Texas A&M University Examines Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence Targeting Women Politicians

A new report, authored by a team of graduate students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, asserts that worsening online abuse and harassment of female political figures is a threat to democracy. “While there is a space for women in politics, it is not a safe one,” the report states.

In their study, the group members reviewed current literature as well as thousands of posts on social media networks. The authors found that the vast majority – if not all – of female politicians are on the receiving end of online abuse and it’s a global problem. The researchers refer to this abuse as “technology-facilitated gender-based violence.”

Co-author Areala Mendoza stated that “if their name is on the news, chances are they’re receiving harassing and abusive messages. They get an unbelievable amount of posts and messages from bots and anonymous people, and not only from opposing political parties but members of their own parties. The abuse is coming from every possible avenue.”

The report asserts that technology-facilitated gender-based violence threatens democracy by normalizing gendered abuse and spreading disinformation to discourage women from participating in the political process and delegitimizing female politicians in the eyes of voters.

“Online harassment of female political figures is rampant, and greatly exceeds in intensity and in quantity than that faced by male political figures,” said Valerie Hudson, faculty adviser to the group. “The level of harassment is a true impediment to women’s participation in the democratic process, and it is something that democratic governments should seek to curtail.” Professor Hudson holds the George H.W. Bush Chair in the department of international affairs and directs the school’s Program on Women, Peace, and Security.

The full report “Technological Threats: How Online Harassment of Female Political Figures Undermines Democracy,” may be downloaded here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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