Online Violence Against Women

Pelosi’s Attack Shows The Dangers Of Online Violence Against Women In Politics

Online Violence Against Women: The physical assault at the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brings to light the danger that women in politics face in real life as a direct result of the vitriolic rhetoric directed at them online.

Research has shown that women running for office are more likely to receive gendered personal and s*xually violent online abuse than their male peers. This is especially true for women of color who are running for office.

Even though misogynistic attacks have been around for a long time in politics, experts believe that the proliferation of social media and the use of secretive algorithms is elevating the level of danger that women face in the public arena. This could be a factor that discourages women from seeking political office.

Any form of political violence should be condemned. Therefore, there is no reason for us to place a greater emphasis on the differences between what is marketed to men and women. But we ought to pay attention to the way that gender is a factor in that targeting,” said Kristina Wilford, co-founder of the group #ShePersisted, which researches gendered disinformation and online abuse.

David DePape allegedly broke into Paul Pelosi’s home in San Francisco on Friday. According to an affidavit released by the Department of Justice on Monday, DePape told police he wanted to break the Speaker’s kneecaps and was carrying zip ties a roll of tape and a hammer.

The Speaker was in Washington, D.C. but her husband Paul Pelosi was at home and was hit with a hammer which hurt him very badly.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of the feminist group UltraViolet, said the attack “wasn’t a random or isolated act of violence.” Instead, she said, it was the result of years of right-wing media “demonizing” the Speaker with “violent and misogynistic rhetoric” to rally their base.

Thomas said, “What’s worse is that social media platforms have made it possible for these attacks to spread online and create an echo chamber that both radicalizes its users and makes them less sensitive to violence.”

Last week, a report from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said that online attacks on men running for office are not uncommon, but they are much less likely to be about their gender. The report looked at how tweets about candidates for Congress in the 2020 election were used.

The report found that misogynistic and racist content was more common for women of color than for any other group, including white women and men of color.

According to the report, women of color also got the most tweets that gave them false information and were mean to them. These posts spread false stories, like saying that mail-in ballots don’t count, and used rude language.

Wilford of #ShePersisted said that the lies and attacks on female candidates based on gender shouldn’t be written off as “normal politics.”

“Finding those points of contact that make people feel threatened is a big part of the identity-based conflict,” Wilford said.

Wilford said that the way women are described as “dangerous,” “radical,” or “dirty” is different from how men are portrayed. This creates an “existential threat” that can be used to justify violence.

“I bet a lot of people are looking at this story and thinking, ‘Well, but yeah, people just don’t like Nancy Pelosi,’ just like they didn’t ‘like’ Hillary Clinton. Wilfore said, “That lack of likeability is part of the false and misleading information meant to hurt women more than men.”

Even calling a politician by her name, like the alleged attacker did when he yelled, “Where is Nancy? Wilfore said that the phrase “Where is Nancy?” is more likely to be used against women and is meant to “undermine their public role and position.”

Even though the report was mainly about a thorough look at candidates for 2020, CDT research director Dhanaraj Thakur said the problem is “still severe” in races for 2022.

For example, he brought up reports that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) reelection campaign darkened the skin tone of his Black Democratic opponent Stacy Abrams in an ad, as reported by the local station 11Alive. The people working on Kemp’s campaign told the news outlet that they used filters and overlays to make videos and that it was ridiculous to think it was done because of race.

In an interview with CDT researchers, a 2020 campaign worker for a woman of color said that her opponent’s team would “purposely darken” her skin tone in social media posts and mailers. The names of staffers and candidates interviewed for the CDT report were not given out.

Online Violence Against Women

UltraViolet’s Thomas said that some attacks on female candidates this year are getting closer to the “sweet spot” of using s*xism without “going as far as they did” with Vice President Harris in the 2020 presidential race with overtly s*xualized misinformation.

For example, the hashtag #heelsupharris was used in more than 35,000 tweets in the first week after Harris was added to President Biden’s ticket, according to data from Zignal Labs that was reported at the time by The Washington Post. During the 2020 election, prominent conservatives spread stories that were similar to these.

Thomas said many attacks on women in 2022 are still based on s*xism. UltraViolet gave the example of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon’s comments that seemed to make fun of the kidnapping plot against her opponent, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The sad thing is that Gretchen will tie your hands together, put a gun to your head and ask you if you are ready to talk. “For someone so worried about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking businesses hostage and holding them for ransom,” Dixon told supporters at a campaign event, according to The New York Times.

Experts who track the abuse women face pointed out that attack ads against Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who is running against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said she was soft on crime, even though she had been the police chief in Orlando for many years.

This is a problem for Democrats and Republicans, even though more women have run for office as Democrats in recent years than Republicans.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) report found that racist and s*xist attacks against women were happening no matter which party the candidate belonged to. Thakur said that the information didn’t look into who posted the content, but the fact that it was posted so widely suggests that the attacks are “coming from all sides.”

Tina Ramirez, who is running for Virginia state senate and is a spokesperson for the Republican-leaning PAC Maggie’s List, said that the attacks on GOP candidates are violent, vulgar, and “trying to destroy their families, their livelihoods, and their ability to provide for and protect their children.”

Thomas said online hate could make some women less likely to run for office.

The Center for American Women and Politics keeps track of data on House and Senate races. This year, fewer women are already running than in the last few cycles, which broke records. In 2022, there are 259 female House nominees, which is less than the record of 289 set in 2020. There are 21 female Senate nominees, one less than the record of 23 set in 2018.

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