Sunday, December 17, 2017

Alabama Election: Let’s Stop Focusing on the Women

Since the election of Doug Jones  as Alabama's junior senator, much has been written about women voters and their role in the election.  I fear that this attention is perpetuating stereotypes about women and reinforcing cultural traditions of holding women to standards different from men.  

Mercifully, Moore was not elected.  But this has not stopped criticism of his white women supporters.  Yes- the majority of white female voters in Alabama voted for Roy Moore. Interestingly, black voters supported Jones in an overwhelming amount (95-96%).  Black women supported Jones at a slightly higher (but statistically insignificant) rate (98%) than black men.  There is no doubt that the black vote was crucial to the Jones victory.

Equally important was Alabama's Senator Shelby's acknowledgement that he intended to vote for a write-in and not Moore.  Approximately 22,000 Republican voters followed Shelby's lead and wrote in a name that was not Moore's.  Those write-in ballots nearly matched the number of votes by which Jones won the election.  That vote was equally crucial to the Jones election.

With so many critical confluences merging to elect the democratic candidate, why are white women being vilified?

68% of white voters supported Moore. 58% of white, college-educated women voted for Moore as opposed to 43% of college graduates overall.  72% of white men voted for Moore. Yet little, if anything, is being written about the men .  The majority of women who voted for Moore identify as evangelicals.  The majority of white women who did not vote for Moore do not identify as evangelicals, yet the focus on religious differences driving the white female vote is under-discussed.

Black men supported Jones at nearly the same rate as black women. Shouldn't we be thanking black men as much as the women?  White men supported Moore at a higher rate than did white women.  But I have read nothing focusing on the white male voters. 

I posit that the focus on women raises notions of patrimony, this time being promoted by as many women as men.   The focus implies that women are held to a higher moral standard than men and that women alone carry the burden of ensuring pedophiles and other dangerous men are not elected.  Granted, more women than men are victims of sexual harassment and assault which may create a faulty presumption that no women will support a man with a demonstrated history of assaulting women.  But when we raise our expectations that all women will vote as a block, we remove individual autonomy from our Alabama sisters.  Also, we perpetuate what male culture has done to women for centuries - we hold different expectations of women than men under the guise of morality.

Equality ought to mean that women can make as many flawed decisions as men.  Autonomy means that women are free to make their own decisions, even if we disagree with those decisions.

And above all, the social critics should be mindful that this tactic of dividing different groups of women has been used successfully by men for centuries.  Turning the women against each other in their and the public's minds has prevented women from joining together when they do find common ground. 

There is no need to separate out the black female vote when their vote was not very different from the votes of black men.  The only reason for doing is to contrast the black female vote for Jones with the white female vote for Moore.  Thus is the path of dividing and demonizing women.

Margaret Drew, Voting | Permalink


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