November 19, 2019

The Meaning of the Katie Hill Story

“When Rep. Katie Hill, the California Democrat who announced her resignation on Sunday, admitted to a sexual relationship with one of her campaign staffers, she didn’t hesitate to call it “inappropriate.” Anti-sexual harassment advocates have long pointed out that employers having relationships with subordinates raises troubling issues of consent.

But the media coverage that led up to her resignation didn’t always focus on issues of consent or employer ethics. Instead, the Daily Mail, for example, chose to publish multiple nude photos of Hill, along with a variety of allegations that have nothing to do with relationships with staffers or misconduct of any kind. The website accused Hill of “posing nude on ‘wife sharing’ sites,” for example, something that has no bearing whatsoever on her job as a member of Congress.

In fact, the allegations against Hill only became public after nude photos of the Congress member were shared with the conservative website RedState without her consent. Hill says her husband, with whom she is in divorce proceedings and whom she has called abusive, is responsible.

Everything about Hill’s story, from the way it became public to the way the Daily Mail and other websites encouraged readers to examine her naked body, is inextricably tied to the fact that Hill is a woman. Sexual misconduct allegations against men like Sen. Al Franken or Rep. Blake Farenthold were generally treated as political issues, not salacious stories about people’s sex lives. (Both men ultimately resigned.)”

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