Over the weekend, another viral news headline spilled over into Twitter, where it turned into a telling hashtag that a flood of women rallied behind. After news broke of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl, which occurred when the 70-year-old was in his 30s, thousands of women took to the social media site to share photos of what they were doing when they were 14 with the hashtag #MeAt14. Now, the thousands of women in these sepia-toned photos are demanding Moore to step-down.
Amidst the flurry surrounding the hashtag, women are stepping up to school Twitter and Moore on some various points, including the fact that 14 year old girls are not mature enough to consent to having sex with men who are 32 years old.
— Alyssa Galella (@woodlandalyssa) November 11, 2017
In an article by the Washington Post, a number of women accused the senate candidate of sexual abuse. One of the alleged-victims claims she was 14-years-old when Moore, who was 32 at the time, molested her. After Moore denied the reports, Republicans from his home state rushed to his defense and attempted to normalize the woman’s claims.
“Other than being with an underage person, he didn’t really force himself,” Alabama Geneva County GOP chairman Riley Seibenhener said.
“It’s not ‘forcible rape,” he added. “I know that 14-year-olds don’t make good decisions.”
Then Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told The Washington Examiner to consider the Bible amid these accusations, saying, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Since the initial claim, four additional women have come forward with their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault against Moore, members of the Republican party, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called for Moore to drop out of the race and stories have surfaced of Moore’s inappropriate behavior towards young girls at malls in his area.
By the weekend, #MeAt14 went viral and lit up conversations surrounding the age of consent and whether 14-year-old girls can genuinely make the “decision” to consent to having sex with an adult, and reiterating that no blame should fall on them.
Many women used the hashtag to share photos of themselves and to highlight all of the things that they were doing at 14, instead of thinking about having a relationship with a man that was 32-years-old.
— Sandra Londino (@SandraLondino) November 12, 2017
School dances, quinceañeras, Harry Potter, boys and being grounded were just a few of the priorities women recalled having on their minds at 14.
#MeAt14 had just started high school, looking forward to my Quinceañera, having a phone in my room, being allowed to wear makeup, and go to the movies with my friends without a chaperone. Latina moms, amirite??? #JustAKid
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— Patricia (@patrijpg) November 13, 2017
Some women used the hashtag to remind users that by 14 they were dealing with their own histories with sexual assault.
I was already a victim of sexual violence by this time. Too many 14-year-olds are caught in a system that protects and enables perpetrators at the expense of safety and justice. #MeAt14 pic.twitter.com/SyAEPEqHsX
— Dani Bostick (@danibostick) November 12, 2017
Others used the hashtag to point out that the message behind the photos didn’t entirely hit the mark.
— Rosana Resende (@Tropibrazuca) November 13, 2017
As some were quick to point out, not all women develop at the same rate or enter their teen years with mouths full of metal or pimply faces. Some hit 14 and physically appear fully developed and mature, or are exploring their sexuality. Their point: appearance of maturity, or a lack there of, does not a consenting 14 year old make. Many stressed that Moore and other men like him should be held accountable for taking advantage of girls who are too young. By ensuring to include these observations in their tweets, users emphasized that no 14 year old should be held responsible of consenting to sex with an adult man.
Here’s hoping that the wash of photos portraying “tender” and “innocent” girls of this age does not drown out this message.