Rep. Katie Hill was a first term Democratic congresswoman from California who was a part of last year’s historic, women-led blue wave in the midterm elections. Unfortunately, due to naked photos and videos leaked online on a conservative news medium, Redstate, following public scrutiny, she resigned on Nov. 3.
“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill said in a tweet. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”
There were allegations that Hill had sexual relationships with two of her staffers, which sparked a debate on both sides of the political spectrum around the double standards toward women politicians. Hill admitted and apologized for having a relationship with a young female member of her campaign staff, attached to her resignation tweet.
What is infuriating about the Rep. Katie Hill’s case is that we are in a time period where the internet is more advanced and whenever anything is posted online, it’s there forever.
Secondly, the misconduct around having an affair with her campaign staffer is not too different from former president Bill Clinton’s affair with young White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Even though Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 19, 1998 by 228-206 vote and obstruction of justice by 221-212, he was acquitted by the Senate to finish his second term.
Even though both Clinton’s and Hill’s positions as political officials are different and Rep. Hill chose to resign, the public response towards the leaks influenced her decision.
“I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse,” Hill said in a farewell speech.
“There’s issue about how plenty of people are more fascinated than usual because I think there are both male and female individuals involved that are said to be victims,” said UNO Political Science professor Jody Neathery-Castro, Ph.D. “It connects with her in this set of events.”
Hill is one of the first openly bisexual members of Congress which could possibly contribute to the way allegations have been portrayed. RedState’s headlines add fuel to the perverted interests of the readers by referring to the allegation as a “2-Yr ‘Throuple’ Relationship.”
“Her explanation is that she’s in the middle of this painful divorce and so, these pictures that I thought were private were being weaponized not only by her ex-spouse, but people who shame her publicly,” Neathery-Castro said. “That’s a problem.”
UNO Triota Treasurer Sydney Meier said the case is a stark contrast to male politicians who can sweep sex scandals under the rug without undermining their political career, wherein women politicians cannot.
“If this happened ten years ago, there wouldn’t be nearly the same defense for Katie Hill,” Meier said. “So much progress has been made due to the #MeToo movement, but there are many who view the sexual promiscuity as a much greater crime than masculine promiscuity.”
Meier said when women have scandals, it takes center stage compared to every other thing she has managed to do in her political career.
“Although most male politicians can sweep scandals under the rug within a month, a woman politician’s scandal overruns her entire career,” Meier said.
Meier compared scandals that both President Donald Trump and former Secretary of Defense Hilary Clinton were separately involved in.
“Hillary Clinton will forever be known as the person who kept emails on a private server,” Meier said. “But Trump was able to get over his many scandals leading up to the 2016 election, including sexual misconduct, rape accusations, and even ‘Grab them by the pussy.’”
What we can take away from the Rep. Katie Hill’s revenge porn scandal is that people need to accept women in political offices as humans, just like their male counterparts. They cannot live up to the gendered standards assigned to them, as they often contradict themselves.
“How is a woman politician expected to be assertive, but at the same time passive?” Meier asked. “They can’t be both, so we must learn not to expect a woman politician to act just like a man but look pretty in a dress. Women politicians are themselves, and they deserve to be taken seriously.”
We’re not excusing Rep. Hill’s case because she’s a woman, but because it’s simply unethical to expect women in the political field to be perfect while their male colleagues can have scandal after scandal with little to no consequences. Women are human, too.