To change it up this time, I left my usual venue of The New Yorker to check out another popular New York publication, The New York Times (thanks for the subscription, mom). Nothing particularly struck me in the arts section, but I recalled an engaging article from a few weeks ago, right around the time Al Franken got accused of sexual harassment. I looked it up and read it again, When Our Allies Are Accused of Harassment being the full title. Written by Michelle Goldberg, the article discusses the liberal dilemma of being confronted with harsh truths about people who before were seen to be on the right side of things, Al Franken being the relevant and primary example. Goldberg sums it up perfectly: “Personally, I’m torn by competing impulses. I want to see sexual harassment finally taken seriously but fear participating in a sex panic. My instinct is often to defend men I like, but I don’t want to be an enabler or a sucker.” I can certainly relate to this, as this was my initial reaction to the Franken accusations, as well as with other men who have been accused in the last few weeks, like Louie CK, who I greatly admired as an artist. That made it hard to accept the reality of his actions, which were repulsive enough to warrant no debate in the end. Franken, on the other hand, is more of a toss up in the public eye, even among his allies in the Democratic party, some of whom have called for his resignation while others have jumped to his defense, saying that his actions were not severe enough to warrant resignation. Goldberg captures the complexity of this issue by critiquing the balling-up of the actions of the various offenders to equal degrees of severity while acknowledging that doing so contributes to the atmosphere of tolerance that allows sexual harassment to go unpunished in the first place. With more women coming forward about different men every day for the past weeks, I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe my own feelings on things, so reading Goldberg’s account and feeling the relation that I did was a relief, and showing to me of how strong she is as a writer.
Goldberg has a website where I was able to read more about her career. She has been an opt-in columnist for the Times for the past year, and previously worked as a columnist at Slate. Aside from being published in venues like The Guardian and The New Yorker, she has published three books, all on different subjects – one titled Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism is definitely going on my reading list. Even though she’s only written for the Times for a relatively short time, her body of work for that paper alone is impressive, as she documents the absurdity of the Trump era. While that certainly isn’t uncommon in writers today, seeing her perspective on the Franken issue gives me confidence that Goldberg’s coverage can maintain an identity of its own.