#MeToo addressing unfinished business of women's movement says UW historian | KUOW News and Information

#MeToo addressing unfinished business of women's movement says UW historian

Dec 7, 2017

Minnesota Senator Al Franken said today he'll resign in the coming weeks. He's repeatedly apologized as several women accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.

His announcement came one day after colleagues called for him to step down, including in statements from Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and more than half of all Democratic U.S. Senators. The calls came via Tweets, Facebook posts, and emailed statements Wednesday.

The pressure on Franken to resign, and the broader #MeToo movement, represent a historic moment according to University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara.

"It's addressing the unfinished business of a women's movement that is now more than half a century old, where you've seen remarkable advances in gender equity," O'Mara said.

O'Mara said there are particular parallels between now and the early 1990s. In 1991, Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court amidst accusations of sexual assault.

"In the wake of that many women mobilized — 1992 is the 'Year of the Woman,' where many women are running for the House and the Senate. And one of them is Patty Murray, 'the mom in tennis shoes,' who very clearly identified herself as part of this movement of women's leadership," O'Mara said.

Murray replaced a senator accused of sexual assault, Brock Adams.

O'Mara notes that despite the parallels, there's an even more powerful influence that exists now: social media.

"We've had congressional scandals before," she said. "They've moved at the speed of the media at the time — so the speed of newspaper, the speed of television, and now things are moving at the speed of social media."

Social media has erupted in conversation over Franken, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, and others accused of sexual misconduct.

Murray used her platform on Twitter this week to send out a lengthy statement, saying in part: “…In any way using your power to demean women cannot be tolerated."