Wiktionary defines slut shaming as, “The act of making a person (especially a woman) feel guilty or inferior for sexual activity, desires, expression, or circumstances that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations or religious or cultural standards.” I’ve run across the term before, but it mostly seems to show up on social media where anyone can wake up in the morning and decide that they are the arbiter of all aspects of morality. They generally begin by preaching to the rest of the world about how terrible some people are based on anything from their history of sexual partners to what they decided to wear to work that day. And let’s be honest here… most of us have felt the temptation to judge other people on some basis or another from time to time, perhaps for entirely understandable reasons. But how does that intersect with the world of politics?

I wasn’t entirely sure that it would until reading this article in the WaPo this week. We’re not talking about presidential hopefuls or congressional races, but rather the hotly contested race for a seat on the Sonoma, California City Council. One of the members, Rachel Hundley, found herself facing just such a situation when an anonymous individual created a website calling her out for allegedly immoral behavior and posted pictures of her in her underwear and engaged in other activities which the critic felt were below the dignity of her office… or something.

As soon as Rachel Hundley saw the link, her heart sank.

A city council member in the small, quiet city of Sonoma, Calif., Hundley was working from home Aug. 13 when a message from an unfamiliar address popped into her inbox. What she read stunned her. The anonymous email accused the 35-year-old Hundley of being “immoral and unethical.” It then suggested that she drop out of her race for reelection in November. She read the note a few times before the reality of the threat set in. Then she clicked the link.

The now-disabled website, called “Rachel Hundley Exposed,” attacked Hundley for her stance on divisive issues while mayor of Sonoma. It contained photographs mined from Hundley’s social media accounts, including some showing her in a bra and underwear and working at Burning Man, the famed art and music festival. The site, supposedly created by an organization called “Sonoma Citizens for Peace and Cooperation,” called Hundley a “cruel and demented person,” who was “a cancer” that needed to be cut from the community.

Here’s the video of Ms. Hundley’s response to the attacks, posted on the YouTube channel for her election campaign.

As you can see from the video, Ms. Hundley has definitely decided to “own it” as the kids like to say these days. Since the offending website has since been taken down we don’t have all the specifics, but anonymous trolls tend to lose some credibility before they even get out of the gate. I don’t know if there were any allegations about former relationships the councilwoman may have had, but the actual “shaming” taking place appears to have involved pictures she published from Burning Man involving her being out in public in her underwear.

Making decisions such as these is something of a double-edged sword. If you want to go parading around in public in your underwear, it’s not exactly a violation of the law, now is it? Most people’s undergarments cover about the same amount of skin as many bathing suits so it’s really just a question of whether or not it was appropriate to the venue. And we’re talking about Burning Man here, one of the biggest freak shows you’re ever likely to run across. Working at the wine bar (Hundley’s job at the festival) in your bra and underpants is probably one of the more tame sights you’re likely to see at that alternative reality conclave.

But at the same time, not everyone will approve of such a choice, particularly if they’re of a more conservative bent. That doesn’t mean they have the right to tell Hundley where she can go or what she has to wear, but the voters certain can and will take that into consideration when voting if it matters to them. Perhaps a better question for the voters to ask rather than why their councilwoman was wearing her underwear in the desert would be… what the heck were you doing at Burning Man?

You can call it slut shaming or any other type of shaming you wish. You’re also free to deride those who engage in the practice. But the reality is that when you step into the political arena, voters will consider any number of factors, some of which you may not have even imagined. And opposition research teams will dig up anything they can to throw at the wall and see if it sticks. While it may be an unpopular point of view, I generally fall back on the same rule of thumb when it comes to social media usage. If you don’t want people publishing pictures of you naked, in your underwear, having sex or whatever else, stop taking those pictures or allowing them to be taken. Everything on the internet is forever, folks.