Well, I’ll be damned. Alabama elected Democrat Doug Jones to the US Senate and sent the awful Roy Moore and his pistol packing. So many good people are basking in the thrill of victory in the December 12 special election that saw Jones—a former US attorney who in 2002 successfully prosecuted two KKK members for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham—not only fill racist Jeff Sessions’ seat, but beat a man who has said ending slavery was a mistake. Thank goodness. Because goodness trumped racism. Goodness trumped homophobia. It trumped theocracy. And yes, it trumped sexism and sexual predation.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave women who came forward with stories of Roy Moore’s sexually predatory behavior toward them. The first was Leigh Corfman, who made a very difficult decision to share her story with Washington Post investigative reporters about how Moore initiated sexual encounters with her in 1979 when he was a thirty-two-year-old prosecutor and she was a fourteen-year-old girl. (We should also thank the three female reporters for breaking that story. May they all win Pulitzers!)
People wonder why women who’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault don’t say something sooner, especially if the perpetrator is someone well known. And let’s be honest, this wondering usually comes as a criticism. To understand why a woman would stay silent, consider that even though Roy Moore lost his Senate bid, a whole lot of people voted for him because they either didn’t believe the women’s accusations or they didn’t care. If her experience of sexual harassment, impropriety, or assault aren’t going to be believed or the man accused is unlikely to be held accountable, is it not understandable for a woman to make the decision to stay silent for the sake of her family, her job, or her own well-being? For Corfman it was simply easier to go about her life and move on from the bizarre attentions and actions Roy Moore directed at her when she was a teenager. But she found the courage because other women have found the courage of late to take down powerful men who’ve mistreated them. So thank you, Leigh Corfman, and thank you to all the other women who have shared their #MeToo moments.
Now, before we go too far celebrating the sisterhood, consider that, as reported by the Washington Post, in exit polls “Moore led by almost fifty points among white women without degrees and was neck-and-neck with Jones with white women who went to college.” We have a way to go to unify the women’s movement. And for men who want to get on board, please listen to what Sincere Kirabo has to say about dismantling what he calls the “toxic male fraternity” herein.
I will say that in my forty-eight years as a female person and in my years as a working professional, I’ve encountered a great many men who live outside the frat. Men who really do understand how to treat women, both at work and outside work. There are also those who place themselves in that category but shouldn’t. Maybe they never officially joined the frat but the frat exists in them. (I well remember a man in a leadership role sharing with me his feminist bona fides and then excitedly encouraging me to attend a marketing training his son was putting on by dropping that his progeny was “hung like a horse.”) To the men who are angry about the tidal wave sweeping sexism out of the workplace or are merely confused and upset that they no longer know what’s acceptable, take heart in knowing that it can be done. There are men who act appropriately all the time, and I’m proud to count those I work with at the American Humanist Association among them. Thank goodness.