News & Politics

Disgraceful! Male Senators Called Kirsten Gillibrand ‘Chubby,’ ‘Fat’ and ‘Porky’

Gillibrand’s new book reveals despicable, ongoing sexism faced by women in politics

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has provided a harrowing account of sexist insults she endured in Congress at the hands of her male colleagues.

The NY Post reports that in an interview with People magazine to promote her new book, the Senator says she was called “chubby,” “fat,” “porky” and even a “honey badger” after giving birth. But it gets worse…

In one excerpt from the book she recalls an incident when she was working out in the House gym because the female gymnasium was undergoing renovations.  An older male colleague approached her and said “Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!”  Her response? Thanks, a—hole!

In another instance, a southern congressman held her arm while walking her down the chamber’s center aisle and told her: “You know, Kristen, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.” she said.

The insults continued. Another labor leader once told her: “When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special], you need to be beautiful again.”

Perhaps most disturbingly was a story she tells when after dropping 50 pounds and getting elected to the Senate, a senator who she previously dubbed as her favorite came up behind her, squeezed her waist and whispered, “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.”

While Gillibrand has managed to laugh off most of the comments, her book paints an abysmal picture of how women are perceived and treated by males in politics, a standard which is certainly in need of an overhaul. 

The extent of such rampant misogyny is nowhere more apparent than in a 2013 article from the Texas Observer where a reporter documented her observations of the male behavior she witnessed, as reported by the Washington Post.

“Some told of senators ogling women on the Senate floor or watching porn on iPads and on state-owned computers, of legislators hitting on female staffers or using them to help them meet women, and of hundreds of little comments in public and private that women had to brush off to go about their day. Some said they often felt marginalized and not listened to—that the sexism in the Legislature made their jobs harder and, at times, produced public policy hostile to women,” she said.

Gillibrand's new book, appropriately titled Off the Sidelines, challenges the status quo of rarely speaking about sexual harassment in politics and highlights the need for greater female representation in Congress.

Currently, women in the United States account for only  24.2 percent of all state legislators. Gillibrand served in the House from 2007-2009, until she was appointed to the Senate. She later won reelection in a special election in 2010.

 

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.

 

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