(UPDATED/VIDEO) Treatment of Krystal Ball’s Photos: Sexism? Yes. Need to Apologize? No.


Today, Virginia candidate for Congress Krystal Ball, a Democrat, apologized and said she is embarrassed by and angry about the release of personal photos of her posted on a right-wing blog.  What are the photos?  I have seen one of Ball with her then-husband at a Christmas party.  She is wearing a tank top and Santa hat, he is in Rudolf mode, but with a plastic penis where his red nose is supposed to be. 

And this is a problem….why? Because it must make her unfit for office, or so, as Amanda Hess points out NBC Reporter Bryan Noble suggested.

“The photos are not what you’d expect from a woman hoping to be elected to Congress, and Krystal Ball knows it,” Nobles breathlessly reports. “She’s dressed in a suggestive costume, leading a man she says is her ex-husband around the party on a leash. Her ex-husband has a sex toy strapped to his nose.” He ends the piece: “Despite the odds, she still thinks she can win.”

Hess notes: “Ball is wearing a skirt, a tank top, and a Santa hat; this qualifies her, for some reason, as “scantily clad.””

And of course the blogosphere is reporting on this incident as if it were as important as her positions on school funding, gun control, and global warming.  Only…wait!  They are not reporting on those things at all.

Ball is a thoughtful, articulate, professional woman with a solid grasp of national and state issues.  She is unapologetically progressive. Yet:

“Not much attention has been given to the race for congress in Virginia’s 1st district,” reports NBC12’s page on Virgina politics.  Calling Ball an “upstart” who has run a “spirited campaign,” the site states that “While Ball has been aggressive, her race has not garnered enough attention to be considered a real threat to Wittman, a Republican in a district that has been GOP since the 70′s.”

Translation: The media couldn’t be bothered to pay attention….until some pictures surfaced.

But, notes NBC12 “Ball is now getting that media attention she craves, albeit not for the reasons she had hoped.”

I guess that pretty much tells us how serious the media is about covering issues.

Ball is advised by political experts at the Women’s Campaign Forum to underscore the sexism and I am not second-guessing their advice. The treatment of Ball by the media is blatantly sexist, especially when compared to actual lapses in moral judgment and blatant hypocrisy by people who make morality the centerpiece of their political lives.  Take Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter for one.

She is rightly angry about the release of and focus on the issues and she comes across forcefully in interviews.

“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.”

“Of course, I am embarrassed by these photos,that was the whole point of these political operatives when they put them up. But more than just embarrassed, I’m angry!,” Ball continues. “I’m angry that when we are suffering from high unemployment, record budget deficits and a broken education system, that crass political operatives will resort to the politics of personal destruction when they can’t talk about the issues.”

Ball also noted that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown had once posed nude in a magazine centerfold, “yet it wasn’t a big deal in his campaign.”

Yet while I applaud her response to the coverage–and more to the point, who she is on the issues–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. I wish she would call the media out on their sexism and leave it at that.  There is nothing for which she has to apologize.

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  • amanda-hess

    Did she apologize? I hear her saying, “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.” She did admit that she was “embarassed.” Of course she shouldn’t have to be embarassed, but it sounds like she’s expressing a pretty normal feeling when people are scrutinizing your body—not apologizing for dressing up at a party with her husband.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Amanda,

    Thanks for your comment. I totally get what you are saying and agree it is a normal emotion. And I think she has handled it spectacularly well.

    I do think, however, that anything having to do with sex and real women in our culture is treated differently than for men, and women are supposed to have different reactions.  In a campaign mode, I think most men would have stuck to the “I am angry that silly pix taken of my wife and I…”.

    I think we probably both agree that the issue is created by the media out of prurient interest in a woman, any woman, and sex.  In this case, I’d rather see a single-minded focus on the issues, rather than the innocent, legal activities of two married people six years ago.  If anything, to me it shows she’s normal and has a sense of humor, and is damn smart to boot.

     

    jj

  • gazep

    That’s really plain stupidity on the part of Krystal Ball. She only tainted her image with what she did. She’s a Democrat who’s now running for the 1st Congressional District of Virginia. Think about it readers, what she did really don’t fit with her job as a leader. As a woman I feel embarassed with what she did, she should have been more careful and be discrete in this private matter. I hope this is a lesson learned for her.

  • reproductivefreedomfighter

    Oh, brother.  She went to a costume party and dressed up.  She’s an adult and allowed to do adult things, for pete’s sake.  She wasn’t inappropriate.  As a woman I feel empowered by her standing up for herself and not apologizing for attending a party.   I bet she has sex, too, and probably with the lights on! Gasp!

  • jodi-jacobson

    Going to a Christmas party in your last year in college, with your husband and goofing around is grounds for claiming she has no leadership skills?

     

    Let’s examine all the photos from the frat parties, bachelor parties and (more recent) lobbyist-paid junkets of all the males in Congress and then talk.

  • mechashiva

    Begging your pardon, but even if she had fellated the dildo/nose her then-husband was wearing in front of cameras, it still wouldn’t have any bearing on her leadership capabilities.

  • beenthere72

    She has a great post on Huffingtonpost.com – posted yesterday:

     

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/krystal-ball/the-next-glass-ceiling_b_757819.html

     

    Makes me respect her even more. 

