MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Word of Sen. Al Franken’s resignation buzzed through the downtown Minneapolis skyways Thursday.
“As hard as it is to see him resign, I think it’s the right decision, especially in this environment,” said Graham Gaya.
“It’s hard to say that you have to be accountable for your entire life up until you’re in office, especially for a comedian,” said Angie Hanson.
Mixed emotions are nothing new the last two months, as a movement known as #MeToo has forced stories of sexual harassment out of the shadows and into mainstream social media.
“It has been a powerful movement, and a lot of courageous women who have spoken up and told their stories,” said Dr. Christina Ewig, faculty director for the Center of Women, Gender and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Ewig said in order for the movement to create lasting change, she believes Franken’s resignation was the right move.
“He was no longer going to be effective on those issues that he did care for so deeply, including women’s rights issues, when he has started to lose credibility on that front as result of the allegations,” she said.
At Nokomis Healthy Seniors in south Minneapolis, there are many activities to keep residents busy, ranging from making puzzles to getting health screenings.
There was also plenty of conversation on Thursday morning.
“[Residents are asking] ‘Hey, what do you think of this Franken thing going on?'” nurse Cathy Bray said.
That “Franken thing” started with accusations of inappropriate behavior and ended with Sen. Al Franken resigning.
“It’s not a good thing either way,” Bray said. “There was nobody saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, this is about time.’ There was a sense of sadness, I think.”
On the edges of the University of Minnesota campus, sadness was not what came to mind for students. Their word was “progress.”
“I don’t know if the accusations against [Franken] are as bad as other ones that have surfaced, but, I mean, I was just talking to my roommate about it and I think that what he’s doing sets an example and could be a standard in the future for other people who are accused of sexual assault,” said a ‘U’ sophomore.
Sexual assault is something young people already feel happens all too often.
“Politicians having sex scandals isn’t anything new,” said 18-year-old student Malik Riley.
What is new is the #MeToo movement, in which women feel empowered to speak out against sexual harassment and assault. Franken’s resignation is proof that it is having an impact.
“While it’s a big mistake that [Franken] made, it’s also a lesson in terms of how do you, still regardless of what the consequences are, make sure that you do the right thing,” Gaya said.
Franken’s resignation, and the slew of allegations toward powerful men in varying industries, is a step in the right direction, according to Ewig — but legislation to better define harassment in the workplace is what she believes can be gained from the difficult stories making headlines right now.
Ewig said while women have made progress in many areas, sexual harassment and assault are still severely underreported because of fear of retaliation, and that women simply won’t be believed.