rachel hundley, city council, lawmaker, california, sonoma, slut shaming, video, burning man

California Lawmaker Fights Back Against Anonymous Blackmailing Slut Shamers

"I cannot be shamed into quitting because I am not ashamed."

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Rachel Hundley is a city council member in Sonoma County, California. She was first elected at only 31 years old, and two years later she served a year-long term as mayor. She’s now back on the city council and running for re-election.

Recently, though, some of her opponents have attempted to attack not her ideas, but her body. Hundley received an email from an anonymous address, signed by “Citizens for Peace and Cooperation.” “We believe your behavior is immoral and unethical and has no place in our Town,” the email read, asking her to reconsider her plans to run for reelection. “Sonoma needs moral and ethical leadership our children can look up to, and our community can trust. You do not measure up.”

The email contained a link to a website (which has now been taken down) titled “Rachel Hundley Exposed.” Along with a number of political accusations, the site contains photos of Hundley at Burning Man, engaging in what these anonymous attackers call “lascivious, drunk and drug addled behavior.” Some of the photos show Hundley in lingerie. All of them were pictures she had posted to her own social media accounts.

Rather than back down, Hundley posted a response video to YouTube, which now has over 180k views. She called the attack what it is: slut shaming and extortion.

Hundley says she’s proud of her participation in Burning Man, “an internationally renowned arts and culture festival.” For years, she’s voluntarily managed a well-known wine bar within a “consent-focused, sex-positive theme camp.” So these people are attacking her for something that she not only approaches with a sex-positive attitude, but that she uses to share a love of Sonoma Valley wines with other attendees from all over the world. Seems like these bullies really didn’t know who they were coming after.

As in so many other professions, female politicians face a much higher rate of harassment than their male counterparts. And the harassment they face is explicitly sexist, often including sexual innuendoes, comments on appearances, and rape threats.

“Instead of challenging me on my votes,” Hundley says, “this website relies solely on unfounded accusations and slut shaming. Its purpose is to make me afraid, to silence another strong female voice by scaring me out fo this election and denying you the right to make a choice.”

Hundley explains how this isn’t just about her; it’s about the way women are systemically, habitually silenced.

For too long, it has been seen as okay to control women by dictating what is acceptable for us to wear, say, and do. Strong women have been fighting these double standards and hypocrisy for years, fighting a culture that says our bodies and our lives are meant only for the consumption of men. This attempt at blackmail assumes I buy into these lies but I am here today to tell my faceless bullies that I cannot be shamed into quitting because I am not ashamed.

So well said. You can’t use patriarchal tools against a woman busy working to demolish the patriarchy.

(via Vox, image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.