State Legislatures Everywhere Foster Sexually Hostile Environments for Women

Alas, South Dakota isn’t the only state with a Capitol hostile to women. Daniel C. Vock’s new article in Governing says female lawmakers in California, Rhode Island, and other states are reporting sexual harassment and assault in their state legislatures as bad as what we’re hearing happens in Pierre.

Vock says former legislator Angie Buhl O’Donnell is on the right sociological track when she says legislators, lobbyists, and other Capitol critters act like horndogs at summer camp:

Even within the male-dominated political world, state legislatures can be especially treacherous places for sexual harassment to thrive. A makeshift community of lawmakers, lobbyists, staff members, interns and pages convene for long hours – often far from home. Socializing, often with the addition of alcohol, is often par for the legislative course. And there are huge power disparities that make it difficult to police or punish sexual harassment.

And it’s not just legislators who harass women. It’s lobbyists and staffers, too.

“In this [California] legislature, [sexual harassment] is more prevalent among the lobbyists than it is among the members. The lobbyists have nothing to lose. They’re not in the public eye. The members, even though they’re not at home, they still have potential to be outed and named as harassers,” says Susan McKee, who served as a district director for Darrell Steinberg for 17 years, including when he was president of the California Senate [Daniel C. Vock, “As Outcry Over Sexual Harassment Grows, Focus Shifts to State Legislatures,” Governing, 2017.10.18].

Vock notes that increasing the number of women hasn’t reduced harssment or violence against them. If anything, there’s a backlash:

For years, researchers and advocates thought that simply increasing the number of women in politics would reduce the amount of harassment and violence they encountered. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case, even in places where the numbers of women in high government office have been on the rise, says Mona Lena Krook a Rutgers political science professor. “The resistance to women’s participation has just taken new forms,” she says. “There’s been a pushback against women’s inclusion” [Vock, 2017.10.18].

That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t run and we shouldn’t vote for those who do; that means more women should run, and we men should stop acting like Donald Trump and surrender male privilege.

Related Reading: Dr. Krook has two thought-provoking articles on women, politics, and violence:

  1. In this August 2016 blog post, Dr. Krook says gender quotas in the UK Labour Party’s process for selecting members of Parliament produced MPs who were at least as experienced, asked more questions, and brought more healthily diverse viewpoints to Parliament.
  2. In this August 2017 blog post, Dr. Krook says violence of all forms (sexual, physical, verbal) against female politicians has bad consequences for democracy.

8 Responses to State Legislatures Everywhere Foster Sexually Hostile Environments for Women

  1. In light of this ‘sexual revolution’ going on in Pierre, I wonder if the Gov will come clean on why a certain budget department high ranking official was let go?

  2. “We men should stop acting like Donald Trump and surrender male privilege.”

    What does that even mean, Cory? Being born male is a slight against non-males and makes me a sexual deviant and a liability to females everywhere? It seems like you are stereotyping an entire population of people based on the actions of a small minority of that population. Is there any other circumstance in which you condone, or actively participate, in this kind of stereotyping?

    This article, along with a few others recently, are written in response to criminals committing crimes. These dirtbags who assault people – male or female – don’t have the support of the male population any more than female criminals automatically have the support of their female peers. “We men” don’t support rapists or any other violent criminals. I am a man and if I ever heard of any person – male or female – assaulting my wife, my child, my mother, my sister, my father, my nephew, or anybody else I care for, I would stand up for them with every ounce of my being. I would sacrifice everything I have for the people I love, and billions of men around the world would do the same.

    I agree that rape and sexual assault are problems, and I have no doubt that men perpetrate a vast majority of these crimes, but those criminals are still exceptions to the rule. What if all Aberdonians were lumped together and publicly hazed for being fear-mongering, hate-filled bigots just because they share a zip code with the absurdly-commafied AF,TF?

    We can all support the reduction of violence and sexual assault without stereotyping half of the human beings on earth as out-of-control, privileged perverts.

  3. Pierre is going to find itself without much to say when the tax cheating comes from trump.
    City states will rule the day

  4. Does it have to be a member of your family for you to stand up against assault, Ryan?
    That’s part of the problem why women don’t go forward, they’re not taken seriously and not given the support they need.

  5. Mr. Ryan, this is The Blog of Stereotyping, indeed. TBS aside, we should catch and neuter these bosstards, but it’s tough to do if we don’t know who they are.

  6. I said I would stand up for anybody I care about, but I’m not going to pretend I actively help the cause in some tangible way, just like there are a million important causes you aren’t actively involved in either, Jenny.

    And I think there should be more support for victims of all types of violent crimes, but men are only half the population so that support has to come from everywhere, it isn’t lacking solely in men.

  7. “Everywhere?”

    Surely in some Shangri-la type place, like Minnesota or California, this never happens. Or the headline is wrong, and casts stereotypes on all legislatures. Kind of like how all libbies are more prejudicial than most.

  8. Francis Schaffer

    I am glad you will stand up to anyone and everyone who would sexually assault a member of your family. For many of my fellow survivors the perpetrator was a father, uncle, brother, grandfather, teacher, a trusted member of the family; not a stranger. For some, they told and were not believed.