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Jacques: Women don't get free pass from #MeToo

Ingrid Jacques   | The Detroit News

The #MeToo movement just turned 2, and women can point to their success in bringing a slew of men to account, including powerful ones such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.

Because of the heightened attention brought by the movement in calling out bad male behavior in the workplace and elsewhere, many companies have put more stringent rules in place governing relationships at work. 

Congress did the same, following the exit of nearly 10 members who’d been accused of inappropriate relationships with staff or being too touchy feely with constituents. 

And guess what? Women have to follow the rules, too. 

Katie Hill, the now former freshman congresswoman from California, resigned Oct. 31 after a claim surfaced she’d had a relationship with her male legislative director, and the release of compromising photos. 

Hill, 32, was the unfortunate target of a smear campaign by her estranged husband, who raised the allegations and also reportedly shared nude photos of Hill with the media. The “revenge porn” most damningly showed Hill, while a candidate, had engaged in a relationship with a female campaign staffer. 

No one should have to go through that kind of public humiliation and shaming.

But if Hill did engage in a relationship with her House staffer (she denies this but has acknowledged the affair with the campaign aide), she’s in violation of new rules put in place following the allegations against the likes of former Michigan Congressman John Conyers and former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who both resigned following accusations. 

It doesn’t matter that Hill’s a woman, bisexual or a woke millennial. 

She screwed up. 

In her resignation speech, Hill did apologize but she also defiantly pointed to a “double standard” and a “misogynistic culture” that led to her decision to step down (and ward off an impending ethics investigation).

“The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders,” Hill said during her final floor speech. “Because the more we show up, the less power they have.”

The call for girl power is fine, but women also need to play by the rules that they’ve helped create. If women like Hill think they should be treated differently just because they are women, then that’s the real double standard. 

Hill made herself look petty by pointing to how Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh remains on the job despite (unsubstantiated) allegations hurled against him. And like most women involved with the Women’s March and #MeToo, she called out President Donald Trump, who’s also faced accusations of sexual misconduct. 

It's not as if men have gotten away unscathed. Dozens have lost their jobs. Including McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, fired this week over a consensual relationship he had with an employee. The company’s policy states such relationships aren’t allowed, and Easterbrook paid the price.

Just as Hill did. 

Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, recently noted in the Washington Times that while Hill has a right to call out the revenge porn, she shouldn’t play the victim card:

“This refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions as women is a slap in the face to every person who has worked diligently to help women ascend the ladder of power. Equality, however, is only genuine when we prove that we are capable of taking responsibility for our actions and the choices we make.”

There are plenty of reasons why oppressive rules governing workplace relationships could backfire on women, and even hamper their careers. Yet these behavior guidelines are one of the effects of #MeToo, and women don’t get a pass. 

Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques