Smeared on the Internet, Young Women Candidate Fights Back
Continued from previous page
I also have to admit that even though I disagree with her on almost every issue, Sarah Palin was also a part of inspiring me to run. When I saw Sarah up on the stage with her baby, running to be our Vice-President, loving and caring for a baby and interviewing for the second most powerful job in the world, I thought, wow, maybe I can run for office even though I have a young baby. In that way, I think that Sarah Palin has done a tremendous service for women of my generation.
After I won the primary, I expected to receive huge fundraising support from Hillary Clinton and Obama donors, as well as the Facebook generation of my peers. I did things out of the box. I rented out the IMAX theater on Christmas day for fundraising showings of Avatar, making $5 per ticket on 1,000 tickets, selling them via Facebook ads and getting to meet every voter. We raised money online, more than 6,000 donors from all over the country who loved seeing someone their own age running for office. I was very successful getting support from those who supported President Obama, because my generation of young women is actually an Obama-Hillary fusion. We aspire to have Hillary's spine of steel and desire to over-prepare and we have President Obama's idealism. But I wasn't that successful in getting support from the powerful women who formed the core of Hillary's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit. These were the women I looked up to, who had blazed the trail for me, I hoped to earn their support more than anything and they didn't support me in the numbers I had hoped for.
I wondered, was it because they felt I hadn't paid my dues? Was it because they were worried, that with my relative inexperience, men wouldn't take me seriously and I might enforce the stereotypes they had worked so hard to break down? I was often told to cut my hair, to wear shorter heels, to dress in drab colors. I realized it was actually because they wanted to protect me. They did this because, for their generation, female sexuality was dangerous to display in the workplace, especially in politics.
Now, this may seem funny given the nature of the source of my small amount of ephemeral celebrity, but I am actually a fairly shy person by nature, pretty much of a policy wonk. I tried to be as fun as I could during and immediately after college, but I am generally private to the point that I don't even like to kiss my husband in public. I am always worried about what outfit I wear. Is the skirt too high? How's the neckline? Yet, for millions of people around the world, I am a joke named Krystal Ball, a party girl or a whore.
How did this happen? How did I end up with private photos of me at 22 with my ex-husband across the entire Internet, and in papers from London to New York to Boston? It's not because people care about the Congressional race in the first district of Virginia or because of my positions on energy independence, school choice, marriage equality, or pro-growth environmentalism. Here's what happened...
Politics is a nasty game. I knew that coming in. I thought I could take it. But the day that I bought my first radio ads, my opponent called the station and inquired as to the size of the advertising buy. Two hours later, these photos were released by a right-wing smear blog with close ties to my opponent. I don't believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore. They wanted me to collapse in a ball of embarrassment and to hang my head in shame. After all, when you are a woman named Krystal Ball, 28 years old, running for Congress, well, you get the picture. Stripper. Porn star. I've heard them all. So, I sat in my husband's arms and cried. I thought about my little girl. I couldn't stand the idea that I had somehow damaged the cause of young women running for office. I couldn't stand the idea that I might shame my family, my friends or my supporters in some way.