Female top politicians face more hatred and threats than their male colleagues. This, in turn, results in women being silenced in the public debate, according to researcher Sandra Håkansson in a new SNS report.
Almost one in three Swedish politicians is each year exposed to threats, harassment and intimidation tactics. This problem is particularly severe among elected representatives in prominent positions, where women in leading roles suffer the most. This is shown by Sandra Håkansson in the SNS report Power has a Higher Price for Women: Threats and Violence Against Swedish Politicians.
“My research shows that these gender differences cannot be explained by women and men representing different parties or engaging in different issues. There are many indications that what makes female politicians more exposed to these kinds of behaviors than male politicians is the sexist attitudes of the perpetrators,” says Sandra Håkansson, PhD student in political science at Uppsala University.
Some 70 percent of female mayors are each year exposed to hatred and threats. Furthermore, according to the report, the higher up in the hierarchy, the greater the gender differences in this regard. Meanwhile, female members of parliament receive coarse, offensive comments not related to their political mandates to a much greater extent than their male colleagues.
“These gender dimensions in attacks on politicians lead to female politicians more often than men avoiding publicity or discussing certain subjects. This has several negative impacts on gender equality, including the risk of distorting political debate. Issues of particular importance for women may receive less attention,” says Sandra Håkansson.
In the report, she calls for measures aimed at preventing threats and hatred from disrupting democratic representation. Efforts related to security may, according to Håkansson, play a significant role with regard to political gender equality. Politicians may need more support in terms of managing social media and other arenas in which threats and harassment are common. In addition, the political parties may need to be made more aware of the differences in exposure between women and men, as well as of how certain issues may be particularly demanding for their representatives to engage in.
“This is about far more than something unpleasant for individuals. In practice, Swedish women and men do not face the same conditions when it comes to engaging in political work. This runs counter to our democratic principles of equality,” says Sandra Håkansson.
about the author
Sandra Håkansson is a PhD student in political science at Uppsala University.