It's absurd to place Al Franken in the same frame as monsters like Harvey Weinstein

tags: sex scandals, sexual harassment, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Al Franken

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of "The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools" (University of Chicago Press)

Many years from now, we'll look back on the "Me Too" movement as a huge watershed in the fight against sexual harassment. After Harvey Weinstein's vile behavior came to light earlier this fall, hundreds of thousands of women took to the internet to describe their varied experiences as victims of harassment. It's an infinite mixtape of misconduct, ranging from inappropriate jokes to outright rape. And it brought long-overdue attention to the many ways that men can harm women.

But now we've entered the moment of "You Too," when new public figures are being called out for sexual misconduct nearly every day. And here, the mixtape simply won't do. It blinds us to important moral differences between different kinds of misbehavior. And it threatens its own kind of harm, to our sense of proportion and justice….

And that brings our discussion-as all such discussions must be brought — to one William Jefferson Clinton, whose serial misbehaviors have come under renewed scrutiny in the past few months. But even here, we have witnessed the rolling of very different behaviors into the same blanket of condemnation.

Monica Lewinsky? Sure, his affair with a 22-year-old White House intern was disgusting. And Clinton lied about it afterward, which-depending on your tastes-may or may not have been grounds for his impeachment.

But it wasn't sexual harassment. As Lewinsky herself has confirmed, Bill Clinton did not prey on her. She initiated the affair, at least in part, and he called it off. That doesn't make it good or wise or decent, and of course it was none of these things. But nor was it unwanted or coercive, which are the hallmarks of harassment.

And that's also what makes it different from the case of Juanita Broaddrick, who alleges that Clinton raped her while he was campaigning for Arkansas governor in 1978. If that turns out to be true, surely Clinton belongs in the same camp as Weinstein and all of the other creeps who harassed or assaulted women against their will. But what he reportedly did to Broaddrick is entirely different from what he did with Lewinsky. ...

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