Women are Leaving Politics
Women are leaving politics. Ugly tactics from opposing groups, sexist remarks and threats of violence are driving women out of the political world; one of the only places where they have the power and opportunity to create policy in favor of women.
According to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, threats, particularly sexualized threats and harassment are one of the main deterrents for keeping women from running for office. It’s also responsible for women leaving their posts when they get into office. Take U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hill.
The freshman politician with just under a year in office resigned from her job over claims she had an inappropriate relationship with a congressional staffer. Nude photos of Hill were also released without her knowledge or permission, something she alleges her soon to be ex-husband was behind as a form of revenge porn. She made an impassioned speech on the House floor this week and formally resigned. She insists she did not have a relationship with a congressional staffer but admitted engaging in a three-person affair with her husband and a campaign staffer. She apologized for her errors in judgment, and called out her opposers, the conservative blogs, who published the photos, denouncing what she refers to as “gutter politics.” She vowed to continue her fight for women and to fight revenge porn.
Female politicians in the UK have also had enough. About 18 female members of Parliament announced they will not be running for re-election due to threats of sexual violence and death threats. They are among 50 members of Parliament that have decided to leave politics. The issue of Brexit and the treatment of women by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is some of the reasoning behind the aggressively negative climate.
Founder of the Women's Equality Party Catherine Mayer was quoted in the New York Times saying when leaders "normalize the language of misogyny, the language of racism, it gives license to hatred." Hatred is what lawmakers fear will come with the next Brexit vote. A recent study from the University of Cardiff and Edinburgh University found a majority of participants who voted to leave the European Union believed that violence against politicians was a price worth paying to accomplish Brexit.
It's that kind of talk that has instilled fear in the country's lawmakers, particularly female lawmakers with 72 of them recently signing a letter of solidarity to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, saying they share her understanding of abuse and intimidation. Members of Parliament, including Heidi Allen and Caroline Spelmen have shared their concerns about the constant public abuse, with Allen explaining her exit from public office in a letter to her constituents. "I am exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace." Spelmen wrote an Op-ed to the Times of London and said, "Sexually charged rhetoric has been prevalent in the online abuse of female MPs, with threats to rape us and referring to us by our genitalia." She continued, "It is therefore not surprising that so many good female colleagues have decided to stand down at this election."
I just wrote about the threats to women in Columbia's election last month, with one female candidate murdered. Women shouldn't have to be subjected to threats of rape or threats to their lives because someone disagrees with them politically. Women can't fight violence and threats to violence against women alone. We need men to be our allies because while we are fully aware that not all men take part in violence against women, toxic masculinity among many men in many parts of the world is real. Their behavior is enabled when they don't face the consequences of their actions and when those "good guys" silently watch them degrade, abuse and humiliate women. Men being silent on this issue is not going to stop this insanity. Men only jumping in when it's their daughters or their wives, or their sisters are also not going to help anything. They need to see women as equals in order to see and treat us as human beings who deserve to be respected and treated how they want to be treated. It sounds simple and yet has not been fully executed.
We need women in politics. We need them to stay and do the work but I can't blame them for leaving when they are shamed, humiliated and threatened on an almost daily basis. It is not a random coincidence that women are leaving politics on a global scale because of threats and harassment. That's the plan. Insecure and power-hungry men use the ugliest of tactics to deter women from entering politics and discourage them from staying in the game. We women are our only advocates in the political world and without us looking out for each other in these high profile and powerful positions, we don't have any chance for true equality and change.