Cultural Mysogyny and the Defense of Norm McAllister

Well it appears that Norm McAllister may soon face his fellow Senators in an expulsion hearing initiated by fellow Republican Senator Joe Benning, who makes a very effective case for expulsion in this editorial.

It’s fairly clear from Senator Benning’s words that he appreciates the over-arching issue that too many still seem to ignore: Mr. McAllister admits to having sex with his teenaged employee.

That is just plain wrong.

The wrong is amplified by the fact that Mr. McAllister has sworn an oath to serve and protect his constituents, one of whom is that child.

Others, including his fellow Franklin County Republican senator, Dustin Degree, say they will support the expulsion, but only because Mr. McAllister, having earlier been stripped of his committee assignments, has lost his ability to effectively represent the interests of his constituents at the Statehouse.

Beyond that, Sen. Degree and others say that Mr. McAllister is “innocent” until proven guilty of the charges in a court of law.

That position ignores his own admission of having violated someone whom most of us would readily regard as a child.

Mr. McAllister apparently debates the exact age at which he began forcing himself on her, insisting that she was “at least sixteen;” but does that make it any less an act of abuse?

This reluctance to judge Mr. McAllister in the court of public opinion is very puzzling to me, since it is routinely done to less influential individuals under far less damning circumstances.

As a woman, I cannot help but wonder whether or not, if the young victim were male rather than female, outrage concerning the magnitude of Mr. McAllister’s admitted violation would be greater.

If Mr. McAllister had violated a sixteen year old boy who worked on his farm, I suspect he would have been publicly shunned as soon as the news became public.

As things now stand, Mr. McAllister feels free to stroll around the county fair as if nothing had happened, insisting on his innocence.  According to online comments, some people apparently wish to see him completely exonerated; they’re talking about ‘poor Norm McAllister’ and the injustice of it all.

Because his victim was a female there seems to be a question in some people’s minds as to whether or not what this 70-year old man did could technically be regarded as rape.

Something in the culture suggests to them that sixteen-year-old girls can give their consent to violation by employers who are old enough to be their grandfathers.

What that says about some of my neighbors I find truly disturbing.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

3 thoughts on “Cultural Mysogyny and the Defense of Norm McAllister

  1. I talked to a reporter who has been covering this story and we agreed that the silence around Franklin County shows how uncomfortable issues of sexual violence make us. It gets personal fast. What have the power dynamics been in our relationships? Is it “normal” for men to use power and authority to coerce women? There’s a lot of ugly in this story, but the truly scary thing is when you have to turn a light on your own life and think about these issues. Most people would rather just not talk about it- and that’s what allows people to kid themselves that the kind of behavior we’re seeing in this case is acceptable (or at least just how it’s always been).

  2. I think your point “If Mr. McAllister had violated a sixteen year old boy who worked on his farm, I suspect he would have been publicly shunned as soon as the news became public” was a very powerful indictment of our culture.

    Of course, you are right about that. And, of course, this society treats certain sexual acts as permissible and others not so much. But it is evident that young females are not given the rights and respect of most of society.

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