* From last November…
In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall due to sexual assault and harassment claims from numerous women - it’s glaringly apparent that the issue is not limited to a certain industry or segment of society. Statehouses across the nation have joined in the #MeToo movement. Some are saying state legislatures harbor environments where such activity is commonplace.
In Illinois, over 150 people signed an open letter calling for change and alleging rampant sexual harassment within the system of state politics. Kerry Lester was one of those people to sign. She’s spent years covering the statehouse as a reporter for the Association Press, she’s now with the Daily Herald. She says like many other women, she has been treated inappropriately by men in power, but hadn’t know how to respond in a meaningful way that wouldn’t threaten her credibility. Listen to an interview with her below about what’s been going on in Springfield as a result of that letter.
* Lester has since left the Daily Herald and has written a new book called “No, My Place: Reflections on sexual harassment in Illinois government and politics.” Click here to order it on Amazon…
Illinois women understand well that political currency is a delicate mix of connections, favors and power. They’ve also learned that the game is fixed, one that puts them, more often than not, in no-win situations. Award-winning journalist Kerry Lester collects the stories of harassment, inappropriate and sexist behavior endured by the state’s most powerful women, including the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County State’s Attorney, Chicago’s City Clerk, numerous members of the General Assembly, lobbyists and political consultants.
* Kerry was kind enough to send me an advance copy and said I could post an excerpt here. There are no “outings” of men by name, but some folks may be able to figure some stuff out.
I chose to excerpt Lester’s interview with Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago), not because it was the most “salacious,” but because it’s such a common and widespread complaint…
Several years ago, before I was a lawmaker, I was an advocate down in Springfield working on a bill. When the legislation finally passed both chambers, a state representative who had helped me suggested we go to The Globe, a popular bar near the Capitol, and celebrate.
It was then when I experienced how gross and entitled many men can be. While we were having drinks, this lawmaker became very handsy. He was clearly not being professional and took the instance as a sexual opportunity. He was on the make, and it became obvious to me that this was pretty habitual for him.
After he’d had a few drinks, he put his hand on my leg and invited me up to his room. I was able to extricate myself from the situation as quickly and politely as possible. I made it clear that I wasn’t interested and left it at that. I was glad that the bill we had worked on together had passed already, so I didn’t really have to have much to do with him after that. I was able to put that episode behind me.
I think a lot of men in Springfield behave like that because they believe it’s the norm, and they don’t believe there’s any chance they’ll be reprimanded or anything. And experiences like mine aren’t serious enough that most women would go and report them. I didn’t.
Again, click here to order. You can buy the hard copy now and it can be downloaded on January 31st.