The defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama senate race tells us something about voters.
Women — especially black women — made the difference. Some 57 percent of Alabamian women voted against Moore, while 56 percent of mostly white men stuck with him.
That also tells us something about the Grand Old Pedophile Party (no need to say more).
The election raised the national consciousness about the sexual predation, harassment, and assault that’s still woven deep into the fabric of our society. It starts with demeaning images of women that boys and men are bombarded with from their earliest days.
Throw in power — all the way from the ability to physically dominate a playmate to coercion, intimidation, and even rape of a subordinate in the workplace — and you end up with a toxic environment that reaches all the way to the top. Not only in politics, but in business, the arts, entertainment, education, you name it.
The question is what’s to be done, and how?
Saying no to one offender at the ballot box is a definite statement, but rejecting the environment that produces such a person needs to start at the earliest levels, with more training in respect for all genders at home and at school.
Parents and teachers alike are still too often inadvertently sending messages that girls are “lesser” when it comes to aspirations and abilities, and a little friendly unwanted kiss or pinch on the behind is treated like just part of growing up.
In the workplace, men have to take the lead, because they’re still by far the decision makers about who gets hired, who gets fired, what gets covered up, and whom and what gets punished.
It’s hard not to notice that high-profile women who now have power (but didn’t when they were harassed and worse) are the ones leading the charge. But women waiting tables, stocking shelves, picking vegetables, and cleaning offices at night still don’t dare make a peep.
And who can blame them? The news cameras won’t come calling if they speak out — they’re much more likely to have their complaints dismissed or get fired for being a troublemaker.
Sure, retaliation is against the law. Tell that to a single mother making minimum wage who can’t afford to miss a paycheck.
Even though there’s much work to be done, it’s good news that we’ve seen one huge scream from the voters and signs that the good-ol-boy “don’t ask, don’t tell” network may be cracking a bit. Women who complain are refusing to shut up — no more standing for being marginalized, fired, called outright liars, or accused of being “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” and then forgotten about.
Now that the “sisterhood of silence” has become the “sisterhood of speaking out,” corporate big-wigs are taking notice — revamping sexual harassment policies and announcing company-wide training programs. Men at the helm in businesses nationwide — from Hollywood to the high profile gourmet eateries of Gotham — are taking action against sexual bullies and predators, no matter how lofty their positions.
Not so the men in charge of the United States Congress. There’s been nary a peep from them about investigating or condemning a sitting Supreme Court justice or president of the United States.
Soon the calendar will turn to an election year. Women are the majority of the population, the majority of registered voters, and the majority of those who actually show up at the polls.
Let’s hope that newfound power in Alabama leads to a wave in 2018 — one that brings in a real conversation about what kind of leadership the women and men of this country truly deserve.
Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote. Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaBurk. Distributed by www.OtherWords.org.