Why did 63% of white women in Alabama vote for Roy Moore? The accusations against him were many, long-standing, and serious. The exit polls said the women who voted for Moore did not believe the women who accused him of abuse. It’s not unusual that women don’t believe other women. Girls learn that at a young age. Often mothers don’t believe their own daughters about sex abuse. In a patriarchy, women’s voices are not legitimate or worthy of attention.
In 1974, Katie Morrison made history by becoming the first female member of the Wisconsin Senate. I was 27 and my mother 53. I had convinced my mother to go with me to leaflet for Katie who ran against an incumbent who said he did not have to consider women’s voices because there were more cows in his district than women.
Over a beer after we finished my mother said, “Never in my life would I have believed that in my 50s I would be out campaigning for a woman.” The thought had just never occurred to her that a woman could run for state office or that she would be involved in such a campaign.
I pushed her, “Admit it Ma, you’re a feminist. You support equal pay. You support the ERA. You support women candidates. You’re a feminist!”
“No, I’m not,” she yelled at me. I was shocked because she did support all those things and had three feminist daughters. “I can’t be a feminist,” she said more softly looking down into her drink.
Shaking my head, stupefied, I said, “Why not?”
“Because then I would have to admit my whole life has been a lie. No one at my age wants to admit their whole life is a lie because we haven’t enough time left to make it right.”
I was stunned and for once, speechless. To me, it was such a profound insight into a very emotionally closed woman that pieces in my brain suddenly clicked into place. Why she told me not to raise my hand to answer all the questions in school (boys don’t like girls smarter than them). Why she told me not to wear my glasses when I didn’t need to (boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses). Why she told me not to run for the president of every organization (at one time I was president of the Methodist and Presbyterian youth groups at the same time). Why she discouraged my father from teaching me about cars. Why she did not support me going to college.
Many of the women in Alabama who voted for Moore were religious or “women of faith”. So for these white woman, especially older ones, to vote against Moore, to vote against sexism, to vote against racism, they would have to admit that their parents lied to them, their church lied to them, their culture lied to them, their husbands were lying to them, they were lying to their children. They would have to admit that their whole life was a lie.
If they’re like my mother, they feel too old or not brave enough to face that. Lying is easier than being brave. Lying is easier than saying I was wrong. Lying is easier than saying I’m sorry. Lying is definitely easier than admitting – I’ve been had.
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