A new report from the National Journal says that many Congressmen have adopted policies that keep them from being alone with their female staffers. The idea is to avoid the appearance of “impropriety,” but those female staffers told the Journal that the policies are hurting their professional advancement and their ability to do their jobs.
The Journal took an anonymous survey of female staffers, and found that many of them had experiences being excluded from night and weekend events as well as private meetings with their bosses, all so the members of Congress could assure themselves that they’re not going to be accused of having an affair. The rules could be in violation of labor and discrimination laws, and they’re leading some frankly infuriating scenarios:
One male Republican staffer said that when he worked in the House, one of his bosses declined to meet privately with female aides or have them staff him at evening events at the request of his wife, who thought it was unseemly. “There was never any doubt about the staffers and their behavior, or the member and [his] behavior,” the staffer said. But his boss’s wife worried what others would think, particularly back home in his Southern congressional district.
As a result of the informal policy, the male staffer remembers being asked to accompany his boss to an evening reception with a group of defense contractors, even though he was much more junior than the female staffer who covered the issue. “I’d say, ‘she has more experience, this isn’t my area.’ They’d still say, ‘we need you to staff him tonight,’” he said.
Another male aide who works for a Senate Republican said he was previously in an office where women weren’t allowed to drive the boss around or staff him at evening events. For his colleagues, it became clear that if they valued their careers, “they would have to go somewhere else at some point,” he said.
Surely it would be easier to just not have an affair with your female staffers, right, members of Congress? Rather than surround yourselves with a protective phalanx of dicks and shrink away from interacting with the women you hired?
John F. Kennedy, then a Congressman, sitting on Capitol Hill in 1946. Image via AP.