October 28, 2019

Katie Hills Resignation Shows Women Have Always Been Held To A Double Standard
It only takes one Google search of Democratic Representative Katie Hill and within seconds, via the first news item that pops up, you see a blurred, but identifiable, naked image of the congresswoman. It is to be welcomed that a politician has taken it on themselves to resign for allegations of inappropriate behaviour. After all, we are yet to see US President Donald Trump or MPs in our own parliament face real retribution for similar allegations since the #MeToo movement hit politics.But discourse around Hill’s resignation is ignoring the disturbing part of this debacle: Hill is a victim of revenge porn. Hill accuses her husband of leaking the photos and calls him abusive. Yet, an online blog decided to publish the blurred photos anyway, something that seems to have been given little consideration by the looks of today’s news coverage of Hill’s resignation.Describing this act of distributing sexually explicit images of an individual without their permission as “revenge porn” doesn’t go far enough to explain the depravity of the abuse that it is.Women in the public eye are expected to meet unattainable standards: be smart but not too smart, be sexy enough to get attention but not too sexy, be confident in your looks but not so confident that you take photos of yourself. Men in politics, and especially here in parliament, get away with affairs and it is overlooked and passed off as boys being boys. But when a woman doesn’t follow the rules – Katie Hill is not accused of assault or harassment, she is alleged to have had sexual relations with staff members – it is talk of the town. And the media will go to town on that woman.Even describing this act of distributing sexually explicit images of an individual without their permission as “revenge porn” doesn’t go far enough to explain the depravity of the abuse that it is. It’s something that many Women in politics worry about and while there is the obvious “be careful what you share via the internet” mantra, women should feel free to take photos of their bodies without worrying that they will be shared nonconsensually.Every single day, we have to dance the fine line between being nice and being a pushover, being assertive and being bossy, being strong-willed and being arrogant.The way Hill has been vilified for her sexuality exposes the double standard all women are faced with: men are celebrated and women are penalised. Women are aware of this too, friends of mine don’t include their faces if they take nudes, and they use apps that hide their identity if they want to send sexual photos to their partners because they’re scared the photos may be used against them. I often worry that if I annoy an ex-partner, photos of me could be shared online. I highly doubt the men I’ve dated ever worry about that.Sexual humiliation and probing into political women’s private lives is not uncommon – we saw this last year with how Carrie Symonds was berated by the media for having a relationship with Boris Johnson. Johnson, however, got off fine and only this month has managed to survive accusations of sexual assault by a respected journalist. Women who express or indicate an iota of confidence or sexual desire, are called “flirty favourites”, and are reduced to the clothes we wear. How many times have you seen people talking about Theresa May’s infamous leopard print shoes? Do you know what Johnson’s favourite shoes are?Women are often slut-shamed and face criticism for how we dress, who we have sex with, and how much of our bodies we choose to reveal publicly or privately, and women in public office face even harsher criticisms.It’s not just sex where women in politics are held to a double standard. Every single day, we have to dance the fine line between being nice and being a pushover, being assertive and being bossy, being strong-willed and being arrogant. Until politicians and the media have some introspection about how they hold women to account and what they expect of women, cases like Hill’s are only going to deter women from entering politics. A study by LSE found that women are put off careers in politics when those of us in it speak out or show the realities we face being women in politics. Researcher Dr Florian Foos said: “When women talk truthfully about the challenges they face, younger women might conclude that politics is not for them.”Women in the public eye have always been held to a double standard – and what’s happened with Hill should make all of us in politics reconsider how we treat women. Tara O’Reilly works in Parliament for a group of MPs. She is the co-founder and chair of Women in Westminster.Related... US Congresswoman Resigns Amid Investigation Into Alleged Affair With Aide Amber Rudd Calls Brexiteer Tory MPs 'Sexist' For Backing Boris Johnson's Deal But Not Theresa May's Stop Saying Women Have A Confidence Problem – It’s An Epidemic Of Mental Illness Caused By Sexism
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