Sen. Gillibrand: Male colleagues called me "porky" and "chubby" after pregnancy

The New York Democrat describes being sexually harassed while trying to do things like stop sexual harassment

Published August 27, 2014 9:04PM (EDT)

   (AP/Charles Dharapak)
(AP/Charles Dharapak)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has made a name for herself as a champion of measures to address sexual assault in the military and on college campuses. She is an outspoken advocate of ending harassment, and yet -- who is surprised by this? -- has faced plenty of harassment herself. From her male colleagues. In the Senate. Where elected officials are supposed to do things like legislate (maybe even legislate to end rape) instead of demeaning their colleagues with sexist comments.

According to the New York Post, Gillibrand recently sat down with People to discuss her new memoir, "Off The Sidelines," and recalled more than one instance of being objectified by her male colleagues:

Gillibrand recounts one incident when she was once working out in the House gym during renovations of the women’s facility.

“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” one of her older male colleagues said. Her response: “Thanks, a—hole,” she said in an excerpt from her book.

An unidentified southern congressman once held the former upstate House member’s arm while walking her down the chamber’s center aisle. “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat,” he told her.

“I believed his intentions were sweet, even if he was being an idiot,” Gillibrand recounted. ...

She recalled a labor leader once told her: “When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special], you need to be beautiful again.”

“I knew I was too heavy for my own health,” Gillibrand recalled.

After she dropped 50 pounds and got elected to the Senate, one of her favorite older senators walked up behind her, squeezed her waist, and intoned: “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.”

Well, I guess it's a different sort of "breath of fresh air" to hear about a man recognizing that women of all shapes and sizes are attractive, but it's not so refreshing considering that the comment was unwarranted, accompanied by nonconsensual touching and, to reiterate, constitutes sexual harassment. Unsurprisingly, it sounds as if Gillibrand not only faced the experiences bravely, but also has found a way to use them as illustrations of the issues she's fought to address in Congress. Here's to hoping her male colleagues aren't too preoccupied with Gillibrand's weight to help.

By Jenny Kutner

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