Krystal Ball, the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 1st district, is facing strong scrutiny after a series of old photos were released, depicting Ball at a Christmas party the year after she graduated from college. In the photos, Ball is fully clothed but wearing what some commentators have deemed a sexually suggestive outfit (a tank top and a Santa hat). The photos were taken by her ex-husband, who is shown in another picture dressed as Rudolf – with a plastic penis instead of a red nose.
The outcry about the photos has spiraled out of control, even though they really don’t deserve our moral outrage. Ball spoke out with righteous anger about the coverage of the photos in a video, saying that the media has allowed the photos to distract from real issues like school funding, jobs and the environment.
“It’s sexist and it’s wrong, regardless of political party,” Ball said in a statement. “And I have a message for any young woman who is thinking about running for office and has ever attended a costume party with her husband or done anything stupid on camera. Run for office. Fight for this country. Don’t let this sort of tactic deter you.”
There is great coverage of the Ball fiasco from Joanne Bamberger on the Huffington Post and Jodi Jacobsen on RHRealityCheck. Jacobsen points out that it’s absurd that Ball has to apologize at all, writing,
“I am also hard-pressed to understand why Ball has to apologize or be embarrassed. We are talking about someone at a Christmas party with her husband. We are talking about two married adults goofing around with a sex toy. Big deal.”
Bamberger points to the glaring double standard where sexism in political coverage is decried by conservatives, except when the sexism is being directed at progressive women.
It’s certainly a sobering conversation, especially as a young woman who is increasingly subjected to a culture where our pasts can work against us at any time. If I decide to run for office in ten years, will photos of me at a costume party last year resurface as “evidence” that I’m not fit to govern? Will the fact that, as part of an attempt to foster dialogue about sex at my university, I helped bring a feminist pornographer to speak on campus? If people don’t stand up for Krystal Ball now, this doesn’t bode well for my generation, with a neverending supply of photos and blog posts stored seemingly forever on the internet. We need to get over this controversy – because at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with Ball’s ability to govern and everything to do with our sexist hang-ups and desire for scandal.
Photo from Flickr.