Because males in power possess the sexual maturity of McLovin, here we are again.
In a new Buzzfeed News report, an unnamed GOP staffer likens congressional campaigns to “summer camp,” except if summer camp were a hotbed of sexual harassment. One former Democratic campaign staffer tells Buzzfeed that the sexist campaign culture is allowed to persist in because “there’s no adult in the room”:
Several women said verbal sexual misconduct — inappropriate jokes and comments about women’s clothing and bodies — can be fairly routine on campaigns, with most saying it’s unclear who they would file a complaint with if a problem came up, because there’s “no adult in the room,” as one former Democratic campaign staffer put it. Because the focus is ultimately on winning, several women said they’ve either ignored, laughed off, or tried to play along with comments that made them uncomfortable and focused on their work.
“Campaigns are breeding grounds for inappropriate humor. The culture is just more raunchy than the typical workplace,” another former Democratic campaign staffer said. “There are a lot of people replaying prior experiences in their heads and wondering, ‘Was there a line crossed?’”
The report focuses on the experience of a 25-year-old woman who claims to have been harassed multiple times by Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nevada) while on the campaign trail last year. The woman tells Buzzfeed that Kihuen made frequent advances, including touching her thigh and “joking” that they should get a hotel room.
Because there was no formal workplace structure, she says that she quit and then reported the incident to a staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which didn’t do anything. The DCCC raises funds and helps to organize campaigns but ultimately doesn’t oversee individual campaign operations.
As we know, Capitol Hill is rife with sexual assault allegations to the extent that the House got a bipartisan majority to pass a measure requiring lawmakers to undergo anti-harassment training, and a Democrat is running for Michigan attorney general right now on the fact that she does not have a penis, literally, the word “penis” is in a campaign ad.
The Atlantic noted this week that Capitol Hill dodged its reckoning after the famed Anita Hill episode in the early nineties. While the shocking display of flat-out sexism and bullying against Hill, who’d accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, resulted in an uptick in female representatives elected in 1992, the real reforms never came to pass. From the Atlantic:
Yet when it came to Congress as a workplace, the accomplishments were more limited. The nub of the problem was that, unlike the executive branch, there had not been civil-service protections for jobs on Capitol Hill. Congress has resisted any kind of institutional infringement on its prerogatives based on claims about the constitutional separation of power. Ohio Democratic Senator John Glenn and others called Capitol Hill “The Last Plantation” as a result of these exemptions. His original reference was to the congressional insulation from civil-rights laws, but by the 1990s, he and others were using the term to talk about gender relations as well.
Nancy Pelosi and DCCC chairman Ben Ray Luján are both calling on Kihuen to resign. Kihuen is of course sorry now, stating:
The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable. I take this matter seriously as it is not indicative of who I am. I was raised in a strong family that taught me to treat women with the utmost dignity and respect. I have spent my fifteen years in public service fighting for women’s equality, and I will continue to do so.
So we can thank him for his service to women on the way out.