Of all the powerful details in this week's Washington Post report that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly made sexual advances toward young women as a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, one of the most striking is the age of one of his accusers. Leigh Corfman was just 14 at the time that the publication claims Moore initiated a relationship with her (a relationship Moore denies). This weekend, opponents of Moore took to Twitter — including Lizz Winstead, who encouraged individuals to share photos and memories of themselves at 14 using the hashtag #MeAt14.
Although he has acknowledged that he dated young girls during the years referenced in the Post investigation, Moore has denied most of the allegations made against him, and painted the accusers as political opportunists seeking to destroy his candidacy. The age of consent is 16 in Alabama.
Since the investigation detailing the allegations against Moore was published, most of the talk surrounding the controversy has centered around politics. There have been reports that mainstream Republicans are looking into alternatives to Moore, and a number of GOP senators have withdrawn their support for the candidate. But outside of the political arena, some individuals wanted to focus on something more personal, and have began asking others how they remember themselves at 14.
Lizz Winstead, a co-creator of The Daily Show and founder of Lady Parts Justice League, first saw her friend Sarah Thyre tweet using the hashtag #MeAt14 yesterday, and immediately decided she wanted to encourage others to do the same.
"I wanted to ask people to put pictures of their 14-year-old selves up, and tell us what we were like at 14, and what we were doing, and that we were not dating 32-year-old men," Winstead tells Bustle. She was particularly disturbed by Moore's precision to Sean Hannity this week that he would not date young girls without their mothers' permission, seeking to excuse himself from the behavior.
Users quickly answered the call, sharing memories with the hashtag #MeAt14 to highlight the innocence of this particular age — and drive home the point that by most standards, dating a 32-year-old at 14 is not normal, nor is it legal.
Jennifer Hayden, the senior social media editor at Daily Kos, remembered, "I had a drawer full of Bonnie Bell flavored lip balm and several Hello Kitty watches. I loved my cat, rolled my eyes at my mom and jumped on my moped right after this photo."
And writer Nell Scovell recalled being in a production of "Guys and Dolls."
Katie Couric tweeted that she was "eating a lot of chocolate chip cookie dough and learning to do the 'hustle.'"
Whether the memories are humorous or painful, nearly everyone who has shared their stories using #MeAt14 has noted that it would not have been normal to date a 32-year-old at this age.
MSNBC commentator Joy Reid called the thread "powerful indeed," noting that, "Fourteen-year-olds are children, not dating material for 30-something-year-old men."
Winstead has been heartened by the responses, telling Bustle, "I don’t even want to drag myself away from the computer because I don’t want to miss retweeting somebody who wanted to put their picture up."
While these stories are reminders of the gravity of the allegations brought against Moore, some conservatives remain staunchly in support of the candidate. One of the more eyebrow-raising defenses of Moore delivered this past week was that of the Alabama state auditor, who used examples from the bible to excuse the behavior in an interview with The Washington Examiner, noting that "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter" when the two met, and "They became parents of Jesus."
Despite the hypocrisy of the responses from Moore's camp, and the reluctance of the politician to recognize the gravity of the accusations, the Alabama judge's Democratic challenger will nonetheless face an uphill battle should the special election take place as planned on December 12. The state remains deeply red, and as NBC News reported yesterday, many Moore supporters have said they will stand by him regardless of the allegations. Some of the voters interviewed for the report said they did not trust the media, and doubted the accounts of Moore's accusers — as truck driver Charles Bodenheimer told the outlet, "If (the allegations) are true, then why did (the women) wait so long to say anything?"
“I really don’t understand pedophile over party,” says Winstead, who notes that just because these women waited to come forward with their stories about Moore doesn't mean their stories are invalid. "A lot of times people come forward later when they see someone could be entering into a gigantic place of power that could put a lot of people in danger," she adds. "It’s pretty gross how people will try to double down on something like Roy Moore."
Regardless of Moore's political fate, #MeAt14, like #MeToo, has encouraged more individuals to come forward with personal stories, and engage in frank discussion about the nature of consent, power, and sexuality.
As for what she hopes people will take away from the conversation, Winstead says, "I hope that seeing these young, innocent wonderful lives in their feeds will remind them that there is no place for a 32-year-old man to be literally inserting himself."