  • crowepps

    They keep saying that insisting that sex be only within marriage doesn’t mean they’re anti-sex, and then they slyly imply that there are a long list of marital sex acts that aren’t ‘appropriate’.  Hey, they were married — they got their ‘license’ to be sexy —  that means ALL the details of their sexiness should be totally off the table.

    Prude: One who is excessively concerned with being or appearing to be proper, modest, or righteous.

  • crowepps

     Think about it readers, what she did really don’t fit with her job as a leader.

    First, she wasn’t a ‘leader’ at the time.  She was a college student.

     

    Second, it is sexist to insist that female leaders must be prudes while ignoring the vulgaries of male leaders.

     

    Third, I cannot imagine why you would or anyone else would be ‘embarassed’ by these photos.  Lots of married women goof around with their husbands and have fun, and even take pictures while doing so because the photos bring back happy memories when viewed later.

     

    I’m kind of embarassed that any woman would tout the notion that marital sex must be fun free and women have to be prissy to be taken seriously.

  • panhandler

    Rule number one of politics: don’t get involved if you don’t like having your life scrutinized. With that in mind, any claim of sexism is nothing short of ridiculous, especially since male candidates often have their characters sent through the ringer without a peep from the “sexism” crowd (see Jack Ryan, for example).

  • colleen

    especially since male candidates often have their characters sent through the ringer without a peep from the “sexism” crowd (see Jack Ryan, for example).

     Jack Ryan repeatedly tried to force his (ex) wife to have sex in public.  The ‘sexism crowd’ had a good deal to say about that.

     

  • squirrely-girl

    Is he the one that also tried to force her to participate in public bondage and public sex with other people? Real winner there. 

     

    Yah, trying to force your spouse into public orgies and bondage is NOT equivalent to a Christmas costume party. FAIL.

     

     

  • squirrely-girl

    That prudish fundies will eviscerate you for leading a happy, sex positive life WITH YOUR HUSBAND? Or perhaps, that it doesn’t pay to be an attractive woman in politics? Oh I know, she learned that (so NOT) risque photos of her are more important than her thoughts and ideas. 

  • colleen

    Is he the one that also tried to force her to participate in public bondage and public sex with other people?

    Yes. Jack Ryan was a pro-life, ‘family values’ republican too.

     

  • crowepps

    The claim of sexism arises because:

    These allegations are based on the bizarre idea that as a MARRIED WOMAN it was inappropriate of her to joke around with her husband.

     

    I am not aware of any similiar character accusations ever being made about MALE politicians.

     

    This situation is not at all the equivalent of ‘congressman discovered to have mistress’ or ‘congressman hires rentboy’ or ‘congressman sued for gross sexual advances to clerical staff’.  If you can find a link to any similiar shock and horror over ‘congressman went to college party with his wife’ I’d sure like to see it.

  • panhandler

    Even though this is none too important, neither Jeri nor Jack wanted their divorce records related to their custody hearings to go public. Where then, exactly, was the outcry from the left in regards to such an egregious violation of one’s privacy? There was none (well, that’s not terribly true, as Obama did speak out against it after the fact). So here is the logic we have. Posting non-private pictures that someone posed for on the internet is, apparently, a capital sin. Unsealing someone’s divorce records in order to smear them, even if it’s against the wishes of all involved parties, is just peachy. I won’t ask you to defend that logic, because it’s indefensible. After all, if private is private and public is public, then what one does in private should have no bearing on public. Otherwise, I’m fairly positive that you’d agree that every feminist’s favorite man, Bill Clinton, should have been impeached for being a womanizer. I’m sure both of you will be back to conjure up some insanely hypocritical justification as to why not or why the rules work differently from one individual to the next, though.

     

    Could you imagine if what happened to Jack happened to a woman? I wonder how fast the claims of sexism would be let loose?

  • crowepps

     Although it’s kind of rude of somebody to post her private pictures, that isn’t the issue at all.  It’s about the ludicrousness of ‘oh, my GAWD, there’s a SEX TOY and she’s not SHOCKED!  She can’t possibly represent us NOW!’

     

    You yourself seem to find these photos equivalent to oath sworn testimony about someone being an pervert who was abusive to his wife in pursuit of his kink.  That’s the whole point.  That’s sexism.  Men have to be rapists in order to be barred from elective office but women are held to different standards and can be shut out of consideration because they laugh at their husband’s horseplay with a silly dildo.

  • arekushieru

    And weren’t these acts committed in a public PLACE…?  Funny how PH keeps missing that.  I hope he realizes that he just supported a prostitute’s services being ‘solicited’ (or rather forced) in public, because the ONLY difference is money….

  • ahunt

    women are held to different standards and can be shut out of consideration because they laugh at their husband’s horseplay with a silly dildo.

     

    Ya think?

     

    Next on Fox! Video of Pro-Choice/Democratic/Progressive women leaving those “Naughty Girl” parties carrying discreet brown bags. The horror!

     

    What is that saying….conservatism is the obsessive and irrational fear that someone, somewhere in engaging in contracepting hot monkey love?

     

    Or something like that.

  • crowepps

    Smeared on the Internet, Young Women Candidate Fights Back

    Why I’m not going to let a smear attempt from my private life get in the way of this election.