(UPDATED/VIDEO) Treatment of Krystal Ball’s Photos: Sexism? Yes. Need to Apologize? No.

Jodi Jacobson

What's worse: A male congressman who sleeps with prostitutes and assigns a staffer with a history of gender-violence to oversee violence against women? Or photos of a female candidate for Congress at a Christmas Party wearing a Santa hat and a tank top shown in goofy pictures of her then-husband wearing a sex toy on his nose?

Today, Virginia candidate for Congress Krystal Ball, a Democrat, apologized and said she is embarrassed by and angry about the release of personal photos of her posted on a right-wing blog.  What are the photos?  I have seen one of Ball with her then-husband at a Christmas party.  She is wearing a tank top and Santa hat, he is in Rudolf mode, but with a plastic penis where his red nose is supposed to be. 

And this is a problem….why? Because it must make her unfit for office, or so, as Amanda Hess points out NBC Reporter Bryan Noble suggested.

“The photos are not what you’d expect from a woman hoping to be elected to Congress, and Krystal Ball knows it,” Nobles breathlessly reports. “She’s dressed in a suggestive costume, leading a man she says is her ex-husband around the party on a leash. Her ex-husband has a sex toy strapped to his nose.” He ends the piece: “Despite the odds, she still thinks she can win.”

Hess notes: “Ball is wearing a skirt, a tank top, and a Santa hat; this qualifies her, for some reason, as “scantily clad.””

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And of course the blogosphere is reporting on this incident as if it were as important as her positions on school funding, gun control, and global warming.  Only…wait!  They are not reporting on those things at all.

Ball is a thoughtful, articulate, professional woman with a solid grasp of national and state issues.  She is unapologetically progressive. Yet:

“Not much attention has been given to the race for congress in Virginia’s 1st district,” reports NBC12’s page on Virgina politics.  Calling Ball an “upstart” who has run a “spirited campaign,” the site states that “While Ball has been aggressive, her race has not garnered enough attention to be considered a real threat to Wittman, a Republican in a district that has been GOP since the 70′s.”

Translation: The media couldn’t be bothered to pay attention….until some pictures surfaced.

But, notes NBC12 “Ball is now getting that media attention she craves, albeit not for the reasons she had hoped.”

I guess that pretty much tells us how serious the media is about covering issues.

Ball is advised by political experts at the Women’s Campaign Forum to underscore the sexism and I am not second-guessing their advice. The treatment of Ball by the media is blatantly sexist, especially when compared to actual lapses in moral judgment and blatant hypocrisy by people who make morality the centerpiece of their political lives.  Take Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter for one.

She is rightly angry about the release of and focus on the issues and she comes across forcefully in interviews.

“It’s sexist and it’s wrong, regardless of political party,” Ball said in a statement. “And I have a message for any young woman who is thinking about running for office and has ever attended a costume party with her husband or done anything stupid on camera. Run for office. Fight for this country. Don’t let this sort of tactic deter you.”

“Of course, I am embarrassed by these photos,that was the whole point of these political operatives when they put them up. But more than just embarrassed, I’m angry!,” Ball continues. “I’m angry that when we are suffering from high unemployment, record budget deficits and a broken education system, that crass political operatives will resort to the politics of personal destruction when they can’t talk about the issues.”

Ball also noted that Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown had once posed nude in a magazine centerfold, “yet it wasn’t a big deal in his campaign.”

Yet while I applaud her response to the coverage–and more to the point, who she is on the issues–I am also hard-pressed to understand why Ball has to apologize or be embarrassed. We are talking about someone at a Christmas party with her husband. We are talking about two married adults goofing around with a sex toy.  Big deal. I wish she would call the media out on their sexism and leave it at that.  There is nothing for which she has to apologize.

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