Even the most powerful are not protected. Four female senators are adding their voices to the thousands who have said #MeToo.
NBC’s Meet the Press reached out to all 21 current female senators, asking if they wanted to share their own experiences with sexual harassment as part of the growing #MeToo campaign. Four—all Democrats—came forward: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Warren shared an encounter she had with a senior faculty member when she was—she said—a “baby law professor.” She said the man had frequently made dirty jokes and commented on her appearance. One day, he took it a step further when he asked her to come to his office. When she arrived, he “slammed the door and lunged at [her] like a bad cartoon,” trying to get his hands on Warren.
Warren explained that she was able to escape his office but was concerned afterwards, wondering what she had done to bring on such behavior.
Heitkamp recalled a time when she was North Dakota’s attorney general and was attending an event about cracking down on domestic violence. She said a law enforcement officer approached her, put his finger in her face, and said, “Men will always beat their wives and you can’t stop them.”
McCaskill explained that when she started out as a state legislator, she was nervous about getting her first bill out of committee. She sought out the speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives to ask him for advice, and he replied, “Well, did you bring your knee pads?”
Hirono said that she had been propositioned numerous times, saying that “this kind of unwanted attention occurs in a situation where there is uneven power, and it’s usually the woman who has less power.”
She later tweeted, “Pretty much every woman that I know, myself included, has a #MeToo story. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s harassment.”
McCaskill concurred, saying she wishes she could say she was surprised about how many women have experienced sexual harassment, but “knowing my life and what happened to me early in my career, I understand why so many people keep things like that to themselves.”
Following the string of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the explosion of the #MeToo campaign on social media, a number of state legislatures have sought to combat sexual harassment with legislation, including Rhode Island, Ohio, and California.