Polls are in, and it’s done. Alabama flipped a senate seat blue, blue, blue. And by 1.5%, not just a handful of votes.
This gives me hope. Hope that the US can maybe heal a tiny bit, that we may become less broken, at least. That hatred and bigotry and racism and sexism may not be the order of the day, after all. We are seeing it now, at every level in the US, for reasons that were in part set in motion in last year’s election cycle, and in part lay latent with deep roots at every level of American culture.
Other things gave me hope in 2017 that the tables could turn back to progress and justice. The Comey testimony. The Manafort indictment, the Flynn plea bargain. The resistance and #metoo, and my work in the resistance. The voices of truth. The airing of rot and mildew and filth. Like sucking venom from a wound, and spitting it out.
But this, the Jones victory, this feels sweet. This is the chisel that could split everything wide open, because now the Republicans have the thinnest of margins, and can afford no dissent, and there are always a few who will dissent (Collins, Flake, Corker, McCain in play…). Perhaps now the margin will become so thin that not even Pence can solve it with a tie-breaking vote. Not too worried about him, though; I think ol’ Pencey boy will be in prison by Christmas of next year.
However, I do wish to address the issue of white women in Alabama, of all educational backgrounds, voting for Moore. White men in Alabama; ok – we expect their votes for Moore. But women? After everything that came out in the news? Really?
I have many friends in the American north, in blue states, here abroad, people who have asked me – how can this be? How, Monica, how? I have heard women from the north hating on women from the south, those ridiculous women, I hate them, they are bigots who support bigots. They are not like me. These women.
I am going to pull rank here for a moment, in a way I do not normally do, because I would like to explain something here for the general audience.
I’ll credential myself now: I lived in Oklahoma for thirty years between the ages of 2 and 42, and through almost every year of school, and grad school, and my first hourly job, and my first professional job, and an important professional position after that which I took very seriously – perhaps too seriously. And yet our family was different; my parents could not have been more northern and more culturally displaced than they were. I am here to report, despite all the time I spent in Oklahoma, I am not southern, nor do I feel southern. (No surprise for anyone who has ever heard me speak.) My friends were southern; their parents were southern. My teachers were southern. My boyfriends were southern. You get the point. I am from the south, not of the south. I have a unique perspective as an in-country, cross-cultural kid.
So, fine. Oklahoma was not actually a player in the Civil War; the so-called “Unassigned Lands” were just that in the mid-nineteenth century. But I suspect that many a Confederate veteran headed west, west, west, trying to put out of his mind the blood and muskets and cannons, and came to Oklahoma, which was not technically a slave-owning state, but which inherited many of the deeply entrenched beliefs of the Deep South with this Reconstruction-era migration westward
A friend of ours recently wrote an article that compared Oklahoma to Angola. I often thought of it, when I lived there as an adult, and had more perspective, as a post-colonial Rhodesia. The white men drive Land Rovers and tell racist jokes and drink beer. The women try to stay pretty for as long as they can, according to the judgement of men, who like their women to look approximately 22. Women have very little agency or purchase to trade on other than their ability to manage the men in the culture. And although those men did not carry a whip or a crop, they carried in them the small seed of violence and sexism and racism that, given the opportunity, could sprout at any moment into violence.
Why did white women of Alabama vote as they did? For Roy Moore, a known pedophile and assaulter of underage girls? Why did they stubbornly support him even as his crimes became more evident, and his victims stepped forward? (Expand this explanation to Trump, if you wish.)
Listen, people: unless you have lived in the region, you cannot imagine the violence that lies under very thin cover in the south. Believe me, white women in the south know exactly what white men are capable of. They had white men as fathers, married them, raised the sons, worked for them. They have seen the violence. They have seen the assault, and the aggressions, carried out with a guaranteed impunity. They were raised and now live in a culture that condones, with tolerance, the following types of violent behavior (and I am just covering sexist behavior here; I am not even going into the racist discussion):
- Flirting with girls as young as four
- Touching young girls, and worse
- Laughing as they said a high-spirited woman should be “raped, to teach her a lesson”
- To laugh and say to a teenage girl “let’s rape her,” as though it were a game
- To pick up a woman physically and carry her around, and to laugh as she asks to be put down
- To tell joke after joke after joke in the presence of women that demeans and belittles women and worse, and to expect those women to laugh in the presence of their own mocking denigration
- Rape because “she didn’t say no”
- Rape because “she was there” and a thousand other reasons
- Assaults that they attempted to justify by how a woman dressed, or what she said, or who her father and brothers were, or where she was, or what drink or food she held in her hand
- Men in power constantly pushing the quid pro quo, urging or forcing a woman to provide sex, or some form of sex, or gratification, in exchange for something she wants or needs
- Men in power who are protected as predators even as they serially prey on women, because they know that all they need to do is to start mocking the little lady, and everyone will understand that women cannot be trusted, they just took it into their pretty little heads…
ge! (Words, words, words.)
The wife or woman or teenager or student who was assaulted or battered does not get a raise, she does not get to keep her job, she does not get a special position created for her, she is not protected. Her first-place prize is to try to continue to scrape together the composure to be seen in town. Her prize? She gets to keep her husband, staying married to retain her community status, or she gets to look for a new job. Maybe she gets to change schools. Maybe she is bullied. Maybe she becomes suicidal. Doesn’t matter if she has a college degree or not. The culture is the same.
Let me repeat: the south always protects a white male predator, aggressor, assaulter. They do not even see it that way, or label it as such. It is the norm.
Have you ever been ostracized in a closed community for failing to follow the rules? Do you know what it means to be shunned in your community for stepping outside of the norm? This is the reward for a southern white woman who breaks rank. Not just the men will come after her, but all the women like Mrs. Moore too, irate that their power structure is being challenged. Everyone will attack and shun the woman who refuses to stay in line – even after she has been harmed, again and again and again.
Do support her. Do try to understand her. Do see her hate and fear directed toward others as a cry to protect herself. See her support for Moore and Trump as a terrified response to what she knows is coming.
Because she has seen what he can do, and she’s next if she doesn’t fall in line: Look nice. Be nice. Agree. Make his excuses for him. Be a pretty parrot. Do not contradict or condemn him. Quickly admit her own faults, while glossing over his. See the best in him, while identifying the worst in herself, and the ways in which she might have contributed to his behavior and his outcome, while absolving his responsibility for his thoughts, actions, and harms.
I wrote this in a binge yesterday and have a few footnotes before I post:
First, of course not all men in the south are like this. I grew up there, I lived there for three decades. I had many male friends from the south. There are aware ones, but they are not the norm in this power structure.
Secondly, no, I am not a man-hater. But I survived a very charged culture for years. Not without scars, either. I know it too well.
Finally, the way to disrupt this culture is to find out how you can support women candidates for public office in the south. And I am not talking Mary Fallin co-opts, those blind-eyed Barbies who are the pretty parrot so rewarded and treasured by the southern man. I am talking about the Emily Virgins, Breea Clarks, Connie Johnsons of the south. I am talking about women whom any blue state would be proud to welcome. But they’re running for office in Oklahoma. Hell, I can think of at least 50 women in the south who are friends of mine whom I would love to see in public office. When women are elected in at least 50% of public offices at every level in the south, every woman and child and woke man in the region will breathe easier. They need our support. They need to be elected.