The massive deluge of stories from women (and men) who have experienced sexual harassment (and sexual assault) by men in power has now hit Capitol Hill. Following last week’s furor over Congress insulating itself from lawsuits from interns who brought such accusations, several former and current women of the House are now telling their own stories — about male members of Congress.
The women gave their accounts to the Associated Press while speaking of the “boys’ club environment” that they endured throughout their terms. Former GOP Rep. Mary Bono claims that one male lawmaker continually harassed her and once “approached her on the House floor and told her he’d been thinking about her in the shower” until she told him to get lost. And former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said she was harassed during a hearing:
“This is about power,” said former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, after describing an incident at a hearing in the 1980s where a male colleague made a sexually suggestive comment. The colleague, using the traditional congressional parlance, said he wanted to “associate” himself with her remarks — adding afterward that he also wanted to “associate with the gentle lady.”
Boxer added that this public interaction was greeted with laughter from other male Senators, and one of them even added “an approving second.” In response, Boxer asked that this degradation be removed from the hearing’s record, and she believes that such behavior functions as a means of stripping women’s power within Congress. Meanwhile, currently serving Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) says that a married member of Congress (who’s still in office) has harassed her repeatedly.
None of the women who gave their stories to the AP named their alleged harassers, for they felt there would be no repercussions from constituents. As Bono lamented, “It is a man’s world, it’s still a man’s world.” She added that she got through it all by “[n]ot being a flirt and not being a bitch.” Sadly, that’s an approach that many women have also adopted and know all too well.
(Via Associated Press)