The XX Factor

Why More Democratic Women Should Be Like Krystal Ball

Photograph of Krystal Ball by Kimihiro Hoshino/Getty Images

If you don’t remember the remarkably named Krystal Ball from the 2010 elections, let me give you a brief refresher: She was a 28-year-old long shot Democrat running for congress in a very Republican district in Virginia who grabbed the national spotlight for a moment when embarrassing photos of her fellating a reindeer nose at a party surfaced. Instead of curling into a humiliated ball (pun intended), the plucky Krystal went on the offensive, writing: “Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.” About a year later, Krystal’s moxy has paid off. She’s now a pundit who appears on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN.

In retrospect—and as Slate’s Noreen Malone pointed out—Krystal Ball’s pushback against those who want to shame her was the absolutely correct move. Does she have political bona fides? As a candidate, not so much. As the Washington Post points out, “Ball’s sole political experience is her congressional bid. She has never advised, been employed by or volunteered for any other campaign or elected official.” But she’s parlaying her moment of fame and her, yes, erotic capital into a gig that combines both her intellectual talents and her attractiveness. This is a move perfected by good-looking, scandal-prone Republicans from Meghan McCain to Michele Bachmann, to the mother of all opportunists, Sarah Palin. These cable news gigs are keeping Krystal Ball in the public eye, and they’re giving her an air of legitimacy with a larger group of people, many of whom have probably already forgotten about her unfortunate reindeer incident. Besides, in a few short years, there won’t be a single candidate running for office who doesn’t have embarrassing photos of themselves somewhere, since the current generation of up and comers was raised around digital cameras.

For her part, Ball doesn’t regret a thing:

It did give me an opportunity to say something that I thought was really important, so in a way I’m kind of grateful for the opportunity to do that. … I feel very proud of how we handled it. I didn’t apologize. I didn’t just sort of hide in a corner. I didn’t deny that it was me.

While there are so many female Republican pundits who have taken the journey from scandal to respectable commentator, there seem to be fewer Democratic women who go for the spotlight. That’s a shame. Krystal now has a pretty big pulpit to share her lefty views, and it wouldn’t hurt others to follow her lead to those popular platforms.