behind most of the rash of accusations coming from women who do remember. The photograph in question couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds. More significantly, it in no way invaded Senator Franken’s psyche or surprised him in a bad way or in any way changed his compass for negotiating life. And, by his own powerful admission, it has not hung around to haunt him or cause him to feel undervalued or unclean. Freud once wrote that jokes are funny or not funny depending on whether a person is on the inside or outside of the joke. Al Franken was way outside what happened in that selfie. Lindsay Menz was way inside those seconds that can be replicated by almost every adult woman alive today–and many men who, as boys, were subjected to unwanted behaviors from men like Kevin Spacey.
We surely know by now that all such moments/actions come from a given man’s assuming without any conscious thought at all that he is “entitled” to touch, speak to, or act around girls and women in any way he chooses, simply because of his skewed position of power attached to his sex. And if that man has recognized power because of fame and/or wealth and position, not only does he assume he can act as he chooses but that he will get away with doing so. Because we inhabit a patriarchy, that assumption has been true for the other side of a power system based on something as arbitrary as what sex a person is. Little girls who are abused are told to keep silent either because the horrible behavior is “our special secret” or because “if you tell anybody, I’ll do something bad to you.” Adult women, if we work outside the home, know that speaking to someone in our organization will brand us in negative ways at the very least. And that speaking may well cost us a job we simply cannot afford to lose. So a cloak of deep and destructive silence has kept women from healing or moving beyond the photo or touch or verbal assault.
Talking heads on TV keep asking “why now?” as if there is some logic behind all the women’s voices declaring what is our reality. I have no easy answer to what may well be a useless question. It may be as simple as “enough is enough” as said by some of the women making accusations. But, just maybe, it is related to all women’s having spent two years listening to an aging, unattractive billionaire brag about his free reign to grope any woman anywhere anytime. So as we watch the world of Hollywood and television and sport act quickly to fire or disavow all contact with abusive men in their midst, we surely are entitled to ask if it might not be time to “fire” the president? After all, he relished saying “YOU’RE FIRED” on his reality TV show for several years. Meanwhile, let us now praise all the women who are telling the truth about moments we do remember whether we want to or not.