I thought the “Katie Hill, feminist martyr” news cycle would arrive sooner, but it’s here now in any event. Thanks to Katie Hill herself.
I will never shirk my responsibility for this sudden ending to my time here. But I have to say more, because this is bigger than me. I am leaving now because of a double standard. I’m leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen, and the right wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me taking without my knowledge, let alone my consent for the sexual entertainment of millions. 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, this time with the entire country watching…
Today I ask you all to stand with me and commit to creating a future where this no longer happens to women and girls. Yes, I’m stepping down, but I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful. It might feel like they won in the short term, but they can’t in the long term. We cannot let them. The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders, because the more we show up, the less power they have. I’m leaving. But we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office. So the fight goes on to create the change that every woman and girl in this country deserves.
I’m not trying to deny my share of blame for what happened here, Hill insists, before spending seven minutes doing zippo to address that subject. Let me remind you: The ethical issue which she was being investigated for had nothing to do with the intimate pics and texts that were circulating but rather the claim that she was boinking one of her congressional aides — a no-no under House rules passed last year in response to sexual harassment by members of Congress. Hill adamantly denies that she did anything inappropriate with that aide but it’s clear enough from the leaked material that she did have an improper sexual relationship with a campaign aide, one who once allegedly texted to her “I am terrified of pushing back against you or upsetting you.” Power disparities necessarily raise worries about consent in relationships between employer and employee. Hill apparently didn’t care about that with her campaign staffer and may not have cared with her congressional staffer.
It’s remarkable, if not at all surprising, what short shrift those ethical concerns have gotten from Democrats and our fearless media relative to the nasty attempt to embarrass her by circulating nude photos of her. “This doesn’t happen to male members in the same way — revenge porn in this respect. It’s horrific,” said AOC, evidently not realizing that something very similar did happen in 2017 to a male member of Congress, who ended up retiring at the end of his term. But then, maybe the fact that it took so long for the “feminist martyr” spin to blossom is proof that the press actually is quietly troubled by her ethical lapse even if it’s not willing to dwell on it in print and on TV. If, for instance, the photos of Hill had emerged without any allegations of relationships with staffers, I think the press would have rallied around her aggressively, and understandably. If exercising bad judgment in using a smartphone to record yourself in a delicate moment is disqualifying for a public official, a lot lot lot of young Americans are ineligible for office. We can’t have that as a blanket rule. And as a young liberal woman, Hill would have been the perfect case for a sympathetic media to draw a bright red line against punishing someone for the sin of sexting.
If not for her ethics problems, which made her much harder to defend.
Hill has every legal and moral right to seek punishment for whoever was circulating the photos but I don’t know what’s to be done in a case where criminal penalties aren’t enough to deter an ex hellbent on revenge. Politico is out with a piece today describing the “generational divide” between older and younger Dems in the caucus over whether the photos are a big deal or not, but if it’s true that Hill was being threatened with the release of *hundreds* more, what could she do? She could vow to fight on and reap the accolades as a feminist who refused to be shamed over her sexuality, but if the photos kept coming the embarrassment might recur week after week. “It goes to show you, we should say to young candidates, and to kids in kindergarten really, be careful when transmitting photos,” said Pelosi to a meeting of Democrats Monday night, a quote Politico cites as evidence of her being out of touch with the younger members of her caucus. But … everyone agrees with that advice. Friends give it to each other routinely. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hill’s friends who knew what was up gave it to her at various points in the last few years, particularly once it became clear she was running for farking Congress.
In any case, although she deserves justice from her ex (or whoever leaked the photos), it doesn’t make the ethical issue go away. Although you’d be forgiven after watching this for thinking, “What ethical issue?”
WATCH: @Repkatiehill Complete Farewell Address
“I am leaving now because of a double standard. I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip.” pic.twitter.com/vYjJgVCPZP
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 31, 2019