“Hollywood for Ugly People”
Jackie Speier on the culture of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill
As the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum in October, California Representative Jackie Speier decided it was time to share something she’d kept private for many years. More than four decades earlier, she had been approached by the chief of staff to the congressman for whom she worked. Without warning or consent, the man — nearly 30 years her senior — grabbed her face and stuck his tongue in her mouth. “So I know what it’s like to keep these things hidden deep down inside,” Speier said in a video she posted to YouTube.
“I know what it’s like years later to remember that rush of humiliation and anger.” In response to the video, congressional staffers began reaching out to Speier with their own stories of abuse.
The following month, Speier joined with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other colleagues to introduce the ME TOO Congress Act, which would overhaul the way allegations are handled on Capitol Hill. (Key provisions of the legislation have since been folded into a separate bill that’s expected to move through Congress.) “As one of the victims who went through that process said as she was sitting on my couch crying,” Speier told me, “ ‘The process is almost worse than the sexual harassment.’ ”