The Double Standard & Misogynist Culture That Chased Katie Hill Out Of Congress

Photo: Robin L Marshall/Getty Images.
Update: On Thursday, Rep. Katie Hill addressed Congress in a powerful speech explaining that her decision to step down is a direct result of a double standard. "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," Hill said in her speech. "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."
This story was originally published on October 28, 2019.
When Rep. Duncan Hunter was elected to office in 2008, he took an oath — the same oath as Congresswoman Katie Hill, who announced her resignation on Sunday. Both California representatives were the subject of scandal this past year, and both faced ethics investigations over alleged relationships with congressional aides.
But there are some inescapable differences between their situations: Hunter faces charges on 60 counts for allegedly spending $250,000 of congressional funds. According to prosecutors, the money went toward things like flying his family’s pet rabbit across the country and five extramarital affairs, including with members of his own staff. Meanwhile, Hill just spent several days in the media spotlight for alleged relationships with a campaign aide before taking office, as well as with a congressional staffer (the latter of which she has denied).
Another key difference: Hunter went relatively unscathed as news of his affairs were released, even vowing that a scandal like this won’t get him unseated. He didn’t apologize after his wife pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, either. Hill, on the other hand, was the subject of a media onslaught after RedState and The Daily Mail released nude photos of her. She apologized for the relationship with the campaign staffer, which she said was consensual and occurred before she took office. But, amid an ethics probe against her, which began almost immediately and has yet to yield any results, there has been a right-wing outcry for her resignation.
While Hunter faces a once again pushed-back trial date in 2020, Hill’s ethics probe barely even took off before her resignation on Sunday. Hunter used congressional funds for personal gain and engaged in multiple alleged affairs within the House, while Hill’s relationship, albeit with a subordinate who worked on her campaign, occurred before she entered office. Additionally, many, including Hill, have argued that she is the victim of revenge porn after the release of nude images without her consent. This news is now spurring a larger question: Is Katie Hill’s resignation the result of a major sexist double standard?
Rep. Hunter remains in office, and plans to. In doing so, he joins the ranks of dozens of men who have faced serious allegations and sexual misconduct charges but stay in office: Tennessee Rep. David Byrd, accused of sexual assault by three women, who were teenagers when the incidents allegedly occurred; Justin Fairfax, Virginia’s Lt. Governor, accused of rape by two women; New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who allegedly asked an Assembly staffer for naked photos; and the list goes on.
Hill says she is ready to pursue all available legal options, and plans to help other women fight cases of “revenge porn.”
“My fight is going to be to defeat this type of exploitation that so many women are victims to and which will keep countless women and girls from running for office,” she said in her resignation statement on Sunday.
Hill's biggest misstep seems to have been the relationship with the subordinate. Other than that, for the many feminists who rushed to her defense, this was a clear case of a sexual-misconduct double standard.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, said she believes Hill did the right thing by resigning. "She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a Member untenable," she said. "We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces."
Whether or not allegations against Hill hold up, or her husband’s behavior was truly abusive, Hill left office for reasons that generations of men have not. On top of that, Hill’s privacy was invaded, her alleged unconventional relationship the subject of media fodder. Is any of this truly enough to warrant a resignation?
We've reached out to Rep. Katie Hill's office and will update this story when we hear back.
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