Women should get more involved in politics – but is the abuse worth it?
When a BBC run survey shows that over a third of the 195 female MPs in Britain have received online and verbal abuse from the public, you have to question why they stay in the job?
Labour MP and shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott spoke out last month about the abuse she’s faced as an MP. Ms Abbott has experienced sexist and racist comments not only from the public but at the hands of fellow MPs. In fact, MP David Davis said he would not hug Ms Abbott as he “isn’t blind” – he has since issued an apology. In an article for The Guardian she wrote: “I receive racist and sexist abuse online on a daily basis. I have had rape threats, death threats, and am referred to routinely as a bitch and/or nigger, and am sent horrible images on Twitter,”.
Unfortunately Abbott isn’t the only black woman to have faced this kind of abuse. Fellow ministers Seyi Akiwowo and Chi Onwurah have had vile comments thrown at them – one person even told Akiwowo that they hoped she got lynched – language which could be associated more with 1950s America.
Female politicians have every right to be fearful of public reactions. Not only do they receive abuse but the threats made to their safety and well-being would scare anyone. Take the example of Jo Cox. The former Labour MP for Batley and Spen was murdered by Thomas Mair in a politically motivated attack. Ms Cox was an advocate for child refugees and was a pro-Remain campaigner for the EU Referendum. Mair was found to have researched Nazism before making his attack. The murder left many politicians, including Abbott, feeling vulnerable.
“I receive racist and sexist abuse online on a daily basis. I have had rape threats, death threats, and am referred to routinely as a bitch and/or nigger, and am sent horrible images on Twitter,” –Diane Abbott MP
Social media plays a crucial role in this crisis – but it’s also the means of ending it. We have a great deal of access to our politicians now – we can speak to them face to face or we can just send them a message through the likes of Twitter or Facebook. These should be platforms for good not to spread hate. Social media owners have made moves to stop such abuses from happening – take Twitter for example. The social media giant has been making plans to stop those already banned for abusive behaviour from creating new accounts under false names or email addresses.
In light of all these horrors, I’m not surprised if young women are cautious to step into politics. I would be. I’m often scared to share my political opinion online – fearing any backlash my views may stir up. But this shouldn’t stop girls from trying. Politics is a world which is open to women just as much as men. We have a female Prime Minister don’t we?! Organisations such as the UK Youth Parliament are one such platform where young girls’ voices can be heard and championed. We should encourage women to get into politics, even if it’s just being part of political debates and discussions in school, university or with friends and family.