While Katie Hill was not a nationally recognized name a few months ago, most people who follow the news know that the former California representative recently resigned over allegations of an affair. The story made waves, in part due to leaked, private photographs of the representative.
To date, Hill has acknowledged a relationship with a staff member, prior to her inauguration, but denies an affair while in office – which would be a violation of House rules. Whatever the truth is, the fact is that Hill resigned from office on Oct. 27. As she made her final speech on the House floor, Hill expressed a double standard between how men and women are treated during allegations.
Is there a double standard?
Hill’s claim is that men in power have been accused of similar (and more serious) ethical violations. Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh are only a few well-known politicians to face allegations. In those cases, each maintained their position. Al Franken notably resigned from the Senate in 2018.
It’s not all anecdotal evidence though. The Washington Post notes studies and real life data reflecting different punishment for women than men. In these cases, women typically received harsher penalties for infractions that were similar to their male counterparts.
The same article also explores how partisanship and party lines influence people’s view. Democrats, in general, place more importance on this type of allegation. This means the Democratic party is more likely to punish more harshly, the Post argues, while Republicans favor a “closed ranks” approach.
Social perception complicates it even more. Studies show that women are viewed as more honest than men. Ironically, this means there is greater disappointment and, consequently, more punishment when a woman does violate the public’s trust.
Real life implications
Besides politics, what got us to the point where we’re holding this discussion about Katie Hill?
There is a lot of evidence that women and men aren’t held to the same standards. This isn’t just a problem for celebrities and politicians. Our judicial system metes out punishment every single day.
Do double standards influence criminal penalties? Should they?