On Sunday, Oct. 27, Katie Hill announced her resignation from Congress following a scandal over her relationship with a staffer while campaigning for Congress. This came after a right-wing political blog posted nude photos of her and accused her of being involved in an affair while she was in the process of divorcing her husband, who she has stated was abusive. She was also accused of being in a polyamorous relationship with her husband and a female staffer towards the end of her relationship with him.
Those on the right have spent the past two days arguing that it was necessary or right for Hill to resign because of her relationship with a younger, less powerful staffer who she had power over since she was their boss, and that’s not an unreasonable argument to make. The problem is that that argument is being made by the party that has Donald Trump and his many assault and harassment scandals as their figurehead. This is the same party who vehemently supported Roy Moore, who was accused of assaulting or harassing eight women, some only teenagers at the time.
While in an ideal world, we should be concerned about a relationship between a boss and subordinate, I do not believe that it’s reasonable at this point in our national discussion. There is a large difference between a questionable, but consenting and adult relationship between two people and things like being a 40-year-old man trying to have a relationship with a 16-year-old or sexual assault or harrassment. We have a president who has repeatedly acted as though accusations of assault or harassment, against himself or people he likes, are false or fake or simply ignored them. But when a female Democrat, is accused of something far less severe than what Trump himself has been accused of, the right wing puts a massive amount of time and effort into discrediting her and trying to convince her to resign.
This double standard is incredibly problematic. Women are held to a much higher standard than men, especially when it comes to relationships. I think a large part of this is due to how sex is viewed differently when it comes to men versus when it comes to women. When men have sex, especially sex outside of a married relationship, it’s viewed as just a thing that men do. But when women have sex outside of relationships, it’s often still seen as a taboo thing. Women who do it are often called sluts or whores for daring to have sex, especially sex with more than one person. Meanwhile, men who have had sex with multiple people often use it as a badge of honor of sorts.
The issue of Katie Hill helps illustrate very real problems in our national attitude. The way we talk about women having sex and the way we hold women to a higher standard than men are both large problems that we should endeavor to fix if at all possible. All issues around problematic relationships should be addressed, but we cannot possibly argue that having a relationship with a subordinate is even close to the same thing as having a relationship with a 14-year-old, or sexually assaulting someone. Until we end any and all situations of assault, that must be a bigger focus than consensual relationships between adults who are not being harassed or forced. Katie Hill’s actions may have been questionable, but they are nowhere near as bad as the actions perpetrated and supported by the same Republicans and right-wing media who attacked Hill.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.