100 years on from some women gaining the vote in the UK and 99 years from the same action in the US you would think women’s participation in the political process would be accepted, if not completely ordinary and unworthy of comment. However, far from being the case, women in politics remain viewed as interlopers and unwelcome by many.
Let’s look at the evidence for why I say this:
This week, 29 year old Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is described as a rising star in the American Democrat Party, faced the seemingly inevitable abuse that comes with being a woman in politics.
A right wing website published an image showing a woman’s bare feet in the bath, under the headline: “Here’s the photo some people described as a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
The photo was, as it happens, not of the Congresswoman, but that’s not really the point.
As Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter the actions of the Daily Caller were “just a matter of time” as “women in leadership face more scrutiny [than men]. Period.” She went on to say :
Last week attempts to shame the same Congresswoman by releasing a video of her dancing from a few years before backfired when she responded with a new video of her dancing:
Over 80% of women in politics, globally have experinced sexist or sexually humiliating remarks, gestures or threats and harassment which fell outside the normal political debate.
Then there is the bizarre judgement of any women in fertility being, as former Australian Prime Minister said ‘Even before becoming prime minister, I had observed that if you are a woman politician, it is impossible to win on the question of family.
If you do not have children then you are characterised as out of touch with ‘mainstream lives’. If you do have children then, heavens, who is looking after them?I had already been chided by a senior conservative Senator for being ‘deliberately barren.’
Men just do not face this kind of commentary of their circumstances.
Seeking to humiliate women in politics is just the tip of the iceberg: last year a global survey of women in politics, found that 44% had faced serious abuse, including threats of murder, rape and assault. As SNP MP, Mhairi Black said ‘”I’m bored of gender. I’m bored of being told I should be raped and bored of being told I’m too ugly to be raped.”
Jess Phillips, who, lest we forget, lost her friend, MP Jo Cox to murder by a member of the far right tweeted this week:
With about a 50% chance of threats of violence and sexual assault hanging over them, is it any wonder so few women want to get involved in politics?
Globally more than 10,500 women served as national parliamentarians in 2017, accounting for around 23 percent of total parliamentarians worldwide. In the UK, over the last century there have been just 491 female MPs and more than 4,000 male MPs.
A Report, Violence Against Women In Politics, published last year found that reports that ‘growing acts of violence serve as a strong barrier to women accessing their right to participate fully and equally in politics and public life.’
Normalising the abuse of public figures – and dismissing sexism and misogyny in the political world – as simply the ‘cost of doing politics’ has devastating consequences for the quality of democracy – Around one third of female politicians who have threatened with violence online stopped expressing their opinions there or withdrew from public conversations as a result. We cannot know the number of brilliant women who are deterred from entering politics because of fear of bringing violence upon themselves and their families, but there can be no doubt there are many.
Let us be in no doubt, the abuse of women is pushed by those who believe women have no place in politics and so must be shamed, smeared and harassed until they give up.
It is for all good people to stand up against those with this agenda.