As Ed noted on Monday, one chapter of former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill’s career has come to a close. Another, centered on a battle against revenge porn and “right-wing media,” is supposed to be beginning. Fair enough, I suppose. It’s a free country for the moment after all.
But the fallout from this story is turning out to be fodder for yet another installment of the gender wars in the mainstream media. Rather than accepting the fact that “mistakes were made” and Hill was quietly heading off into the private sector, there’s a battle underway for the ownership of her story and where the blame should be affixed. One example of this phenomenon comes to us from Monica Hesse at the Washington Post.
Hesse opens up the piece by literally skipping over the fact that Hill admitted to having a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer and was accused of another with a congressional aide. (Hill denies the latter.) The author does so using the phrase “the situation was sad and tragic, blah blah, #MeToo, #MeToo.” This is the equivalent of Elaine from Seinfeld “yada yadaing” over sex on a recent date. From there, Hesse gets down to “what’s really important” about the Katie Hill story.
The stories weren’t presented as breaking news so much as humiliation bombs: They included multiple naked photos of Hill, plus revelations that her estranged husband had shared such images under online threads called “wifesharing,” and other X-rated unprintable terms. The inclusion of photographic “evidence” was unnecessary by any measure. The photos did not, after all, address the matter of whether Hill had abused her position — the only germane issue, given conversations we’ve all been having about workplace power dynamics and coercion. The point of the images was to imply that Hill was a kinky slut. The point was shame.
Here’s another instance, featuring an interview with attorney Carrie Goldberg. The entire thing focuses once again on the concept of revenge porn, with only a passing nod to the idea of abuse arising from the imbalance of power when the boss gets into a sexual relationship with an aide or staff member. Those pictures, we are led to believe, weren’t germane to the allegations of abuse, but only meant to “slut-shame” Hill.
How is this even part of the conversation? Show me one credible person in the media who was saying that Hill needed to resign because she was a lesbian or because there were nude photos of her. I’ve yet to see such claims. The question was always whether or not she had improperly engaged in sexual relations with her underlings.
And keep in mind that Hill initially denied any inappropriate relationship with the campaign aide. Consider the fact that if all we had was an allegation from an estranged husband and a denial from Hill, we’d be stuck in a “she said, she said,” situation with neither of the “shes” owning up to anything. But when a picture surfaced of Hill sitting and brushing the aide’s hair while completely naked, it became impossible to keep up the denials. The leaked text messages helped to seal the deal.
Hill not only engaged in the inappropriate relationship but when confronted about it, her first impulse was to lie and cover up the scandal. Were it not for what’s being called “revenge porn” now the story might never have been told. These attempts to obfuscate what Hill actually did and turn her into the victim aren’t doing anyone any good. If we’re going make everyone in elected office toe the line when it comes to inappropriate office relationships (which is probably impossible to begin with), it has to apply to everyone equally.