ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mississippi native Karen Hinton is a nationally-recognized media professional, with experience in Washington and New York. Best known for her role as press secretary to both Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hinton played what Politico dubbed the “Helen of Troy role” in the clash between Cuomo, now the former Governor of New York, and former Mayor de Blasio. The New York Times called the clash “one of America’s ugliest political feuds.” The Wall Street Journal lauded “the wisdom she dispensed in a Southern twang” in dealing with the strutting and chest pounding of New York’s two most powerful leaders.
Hinton cut her teeth as the press secretary in 1986 for the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, Mike Espy. The Democratic National Committee hired her in 1989, serving a similar role for Ron Brown, who was the first Black Chairman of the DNC and a key political strategist to elect Bill Clinton as President. In 1995, Hinton joined the Clinton Administration as press secretary for Cuomo when he served as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. During that time, President Clinton faced charges of womanizing (and worse). When Clinton’s defenders tried to dismiss the women as “trailer park trash” and “bimbos,” Hinton went public with her own story about Clinton asking for a night of sex when he was Governor of Arkansas and she was a young Democratic campaign aide in Mississippi. The revelation resulted in Hinton being eased out of her senior administration position, one of the events which sparked her interest in giving a name to “penis politics.”
Hinton later relocated to New York and became Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary. She found herself at the center of the crossfire between longtime frenemies Cuomo and de Blasio, often becoming the subject of news coverage herself.
Known for never ducking a fight, Hinton was at the peak of her career in 2017 when a catastrophic brain injury from a freak accident confronted her with the battle of her life. Emerging from a coma, learning to walk and talk again, Hinton was determined to “speak up, not shut up” on issues involving women, men and power in politics and business.
Hinton regularly contributes guest columns to the New York Daily News and other publications, focusing on the topics of #MeToo, sexual harassment in politics and skewering big oil, big banks and other bullies whenever possible.
Earlier in her career, Hinton was a journalist in Mississippi and Colorado, a cocktail waitress in Aspen and a high school teacher in Mississippi. Forty-five years after she left her small town in Mississippi (population 434 at the time), Karen was ranked as one of the 50 most powerful people in New York public relations. She ascribes her success to ignoring the advice a boy in high school inscribed in her yearbook: “Karen, we love you, but would you please shut up!”
ABOUT THE BOOK
Penis Politics: A Memoir of Women, Men & Power offers an insider’s view of what it’s like to be a woman in the newsroom, the conference room, the halls of Congress and the highest reaches of American political power through the eyes of Karen Hinton, a colorful and outspoken former journalist, political operative and seasoned media professional.
The book opens with a sexual trauma that affects a close-knit group of girlfriends in rural Mississippi in the 1970s and traces Hinton’s emergence as a journalist and an ambitious press secretary in Washington DC and New York.
Hinton writes of the toxic brew of ego, entitlement, power, testosterone and “bro culture” in politics that is especially difficult for women to negotiate. She illustrates, through compelling storytelling, how powerful men often create a public image as a champion of women’s rights and equality. Behind closed doors, they use gender domination to assert their power over women.
This is a must-read for every woman, for readers who love beautifully crafted memoirs and for anyone who sees the headlines about a powerful man tumbling off his pedestal for terrible behavior and wonders, “How could he have been so stupid?”
- The title “Penis Politics” might seem shocking to some, but it refers to conduct–from sexually-laden comments, unwanted touches, kisses, workplace discrimination to misogyny, abuse, violence and rape– more shocking than the name of a body part.
- “Penis Politics” is about a man’s need for dominance and control over women, using discrimination, harassment and abuse as a tool. It’s not always about sex, but it’s always about power.
- “Penis Politics” is woven into the fabric of our lives. We experience it everywhere: at home, school, in romance and sports. It’s about how all women have to navigate the world that powerful men create — whether they are politicians, fathers, teachers, coaches, professors, bosses, CEOs or male colleagues.
- The book is centered on the author’s time in Mississippi, how she got involved in politics and how she became increasingly interested in women’s rights. The people throughout her life, down South and in DC, influenced her thinking about the practice–which she coined “penis politics”–long before she started working for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That said, Cuomo is the master of penis politics–bullying and manipulating his relationship with women, as well as some men, was the way he governed and the way he controlled the people around him.
- Why was Andrew Cuomo and so many others not criminally charged with sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse?
- Why do so many women stay silent about sexual harassment? Can the silence be as damaging as the abuse?
- Ultimately this book should be a wake-up call for both women and men to end the abusive use of power. And the author tells her personal stories–often painful ones–to help women recognize and understand their own. The hope is that the book can help change the way we treat each other at work, in school and at home.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
“At last readers have a true-life version of Stand By Me for girls. With her first book, Penis Politics, Karen Hinton takes her seat at the table of exceptional Mississippi writers.” –Linda R. Monk, J.D. Constitutional Scholar and Award-Winning Author
“Impressively candid, immensely thoughtful and thought-provoking…an extraordinary and riveting read from first page to last.”— Mary Cowper’s Bookshelf, Midwest Book Review MBR Bookwatch
“A timely, engaging political account about the consequences of saying nothing and speaking up. Hinton’s prose is sharp and incisive. She is adept at setting a scene and bringing people to life on the page.”— Kirkus Review Read Full Review
“…brimming with the steady perseverance, relentless ambition and maddening frustrations of a talented woman who found her way in a world dominated by men less talented than she.”–Mara Gay, New York Times Editorial Board Member and MSNBC Political Analyst
“Touted as ‘a memoir of women, men and power’ it is so much more…
Hinton is an accomplished and entertaining writer, juxtaposing bad and good, sorrow and hope…(An) immensely readable memoir…Hinton shares stories of shame, sorrow, successes, surprises and egos.”— Sherri Daley for BookTrib, the leading source for book news and reviews Read Full Review
“Fascinating . . . I loved the metaphors . . . a cautionary tale . . . rich images of what life is like in a town (like Soso). . . very interesting on a human level”— Errol Louis, CNN Political Expert, NY1 Anchor Karen Hinton: Politics with a “P” and the men who abuse their power