Column

Katie Hill Was Brought Down by the Same Forces That Enable Weinstein

The congresswoman is being punished for a crime she’s the real victim of

Credit: The Washington Post/Getty

OnOn Sunday night, California Rep. Katie Hill announced her resignation from Congress. Her exit follows the publication of nude photos, allegedly leaked by her estranged husband, on RedState and in the Daily Mail; as well as the disclosure, again by her estranged husband, of her affair with a former campaign aide. The relationship was consensual, but unethical — arguably worthy of resignation, yet a mistake that many of her male colleagues have made without having to leave public office.

The truth is that it wasn’t the affair that ended Hill’s time in Congress — it was the explicit photos. More accurately, it was “revenge porn” that killed her career.

Revenge porn is a form of domestic and sexual abuse. It’s a way to control, humiliate, and punish. In fact, Hill characterized it as such, writing in her resignation letter that she needed to step down “so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation.”

Make no mistake: Hill was the victim of a crime, but she’s the only person being punished. And her resignation is just the latest in a recent spate of sexist wins, reminders that any progress feminism makes is sure to be met by a backlash that is just as strong.

Just last week, for example, Harvey Weinstein — a supposedly universally reviled abuser — showed up at a showcase event for young artists. When comedian Kelly Bachman called Weinstein out during her set, however, she was booed and told to “shut up” by someone in the audience. Comedian Amber Rollo was called a “cunt” by one of Weinstein’s friends after she called him “a monster” offstage, and actor Zoe Stuckless was kicked out of the venue for asking why people were acting normally in the presence of a serial rapist. “Nobody is really going to say anything?” she said.

This was never about Hill’s affair, but about the desire to humiliate her by sexualizing her in public.

Wasn’t Weinstein supposed to be the worst of the worst? Someone we all agreed was a bad guy? Yet Weinstein not only had friends with him, including two young women, he had sympathizers in the crowd — and on stage, apparently. Another male comedian later chatted with Weinstein as if he wasn’t accused of assaulting dozens of women.

How effective can #MeToo be if a serial rapist can still function in polite society? The same goes for Hill. It’s wonderful that America voted in a record number of women, but to keep them there, we need to be able to defend them from the kind of sexist attacks that women in power are most vulnerable to. (Again, this was never about Hill’s affair, but about the desire to humiliate her by sexualizing her in public.)

These continued sexist wins — whether Weinstein, Hill, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, or an audience cheering for Louis C.K. when he returned to stand up — feel like they’re gaining steam.

Feminism is building power — socially, politically, and culturally. Whenever that happens, the status quo fights back. It’s expected. But when the backlash starts to roll back any win we had — whether abortion rights or ousting a female politician via sexual shaming — we are losing the larger battle.

If we want to make progress that sticks, Americans need to push back harder against the backlash. Right now, every setback matters.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store