Roy Moore may not have won on Tuesday, but the special election in Alabama has only shown that feminism has fundamentally failed in its mission to achieve economic, political, and social equality between the genders.
The movement may have thrown the spotlight onto some of the major issues that progressives hope to address, but it has failed to elicit the mass response that would lead to meaningful change. Such a reaction is what the entire movement seems to be based upon: feminists rely upon growing awareness of the issues, hoping that once these problems are fully understood and undeniable, societal attitudes and behaviors will drastically change course.
In a way, this increased awareness has almost made the sexism we see in our society even more malevolent in its appearance: we fully acknowledge and understand the many injustices occurring on a daily basis, we feel horrified by them, and yet nothing truly changes. The many women who spoke out against Roy Moore had him labeled a sex offender in the court of public opinion, but even then he proved a competitive candidate in a major campaign. The preservation of the rights and dignity of half of the members of the country still does not prove to be top priority in our political system, a phenomenon that would be unacceptable in a society in which both genders were equally respected.
The bravery of the “Silence Breakers” may be lauded by Time magazine and other major news outlets, yet the claims of these women are still not fully believed. The many allegations against Roy Moore, coupled with his competitiveness as a candidate in the special election, which he lost by a disturbingly slim margin of approximately twenty thousand votes, only underscore the unfortunate truth: women may be pitied, but their stories still seem to fall on deaf ears.
Moore lost, but the fact that the race came down to one and a half points demonstrate that he truly could have won. In fact, he refuses to concede the election. Even as a known predator, he feels entitled to a political victory, regardless of what the voters have already decided. The feasibility of Moore’s success going into this election, regardless of the many allegations against him and the widespread public outrage regarding his candidacy, ought to be considered truly horrifying. Widespread shock at Moore’s loss only reinforces that, regardless of his past as a middle-aged man who harrassed teenage women, such a man can still be expected to win an election in our society. It is difficult to say whether this reaction says more about how sexualized young girls are within our society or how complacent we are in the face of such undeniable predatory behavior, but either way, the outcome is far from positive.
Moore’s near-win exemplifies our collective failure to act upon the disturbing truths that are being unearthed in this relatively new era of women coming forward. After all, what rational person would vote for a man who is publicly known for preying upon underage women? The seemingly self-evident nature of the answer to this question (no one) should not be negated by partisan feuding, which those who supported Moore’s campaign called upon to justify their choices. If feminism had succeeded in a significant way, the thought of Moore’s victory would be unfathomable to Democrats and Republicans alike.
White men and women were the leading demographics that voted for Roy Moore in this past election. Somehow, not only the fathers, brothers, and sons of women must be convinced of the importance of ensuring that sexual misconduct is not rewarded, but also the very women that such misconduct primarily affects must also come to prioritize their own rights above any partisan agenda. The dirty word of “feminism” needs to transform into a rallying call when used in a whistleblowing context, one which will actually trigger action after the usual sympathetic emotional response. The movement may have its bark, but its base must expand in order to truly find its bite, so to speak. Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, men and women all should be morally drawn to actively support the ideal of gender equality, rather than feel complacent in a world where even predators are able to climb the political ladder of power.
This is not to say that the feminist movement has made no progress at all, or that the existence of such a spotlight is not important in and of itself. However, for the movement to fully succeed, it requires the public to decidedly act after they initially react to scandals, rather than simply recoil and watch as history repeats itself. As a woman writing about this, I may be heard, but I can only hope that my outcry can have an impact where so many before have failed to fully succeed.
The image featured in this article is licensed under Creative Commons. The original can be found here.
Kate Healy is a third year majoring in Political Science major, and possibly double minoring in Spanish and History. Last summer, she interned with State Senator Heather Steans in Chicago. On campus, she is a member of the Women in Public Service Program, New Americans, and Kappa Alpha Theta.