Last week Roy Moore, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in a special election in Alabama, was accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl and dating at least three other teenage girls when he was in his early to mid-30s. In the wake of these allegations, Moore was interviewed by Sean Hannity. Moore both denied the allegations and said repeatedly that he didn’t remember whether he’d dated teens when he worked at the prosecutor’s office in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But that’s not all he said.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
HANNITY: … I know you put out a number of statements but I think we should address it head on. What … what do you make of these allegations?
MOORE: Well Sean first let me say this. These allegations are completely false, false and misleading. But more than that it hurts me personally because, you know, I’m a father, I have one daughter, I have five grand daughters and I have a special concern for protection of young ladies.
The entire framing of this last bit is off. I am tired to death of hearing men say they support women because they have a wife, or a daughter, or a granddaughter, rather than because women are people who deserve the same rights they have. But that’s not the only problem here. I also don’t like the framework of “protecting” girls and women from rape and sexual assault, and here’s why:
I grew up in a conservative evangelical homeschool community where “protection” was central. Protection meant limiting my freedom and controlling my clothing choices. Protection meant obeying your father, because he was the one placed in authority over you to protect you. Protection meant following the rules, staying inside the fences. Protection is not about empowering women. It’s not about ending the excuses we make for male offenders. It’s about one man guarding his female property from another man.
Moore’s use of the term “young ladies” also bothers me. It is possible that this is just the word he uses, while others might say “girls” or “young women” or just “women.” It’s possible nothing at all is signified by it. Still, the term “ladies” brings to mind a distinction that has often been made between good women (“ladies”) and bad women (“whores”). What happens to those who are not “ladies”?
Let’s move on to the next thing I noticed. While reading through the transcript, I thought at one point that I’d somehow gone back to the top and was rereading the same bit over again. I scrolled back up, and nope, I hadn’t. These were two separate passages.
Here’s the first passage:
HANNITY: Well let me let me give the details. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when you spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on several dates and it did not progress, her words, beyond kissing according to The Washington Post [story] on her. Did that happen?
MOORE: I do not remember speaking to a civics class. I don’t remember that. I do not remember when we … I seem to know or remember knowing her parents … that they were friends. I can’t recall the specific dates because that’s been 40 years but I remember her as a good girl.
Here’s the second passage:
HANNITY: What about Gloria Thacker Deason? Says she was an 18 year old cheerleader when you began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus rosé wine. She’s 18 at the time. The Alabama drinking age at the time is 19. Did that ever happen?
MOORE: No. […] I never provided alcohol, beer or intoxicating liquor to a minor. That’d be against the law and against anything I would have ever done. And I seem to remember her as a good girl or I seem to remember I had some sort of knowledge of her parents, her mother in particular.
What does that even mean? What is a “good girl”?If I were to say I remembered someone as a “good boy” I’d be talking about someone I’d known as a child. And even then I probably wouldn’t use that term, because what does it even mean? If the allegations against him are accurate, Moore is talking about women he dated when they were teens and he was in his 30s. And he says, in two cases, that he remembers his accuser as a “good girl.”
What does that even mean?
I’m reminded again of the dichotomies traditional society has so often drawn between good women, ladies, those worthy of respect and protection, and bad women, whores, sluts, those not worthy of respect or protection. Can we get closer to understanding what Moore meant by saying he remembered these women as “good girls” by providing that context? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I feel like I need to spend some time talking with people on the set of Stranger Things. What did this term imply, in the late 1970s and early 1980s?
One last thing struck me as I read through the transcript:
HANNITY: At that time in your life, let me ask you this you do remember these girls would it be unusual for you as a 32-year-old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17? That would be a 15 year difference or a girl 18. Do you remember dating girls that young at that time?
MOORE: Not generally, no. If [I] did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that.
HANNITY: But you don’t specifically remember having any girlfriend that was in her late teens even at that time?
MOORE: I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.
Moore seemed to feel this last bit was a mitigating factor. That is not a mitigating factor. If you are in your early to mid-30s and you feel you need to ask the permission of a girl’s mother to date her, something is off. The allegations, remember, are that Moore dated girls in their teens when he was in his 30s. Moore responds by saying he doesn’t remember doing that, but he does know he didn’t date a girl without asking her mother’s permission first. To me that sounds like an acknowledgement of the allegations.
I mean, look at how he says it—when Hannity asks Moore whether he remembers having a girlfriend that was in her late teens (the allegations are not limited to girls in their late teens), Moore says “I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” If nothing else, his response is completely off topic.
Whether Moore asked permission of a girl’s mother before dating her is irrelevant to the question of whether he dated teenage girls when he was in his 30s. And to be honest, his repeated statements earlier that he “seemed to remember” that he knew the two of the girls’ parents, that they were friends of his, isn’t helping either. The way he said that came across as though he was positioning himself as peers of the parents of the teenage girls he allegedly dated.
Between his concern for “the protection of young ladies,” his repeated application of the term “good girl” to his accusers, his identification of his accusers’ parents as friends of his, and his insistence that he always asking permission from a girl’s mothers before dating her—not to mention all the times he said he couldn’t remember whether he’d dated teens while he worked at the prosecutor’s office—his interview with Hannity didn’t exactly make Moore look good.
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