Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA.) resigned from Congress so abruptly, that her controversy is simmering and not raging. Two things undergird her anger and the public questions surrounding the MeToo movement, equity, and dare I say, “process.” Lots of talks have been deployed about the process from Republicans over the past month because they have no argument, that makes sense, to defend a president possibly guilty of extortion, and illegal payments to a sexual partner. Arguably, to the credit of Democrats, pressure from within pushed former Senator Al Franken (D-MN.) from office and drove Rep. Hill over the cliff’s edge, sans Susan Sarandon.
The quiet, as of this writing, of New York Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, puzzles me. Gillibrand began a mini stampede of her colleagues, which included current Democratic presidential candidate and California Senator Kamala Harris, calling for Franken’s immediate resignation. “Senator Franken was accused credibly by eight women of groping and forcible kissing,” said Gillibrand. “All were corroborated in real-time. Two of them were since he was a senator. And the last one that came to light was a congressional staffer.” Franken’s resignation was on the toes of the burgeoning MeToo Movement’s drive to stop an egregiously understated, underreported, under-recognized and ignored crime; sexual harassment and violent threats against women. Mr. Franken murmured about the process and held on initially with unconvincing arguments against his ouster but eventually threw in the towel.
Congresswoman Katie Hill has no charges of forcible or nonconsensual sexual contact lodged against her, so the story has been convoluted and conflated into a reverse question of MeToo. What is lost in the argument is the same questions of ethical judgment that haunts men. Sleeping with a staffer willing or not, in the midst of a congressional race is bad news. I am happy Ms. Hill had the courage to withdraw from her seat and continue her fight for a bigger cause, the protection of women. At the same time should a woman be excluded from matters of judgment and ethics when their sexual choices potentially affect their public service?
Obviously, I am not a woman and can never approach the subject with the same insight; but one of the insulting expressions I have heard over and over since this controversy broke out, mainly from women is, “poor woman.” A part of maintaining your legitimacy in—a space is demanding, not asking for equity, both good and bad. Katie Hill has occupied that space quite adequately. She has spelled out what she feels was her bad judgment, separated and denied the consensual relationship with a staffer on her election campaign team from a current staffer, and they all deny any impropriety took place. In addition, she called out her ex-husband by name, detailing his alleged abuse.
In the light of these facts, the ignorance I have heard, not unexpectedly, from my male colleagues and friends disappoint me; jokes about her sexual preferences and bisexuality, some went so far as to critique her body parts. One of the noiseless successes of the MeToo movement has been quieting the public-political-peanut-gallery from the right side of the congressional aisle. With the likes of Duncan Hunter still sitting in Congress, and Donald Trump in the Oval Office, to Republicans I say, do not let your hypocrisy cup runneth over.
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