BOSTON (CBS) — Ever since Hollywood bigshot Harvey Weinstein was outed as an alleged sexual predator two months ago, we’ve been hearing about how the ensuing backlash against other powerful male “predators” marks a cultural turning point.
On Wednesday, in Washington, we saw a turning point within the broader turning point, as female members of the perennially slow-moving, collegial, deferential U.S. Senate echoed the famous line from the movie “Network” – we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore.
“Enough is enough,” said New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at a press conference in support of a bill making it easier for women to report sexual harassment in the workplace. That event became a forum for Gillibrand to demand that Sen. Al Franken (D- Minnesota) step aside after yet another allegation of past unwanted advances.
“When we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation,” said Gillibrand. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is ok, none of it is acceptable and we, as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard.”
As the day wore on, other senators agreed, first a flood of women, closely followed by men including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.
“A rubicon’s been passed here,” noted another senator, Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and the refusal of senators to follow tradition and wait until the Senate Ethics Committee completes its investigation of Franken is a fresh sign of the power of the tsunami triggered by Weinstein’s earthquake takedown.
Consider it a signal that even in Congress, often the last institution to respond to social change, the message women have been sending all year – that the sexist status quo has got to so, sooner rather than later – is starting to be heard.