PHILADELPHIA (Tribune News Service) — California Rep. Katie Hill resigned [Oct. 27], a week after the conservative blog RedState published nude photos of the congresswoman. The website alleged that the freshman Democrat had an affair with a male congressional staffer and had been involved with a female staffer in a so-called “throuple,” meaning a sexual relationship involving three parties.
Hill has denied a relationship with her male legislative director but did admit to and apologize for an affair with her female campaign staffer. She blamed the whole ordeal on an “abusive” ex-husband who was angry they were divorcing and wanted to get his pound of flesh (pun not intended, but unavoidable). Hill said she believes her husband leaked the photos as “revenge porn” to retaliate against her in the middle of their divorce.
The “revenge porn” claims have people clamoring to Hill’s defense, which is what gets me about the reaction to her predicament. Writer Moira Donegan in the Guardian argued that releasing those nude photos was cruel and reeked of misogyny: “Revenge porn, an increasingly common tactic of misogynist rancor, is not par for the acrimonious political course. It is a particularly hateful gesture, meant to humiliate and degrade its target. The very point of revenge porn is to discredit its victims, because in the misogynist logic that propels it, for a woman to have sex is to surrender her claims to privacy, authority, or the belief or sympathy of others.”
Reading these words, I am reminded of Hill’s reaction to the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, who was the target of allegations of rape and sexual misconduct, none of which were proven. Notwithstanding the lack of damning evidence, Hill decided to jump on the -MeToo bandwagon and called the now Supreme Court justice a “serial predator” when she was still running for her congressional seat. The fact that there was no conclusive evidence that he had done anything wrong did not stop the candidate, so it is a bit rich now for someone to suggest that using documented misconduct against her is “misogyny.”
It’s fine to take issue with published nude images of the congresswoman, which did not have to be widely shared to substantiate her affair. But all the outcry about “revenge porn” ignores that Hill has now publicly admitted to a relationship with one of her subordinate staffers.
And this is where I get really angry. The whole idea that a woman who has misbehaved must be treated with special care or else we can play the “misogyny” card is repellent. The idea that a legitimate investigation into the misconduct of a public official is in any way abuse is outrageous. The suggestion that it was OK to essentially comb through the life of Kavanaugh (or other male targets of the -MeToo movement) to find proof of criminal or unethical activity, but doing the same with a woman is a step too far, should make feminists from Gloria Steinem to Alyssa Milano hang their heads in shame.
But the thing is, it won’t. We have seen that even though women demand equal treatment, many will fall back on sexist defense mechanisms, dismissing any allegations that come by way of a man as antiwoman and hand-waving them away.
If revealing private and sensitive material about a man is fair game when trying to assess guilt or innocence, or unethical behavior, doing the same thing with a woman should not be reduced to “misogyny.” We cannot require that the playing field be leveled when women want it to be, but that special hills be left intact for those women who want to be treated with a respect for their private lives that we have lately denied to men.
Some will lecture me about the historical double standards women have faced, being called “sluts” where men who misbehaved were called “studs.” That is true. But that is also irrelevant to a legitimate ethics complaint.
A member of the House of Representatives admitted to an affair. She was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. She had her right to due process but chose to resign.
Nothing to see here — move on.