As female lawmakers, they are by themselves also powerful. Yet it seems being in position of power and influence did not spare female lawmakers from being subjected to sexual harassment by their own male colleagues.
After allegations of sexual harassment perpetrated by powerful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein were revealed to the public, an astounding spate of other disclosures of sexual abuses by other men in the entertainment, business, and the media, among others followed suit. Now, one current and three former female lawmakers share to The Associated Press that they, too, in fact, have been victimized by sexual harassment by their male fellow members of Congress.
Republican Rep. Mary Bono shared that for years she endured the suggestive comments from her male lawmaker colleague in the House, with the congressman at one point even obscenely telling her that he was thinking of her in the shower. She had the courage then to confront the man and he backed off. He continues to be in Congress.
Bono who had a 15-year stint in Congress is not alone with her story. The incidents of sexual abuses against these Congresswomen happened years aor decades ago, mostly when the women were young newcomers in Congress. They may take many forms including isolated comments at one hearing, to repeated unwanted come-ons, to lewd remarks and even groping on the House floor. The female lawmakers’ experiences with sexual harassment from their own colleagues prove that no woman, even those at the highest reaches of government, is immune from sexual abuses.
Former California Sen. Barbara Boxer said it’s about power. A male colleague of hers in the 1980s also made a sexually suggestive comment, using the traditional congressional parlance, said that he wanted to “associate “himself with her remarks- but adding the lewd comment that he also wanted to “associate with the gentle lady.”
Equally enraging was the fact that the comment was met with general laughter and an approving second from the committee chairman. Boxer made a motion then for the remark to be removed from the record.
The female lawmakers opted not to reveal the identities of their tormentors, but confirmed that at least two of the men continue to serve in Congress. None of them ever reported what happened to them in the past. Some said it was not clear at the time how to go about filing a complaint against a male colleague. At least three of the four female lawmakers only told what was done to them to their friends or aides.
From the female lawmakers experiences, it appears that then and now the boys’ club environment in Congress prevails where male lawmakers can feel empowered to target not only staffers but even their own peers.
The women’s sexual harassment experiences took place in the backdrop of broader gender inequities in Congress, where women still remain a distinct minority, who comprises close to only 20 percent of members in the House and Senate.