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Alejandra Campoverdi Once Posed for Maxim. Now She’s Running for Congress. Why Do So Many People Have a Problem With That?

Alejandra Campoverdi has degrees from the University of Southern California and Harvard, was the Director of Multicultural Content at the Los Angeles Times, serves on the Advisory Board of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, the Executive Advisory Board of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. She was also the first-ever White House deputy director of Hispanic media under the Obama administration.

Oh, and 15 years ago, she posed for Maxim. Guess which one is getting more attention as she begins her run for Congress?

Despite her immense qualifications, as well as her vocal, personal platform of women’s health–the campaign video above focuses on her own family’s history with breast cancer–her brief stint with modeling still shows up as the first result in Google.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 2.13.52 PM

Campoverdi has written a piece for Cosmopolitan where she discusses how the photos came back up.

One week into the job, photos from an old shoot for Maxim surfaced and spread like an arsonist’s fire. Right behind the photos followed the hotter, more humiliating blaze of unveiled snark that pointedly implied that I didn’t deserve what I’d accomplished and had been overambitious for even trying in the first place. And it was everywhere — from Gawker to the Daily Mail to Perez Hilton to the front page of a random newspaper in India. I was now stamped as the “White House Maxim Model.” I had been reduced to a stereotype.

She says now, eight years later, she’s got a more solid handle on the systemic sexism in politics. Even so, it still sounds like it was a surprise when a “reputable newspaper” *coughWashingtonPostcough*) brought up the pictures during an interview officially announcing her candidacy. “Enough already,” she says.

Men get to be broad and complicated and contradictory. Yet as women, we aren’t granted the whole person. We get typecast as the Sexy One, the Brainy One, the Girl Next Door. We don’t create these boxes for ourselves and usually don’t agree to them, so why should we have to live within them? Women shouldn’t need to choose between being intelligent and being feminine. Female sexuality and intelligence are not inversely related.

Can we also please note that no one seems to have a problem with the man running for Governor of Arizona has listed his entire sexual history on his campaign website (in an attempt to stave off future scandal)? It’s rare that I agree with something written in Maxim, but even they–the host of these original photos–don’t get why a woman’s sexuality precludes her from running from Congress, saying,

Some can’t reconcile her obvious qualifications for public office with the fact she posed for our cameras.

Ali thinks that’s bullshit and we agree.

Women make up only 19% of Congress. There are only four women currently serving as Governor in the U.S. There are only three women on the committee currently questioning Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch (Senators Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, and Mazie Hirono), a man whose stance on abortion and Roe v Wade is under question, and who once recommended asking women about their pregnancy plans during job interviews. (Which isn’t illegal, but discrimination based on the answer is. But that’s not a question an employer asks unless they’re planning to use the information in their decision.) And guess what, those three women aren’t the ones asking asinine questions about duck horses and Douglas Adams.

Right now, there are young women all across the country who are exactly who we need to run for office. They are passionate, they are fighters, and they are real, with backgrounds that aren’t cookie-cutter. It’s urgent we send a message to these women that they will not be kept out of the political process by the mere fact of being human, of being their wonderfully nuanced, complicated, sometimes contradictory selves.

We need more women in politics, and this isn’t a matter of filling quotas with people you pull off the street. There are more than enough brilliant, qualified, passionate women to fill every seat in politics many times over. But they are consistently given reasons for not being considered, being told that directly and indirectly that their gender is a disadvantage to their career prospects. And many, far too many, have that message instilled so early and so frequently (even by the simple lack of visibility already existing in their field, an invisible signal of systemic exclusion) that they never even try.

In her Cosmo essay, Campoverdi makes the plea to women to run for office if they’re at all interested, and for the rest of us not to reduce them to one part of themselves. The effect would be, as it is now, disastrous.

From this generation forward, every woman will have grown up in the digital age where, unless she sat in a turtleneck at home for all her teens, she will have pictures readily available online that can be used to shame her. And if these women decide to sit this one out because of that, we will miss out on talented, transformational women leaders in every public-facing field, especially politics. This will be a loss for our country and our future.

Now more than ever, we must recognize and accept the complexity of real women, and celebrate them in their quest for leadership roles. Whole, multidimensional women. Please throw your name in the arena, whichever one you’re in — because it only gets better every time one of us tries.


(via Cosmopolitan, image via screengrab)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.