The Costs to Democracy of Gender-Based Online Harassment

This video, produced by the Women’s Media Center and Deeds Not Words, highlights the impact that gender-based online harassment has on women’s ability to participate in political and public life. Silencing or disenfranchising a group of people helps Dangerous Speech flourish by removing opportunities for interaction between groups, and reducing the number and influence of potential counterspeakers.

The video includes testimonies from, among others, Rep. Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts; Rina Shah Bharara, who serves as an inaugural member of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Conference’s Indian American Advisory Council; Angela Angel, a Democrat representing District 25 in the Maryland House of Delegates; Stephanie Roman, a former high school student in Dallas; Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican U.S. Representative from Florida; and Kim Weaver, who ran as a Democrat for the Iowa Congress before dropping out of her race as the direct result of online threats.

In 2016, an Inter-Parliamentary Union survey of women in legislatures around the world found that:

    • 41.8% report wide distribution of “extremely humiliating or sexually charged images”
    • 44.4% receive death, rape, beating and abduction threats
    • 32.7% harassed through exposure to persistent unwanted and intimidating messages
    • 61.5% believe that the primary objective of the harassment they face is to dissuade women from pursuing political leadership positions

The creators’ intent in featuring these women’s stories and voices is to raise public awareness of the obstacles women politicians encounter. We are challenging people and organizations to understand why “business as usual” approaches to political media coverage, management, and campaigning fail to meet the needs of women running for office. The video is sponsored by the Women’s Media Center and Deeds Not Words and is part of an ongoing #NameItChangeIt campaign to increase the number of women running for public office.