Since The Washington Post published a report on Nov. 9 detailing allegations of sexual misconduct with minors against GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore in Alabama, some Republicans in the state have been quick to come to the judge's defense. The accusers ranged from 14-18 at the time of the alleged misconduct, and some of the candidate's defenders are saying that the teens were old enough to consent. Now, #MeAt14 is trending after the Roy Moore allegations and it's a perfect response.
In the report, the women described the thirty-something Moore seeking them out for dates and even an instance where he allegedly took one of them home and had unwanted sexual contact with her. #MeAt14 was started by lawyer Catherine R. L. Lawson on Nov. 9 in response to the defense that Moore's accusers were old enough to justify the alleged misconduct. Lawson tweeted an image of herself with the caption "Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere."
Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and head of the organization Lady Parts Justice, then amplified Lawson's hashtag with a call to action for others. "This is me at 14. I was on the gymnastics team and sang in the choir. I was not dating a 32 year old man. Who were you at 14? Tweet a pic, tell us who you were and pic to the top of your page," she wrote on Twitter.
In response, women posted their own images and stories about what they were doing at that age. Many showed pictures of themselves hanging out with their friends, at school, or at home, and posed a question to viewers: "You cool with a 32 year old man dating me?" By the evening of Nov. 12, Winstead's original tweet had been liked nearly 15,000 times and retweeted nearly 4,000 times.
On Nov. 9, The Washington Post published allegations from four women who said Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties. One woman, Leigh Corfman, described being pursued by the then 32-year-old when she was just 14. She alleged that Moore brought her back to his home where he touched her. “I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she told the publication of the encounter.
In a statement to the Post, Moore denied the allegations. “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and The Washington Post on this campaign,” he said.
It didn't take long for Moore's supporters to do some serious mental gymnastics to justify his alleged behavior.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler said that Moore and the accuser's ages were similar to biblical figures. "Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus," Ziegler told the Washington Examiner.
Riley Seibenhener, chairman of Alabama's Geneva County GOP, took it a step further and blamed Corfman for making a bad decision on account of her age. He told a Toronto Star reporter "I know that 14-year-olds don't make good decisions."
According to the Post, the legal age of consent in Alabama at the time of both Moore's alleged misconduct and now is 16, and a person who is 19 or older having sexual contact with a person who is between 12 and 15 is considered sexual abuse in the second degree.
#MeAt14 underscored how 14-year-olds are incapable of consenting. In other states, the legal age of consent varies and generally begins at age 16. By highlighting how young 14 really is, the hashtag showed the absurdity of Moore's defenders.
But, given that the hashtag focused on the young appearances of the photos, some critiqued #MeAt14 for overlooking the heart of the matter: that no matter how a person looks, pursuing a 14-year-old is reprehensible. While individuals may develop physically at different rates, a 14-year-old is still a child. Some noted that the hashtag didn't speak to their experiences and that by that age, they had already experienced sexual violence.
While several Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain, Sen. Pat Toomey, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have called for Moore to immediately withdraw from the Senate race, the White House left the door open for him to remain. "The President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Nov. 10. Moore has yet to step down over the allegations.
But no matter what he does, when women have to take to Twitter to show just how young 14 years old really is, the bar has fallen way too low.
A previous version of the story stated that the #MeAt14 hashtag originated with Lizz Winstead. In fact, it was started by Catherine R.L. Lawson, and amplified by Lizz Winstead. Elite Daily regrets the error.