It’s Not about the Lingerie: Why the Madison Cawthorn’s Recent Scandal Matters

Madison Cawthorn by Gage Skidmore via Wiki Commons

The news cycle has not been kind to Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). Over the last several years, he has been put in an incredibly negative light, and his mythological narrative has been shattered by investigation after investigation. In August of 2020, Cawthorn was accused of sexual misconduct and assault, with one woman, Katrina Krulikas, accusing him of attempting to force her to sit on his lap and trying to kiss her when she was seventeen years old. She would not be the only one to accuse the representative of similar behavior. Recently, however, Cawthorn has come under scrutiny thanks to a new exclusive by Politico, which appears to show the young congressman at a party in lingerie and a bra.

Screenshot of Madison Cawthorn at a bar in lingerie, released by Politico’s Michael Kruse (Politico-distributed under CC BY 2.0 and cropped)

The exclusive inevitably provoked various reactions, with Cawthorn himself confirming the pictures in a tweet earlier this evening.

Others, however, have reacted in the worst way possible, ignoring the hypocrisy inherent in Cawthorn’s actions and instead focusing on a cheap shot that only serves to reinforce prejudiced ways of thinking about manhood. One example of this is Occupy Democrats Twitter account, which posted screenshots of the images and called for Cawthorn’s resignation despite wearing lingerie not being a reasonable basis for resignation.

It is especially disgusting to see an organization that claims to fight for principles of social and political change simultaneously use the image of femininity as a weapon against a political opponent instead of attacking the obvious hypocrisy of a transphobic legislator for his selective concern for gender norms.

Rep. Cawthorn is a self-appointed traditionalist who claims to represent conservative, Christian values and uses that smokescreen to attack trans and gay people despite being sworn to defend their constitutional rights as a congressman. He’s an accused sexual predator and is confirmed to have lied about the man who saved his life to make his story sound more dramatic and impressive. He’s allegedly lied about cocaine orgies and other such nonsense.

Attacking Cawthorn is easy, but it is neither necessary nor proper to attack him for wearing lingerie in and of itself. Instead, activists should point out that the same man in lingerie also denigrates trans people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.

What matters here is not the lingerie. It is that a man who has attempted to enforce gender conformity on people he doesn’t know has also broken that same conformity. Mocking supposed femininity in Cawthorn is not good politics. It is not protecting trans people. It is prejudiced, and it should be treated as such.

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