A female staff member of the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus was fired last Friday with no reasons given just seven hours after she filed a memo to the staff director reiterating her previous claims of sexual harassment in the legislative environment.
Kristen Anderson was Communications Director for the Senate Republicans and claimed both senators and male staffers sexually harassed female workers by making comments that “scrutinized” and “objectified” women.
Regardless of whom these allegations are coming from, the Iowan statehouse has a responsibility to look into these public claims. As the reigning legislative house that decides what gets written into law, it would be alarmingly inappropriate for the lawmaking branch of government to house such sexual harassment.
Preferring to follow the “chain of command” and addressing her concerns her supervisors rather than the perpetrators themselves, Anderson mentioned in her memo of her “complaints about the boys’ club atmosphere” in the Iowa Senate.
She references her misogynistic grievances as the reasons behind the suddenly cold critique of her written work as well as her ultimate dismissal last week.
After overhearing and complaining about inappropriate comments toward women in November and December, Anderson claims that her supervisors became much more critical and harsher of her work. Despite her five years as Communications Director, she was told that she could not “write at a high school level” and implied that they were teaching her college English.
In an interview with Iowa’s WHO TV, Anderson said that the kind of comments male staffers and legislators would say were “things that would make you blush” and comments “you don’t want your daughter, your mother, your sister having to put up with.” She also said that this kind of chauvinistic work environment had existed for years, and her female peers as well as women before her time in the Iowan statehouse experienced this work culture.
In light of these allegations, the Iowa statehouse gave mixed responses. Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds both called for an investigation to these charges, though Reynolds stated that she had never felt harassment during her time as state senator.
However, Iowa Senate Minority leader Bill Dix denies Anderson’s claims and said her dismissal was “strictly an issue of her career performance.”
Citing the time line of her dismissal and the submission of her memo, Dix states that the two events are unrelated.
Whether these claims are a result of a long-lasting culture of chauvinism in politics or the makings of a bitter and newly unemployed ex-staffer, the appropriate committees must look into these allegations and give the constituents confirmation or peace of mind.