ESPOSITO: Katie Hill’s treatment indicative of double standards faced by women

Column: Unapologetically

Amid rumored relationships with staff members and sexual photos posted online of former-Democratic Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), she announced her resignation on Sunday. 

Hill was elected this past election cycle, turning her California district blue for the first time in decades. She was praised as a rising star by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and seen with a promising future ahead of her. 

As rumors circulated of a relationship between her and a staff member amid divorce proceedings with her husband, pictures were leaked to a British tabloid of her engaging in sexual activity with her husband and an unidentified woman. The tabloid has since continued to post more leaked intimate photos of Hill. 

Hill stated she will be pursuing legal actions against the tabloids and accuses her “abusive husband” of leaking the photos out of spite. She still chose to resign her position, saying that by staying in the limelight, she offers a platform for political smearing operations. Pelosi and other House members supported Hill’s decision to resign. 

By resigning her position, Hill sacrificed the good she could have accomplished for the country. Rutgers’ own Kelly Ditmar told ABC news network in the wake of this resignation, “Unfortunately, the experience that Katie Hill is having in terms of harassment and sort of abuse in a sexualized nature is not entirely new to women running for office.” 

Hill, being one of Congress’ first openly bisexual women and a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ and women's rights, was a light for many people experiencing harassment and oppression. She claims for the good of her constituents, she was forced to step down.

But, in a country with a president who has faced numerous sexual harassment claims and a Supreme Court Justice who was sworn in just last year amid a rape allegation, what makes Hill’s acts unforgivable? What qualifies Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald J. Trump’s scandals as something to move on from, but Hill’s acts as unforgivable? 

In the age of the smartphone, where virtually everyone has dirty laundry, Hill’s inability to fight her battles against online trolls will now discourage women from standing up for themselves.

Hill was the executive director of nonprofit organization People Assisting the Homeless. She raised it from a grassroots company to one of the biggest nonprofit organizations in California. 

And because of her inability to fight back against the slander she was given for being a sexual woman, she will no longer be remembered for her fierce leadership or her desire to make the world a better place. 

This sends a message, this discourages other people from standing up against oppression and speaking their minds. We live in fear, fear ruled by the internet and those on it. 

Hill should have fought for her rightful place in Congress. She should have acknowledged the rumors, acknowledged the photos and refused to back down from them. 

There is no law against being a bisexual woman and no law against sexual activity. Hill, unlike Trump or Kavanaugh, was never accused of being a sexual predator.

It is clear now: This is a man’s world, and they can recover from allegations and scandals while women cannot. Hill made that known to the world. 

In a few years, when Generation Z begins its era of leadership, either two scenarios will occur. These internet scandals will have become too common to matter, or everyone of minority will be too afraid to do anything to put them in the public eye. 

We can choose to live in fear or we can start acknowledging our mistakes and trying not to be remembered for them. We have grown up with the phrase “everything you put online stays forever.” 

Yet, some things, like Hill’s leaked photos, are out of our control. Let us not cower to them. In Hill’s released resignation statement, she vowed to aid in the fight to end this era of internet slander. 

“I am leaving now because 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," she said.

Many of Hill’s supporters hope that her powerful statement and the unfortunate circumstances she was given will hopefully start a bigger conversation on the wrongful culture we have that favors men over women.

But the biggest statement of all would have been if Hill refused to resign and accomplished all the things she was capable of, regardless of powerful men who were afraid of even more powerful woman.

Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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