BECAUSE She is a Woman
Rep. Katie Hill flipped a Republican seat in the House of Representatives, one of forty such flips in the Democratic wave of 2018. By nearly 10 points. She is part of the class in the House that reduced the Republican representation in the Congressional delegation of the most populous state in the union to single digits.
Rep. Katie Hill is a freshman co-representative to the House leadership. She is assigned to the Armed Services Committee, the Science and Technology Committee, and the Oversight Committee.
Rep. Katie Hill is not perfect. She admitted to having a consensual affair with a member of her staff, which ended up being the subject of a House Ethics investigation.
Rep. Katie Hill is a survivor of abuse from a previous marriage. A right wing outlet released private, salacious photos of hers along with publishing the allegations of the affair, photos which had nothing to do with the affair itself, except the possible source of the photo, Hill’s former husband. Revenge porn is a heinous, outrageous, and gross practice that seeks to re-victimize a survivor who leaves an abusive relationship. Revenge porn has always been disgusting, and in many states a crime - including, thankfully, the home state that Katie Hill and I share - but in the age of social media, we have somehow allowed it to become “news.”
But let’s get one thing straight. Katie Hill did not have to resign from Congress because of any of these reasons. She did not have to resign from Congress because she’s a freshman who beat a Republican incumbent and embarrassed Republicans in the home state of the House’s highest ranking Republican. She did not have to resign from Congress because she has already proven herself to be leadership material.
She did not have to resign because there was an ethics probe into her affair, or even because of the deplorable excuses for human beings who publicized revenge porn against her. There is one dominating, overarching, key reason she had to go.
Because she is a woman.
Because she. Is. A woman.
Sure, Republicans want her seat - California’s 25th Congressional District - back, and they’ll do anything to get it. But not this. Not for a man. Certainly not against a white man. Sure, she had an affair. But the history of Congress (to say nothing of the presidency) is replete with men who have had affairs and gone on to be just fine. Sure, revenge porn is disgusting and criminal no matter whom it is used against. But had the “leaks” targeted a man - especially a heterosexual man - everyone would be talking about what a heartless canker sore the woman leaking them is.
Wasn’t Anthony Weiner’s career ended because of the release of underpant photos? Yes, and (a) Weiner sent the photo himself, and (b) he was not the victim of abuse and the photos were not possessed or released by an abuser.
Katie Hill is being made to suffer agony, ridicule, and the loss of the capacity to represent the community that elected to Congress because - and only because - she is a woman whose private photos are being weaponized by, as her letter of resignation says, “hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation.”
This is possible because she is a woman.
This is possible because we live in a society that trivializes, commercializes, stigmatizes, and weaponizes women’s bodies. We live in a society in which young men who have multiple sexual partners are celebrated as studs and young women who have sex with more than one man are shamed as sluts. We have created - in the most advanced and richest society known to mankind - a climate where men are valued as the conquerors and women as the spoils.
We - and I’m talking about we, men - have devised a society where a duly elected public servant finds her world become a living hell and impossible to carry out the duties of her office, not because there are private photos of hers but because the exposure of those photos is considered shameful - not for the people sending them to media or for the outlet publicizing them, but for her.
Because she. Is. A woman.
Misogyny (the hatred and exploitation of women) is so woven into our society that it has birthed other forms of hate and bigotry that are not, per se, directed at women. Therefore, people tend to not associate those forms of bigotry with misogyny.
Homophobia and transphobia are two immediate examples. Men who like men are “less than” because we are not “man enough.” Women who like women are violating their rightful place of subjugation to a man. Those whose gender identities are separate from the sex they were assigned at birth - or those of the third sex - disturb and confound the binary, male-female, master-subjugated roles society has determined with women at the short end of the stick.
I cannot fathom the hell Katie Hill has been through and is going through. But as a society, as a nation, as human beings, we can do no greater injustice than to view this incident in isolation. We must ask ourselves what our role is in this system. Men must look ourselves in the mirror and know that if we are not part of the solution, we are the problem. But women aren’t exempt from responsibility in a system that upholds - even celebrates - the trivialization, commercialization, stigmatization and weaponization of women’s bodies. 53% of white women voted for the serial sexual predator that now sits in the Oval Office. And if you think this isn’t your problem because you didn’t vote for Trump, you don’t get to be exempt from society just because your ballot did not agree with the sitting administration.
Ask yourselves. What do we tell our daughters? Ask even harder. What. Do. We. Tell. Our. SONS???
I want to do something. You want to do something. And to that end, over the coming days and weeks, we will be gathering and posting information on what happens to the seat next. Commit to yourself today that you will donate $10, $15, $25 - whatever you can - to the Democratic nominee for when the seat is filled. Commit to walking, knocking on doors, getting the vote out if you are in the district or close. If you have information, or a plan of action, let us know in the comments. Because we cannot let the despicable people behind this get away with this. We must stand up, fight hard, and turn back this crass power grab.
Because she is a woman.
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