Columns, Opinion

Max vs. Media: Let the silence breakers be heard

I was neither shocked nor at all disappointed when TIME announced its person of the year — the silence breakers. Ever since the allegations of Harvey Weinstein went viral, a pathogen has been spread throughout the United States that specifically targets sexual harassers and perverts. While the movement has been largely constrained to the media and entertainment industries, I would argue many social movements begin there as well. Just as Will and Grace advanced the gay rights movement, media has always been one step ahead of progressions in society.

TIME also made sure to make its landmark article not only focus on the major stars — Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift to name a few — but on the everyday women who are standing up to those with wildly inappropriate behavior. Included is the experience of Sandra Pezqueda, a former dishwasher at a luxury retreat in southern California, who filed a suit that alleges her supervisor pursued her for months until she ”rebuffed” him, which resulted in a change of her schedule that cut her hours.

Between the stories of A-list celebrities and big media personalities are those of more average women who go through harassment just like any celebrity does. That is what the #MeToo movement is about — the right of every woman everywhere to be treated equally.

However, with the equality mentality, there is always the chance for overreaction. In these cases, justice is not served. While women have the right to be believed, men also have the right to be heard. Al Franken’s resignation is a prime example of where such an overaction might have occurred.

Leeann Tweeden, the silence breaker for Franken’s misbehavior, accused him of forcefully kissing and groping her while she was unconscious (with a disturbing photo to prove it). After that, six other women came forward with their own allegations. While many of these were much less severe and perhaps even incidental — like grabbing or putting his hand on a woman while taking a photo together, the avalanche caused Senate Democrats to push for his removal. I would not make the argument that he should not have resigned  just because Donald Trump — an alleged serial sexual harasser — is the sitting president, or because Roy Moore — an alleged child molester — is a potential senator, and that both have been accused of crimes much more severe than Franken.

Franken needed to resign not for justice, but as an example. Let us not forget that Tweeden accepted his apology and the Senate ethics committee had barely begun a review of his case. Franken didn’t need to resign as an example to show that Democrats are better than Roy Moore — only someone so partisan or ignorant would think an alleged child molester is more moral than someone accused of groping adult women just because they have an R next to their name. Franken needed to resign to show that there had to be some punishment, no matter how overdone, to those who act disgracefully. Depending on all the facts in his case, Franken should not be blackballed from future politics. He should be able to restore his career. But he needed to face discipline, and it is not like you can suspend a senator without pay or give him a “time out.”

Franken is not Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who approached two female staffers, asking them to act as a surrogate for him and his wife, and who has been accused of trying to convince a female aide that she was in love with him by having her read an article describing how to know when you’re in love with someone.

But the #MeToo movement is bigger than any one celebrity, politician or pervert. There is a reason Harvey Weinstein wasn’t the person of the year, much like how Adolf Hitler (not to compare the level of atrocities they committed) was the person of the year decades before. This social movement isn’t about the men, it’s about the women.