Women Rise Up (Again)

Doug Jones scored an inspiring win last night against Republican Roy Moore in an Alabama senate race, and it was women voters—especially African American women voters—who spoke unequivocally at the polls and carried him to victory.

“Once again,” Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said in a statement, “we see a huge gender gap, with more women voting for Jones than men.” A gender gap of 15 percent divided the two major-party candidates, with 57 percent of women and 42 percent of men voting for Jones. It was African American women’s votes that drove the gap, according to polling data from Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. African American women nearly unanimously supported Jones, who won 98 percent of their votes, and turned out in numbers rivaling those of the 2008 presidential election. Jones also won 60 percent of young voters, whose turnout increased by 24 points over 2014 (the last statewide race in a non-presidential election year) and 45 percent of college-educated white women.

“Turn out is everything,” Smeal added. “The amazing African American vote, despite all of the obstacles, and college students helped determine the outcome.” If only whites had voted or if only men had voted in Alabama on December 12, Roy Moore would be a Senator-Elect.

Another telling gender gap impacted the election: Last month, several women came forward about their experiences being stalked and assaulted by Moore when he was a District Attorney in his thirties and they were teenage girls. Moore and his supporters attempted to use sexist smears to discredit his victims, but the effort failed—because 57 percent of women voters and 42 percent of men polled believed them. “The people of Alabama have spoken loud and clear,” Smeal said. “A grown man who preys on teenage girls is not a leader, he is a predator.”

Jones and Moore faced off in the special election campaign to fill now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat in Congress—which Sessions had held and won as a Republican for 20 years. Moore, who was removed twice from his post while serving as a state Supreme Court Justice, once for refusing to take down a hanging copy of the 10 Commandments in his government office, spoke nostalgically about slavery and displayed contempt for the LGBT community on the campaign trail. Jones, an attorney known best for prosecuting two of the Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four girls, ran as a pro-choice Democrat.

“Roy Moore wasn’t the first racist, unqualified misogynist to run for office, and he likely won’t be the last,” Smeal said in her statement. “But a clear message has been sent to the United States Congress, and the President of the United States: The American people are demanding a political and cultural change. Women and girls deserve to be heard and respected. We will not be silenced and we will not go back.”

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms. and Contributing Editor and Co-Founder of Argot Magazine; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, Bitch, Mic, MEL, Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was previously Community Director and Feminism Editor. Like everyone else in LA, she once had a podcast; unlike everyone else, she stays pretty zen in traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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