Dear Sen. Angus King,

I was going to write an article about my new rescue dog this week but I saw your comments about how you now regret calling for the resignation of Al Franken and I wanted to address them. Because you, sir, with all due respect, are wrong. You should not feel regret for asking Senator Franken to step down.

You have probably noticed by now, but you are not a woman, and you haven’t grown up and gone through life with breasts that are treated like pieces of public property, for viewing, ogling, and general sport. You have probably not lived in constant, low-level fear of sexual assault. You probably feel perfectly safe stepping into an elevator full of men, or into a dark parking garage, or going for a stroll around Washington or Brunswick at night.

Have you seen the photo, Sen. King? You know the one – the one of Al Franken groping, or pretending to grope, a woman’s chest through her flak jacket. She is wearing a flak jacket, and a helmet, because they are in a war zone. She’s asleep. Exhausted. And the face that Franken is making? My jaw clenched when I saw it. Pretty much every woman knows that stupid grinning face, the “hurr hurr, boobies, look at me” face.

They are in a combat zone and he is treating her body and her physical autonomy like a joke. And there is photographic evidence of it. He was fifty-five when the photograph was taken. You’d think that would be old enough to know better.

You said “Al deserved more of a process.” And I agree that due process is important for our criminal justice system. But this was not a court case. If he had been a regular employee and the HR department saw a photo like that, he might have been out the door by noon. (Depending on how far up the corporate ladder he was, but that is a different issue altogether.)

Being a senator means you are one of two people sent to represent your state in the highest levels of the government of the United States of America. It is an honor, it is a blessing, it requires a certain amount of extra hard work and civic upstanding-ness. Or at the very minimum, not having a photograph taken of you while groping a woman and treating the whole farce as a joke.

As a woman who has a body that has been treated like a joke, and like public property – and sometimes both at the same time – I was proud when Franken was called to resign. I was proud of Democrats (of which you are technically not, I know) for demanding that their party do better than the Republicans, whose leaders, let us say, have not proven as interested in keeping men accused of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse from the halls of power.

Al Franken will never see the inside of a jail cell, unless it’s as part of some sort of humanitarian tour or something. He is a wealthy man with a family and friends who love him. And I am sure he is a good guy, at heart – but even good guys can make dumb, cruel, sexist mistakes, which is exactly what he did. Does making a dumb, cruel, sexist mistake mean one should suffer “the political equivalent of capital punishment”? Absolutely. We expect better from our senators than to – and I cannot emphasize this enough – make the decision to be photographed groping a woman in a war zone and laughing about it. Or at least, I expect better.

You said, “there’s no excuse for sexual assault, but Al deserved more of a process.” No. As an English major, and a writer, I can tell you that the word “but” in there makes what follows sound an awful lot like an excuse. Your on-the-record quote should have been “There’s no excuse for sexual assault.” Period. Because there isn’t. Nobody should put his hands on a woman without her express and explicit permission. Not even rich and powerful senators who vote the way you want them too. To paraphrase an ancient Maine saying: “there’s no excuse for sexual assault, evah!”

(And in case you didn’t notice, Al Franken was replaced in the Senate by Tina Smith, who seems to be doing a good job of representing Minnesota without a history of multiple sexual harassment allegations. You might consider calling attention to her accomplishments.)

I follow you on Instagram, senator. You have a wife and daughter and I know you love them. So – and I can’t believe I have to say this, in the year 2019 – how would you feel if someone treated them the way Franken was alleged to have treated some women?

The Senate is a place for lions. Franken proved himself unworthy. Don’t do the same.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial


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