WMC Press Releases

New video spotlights online harassment, violence against women candidates

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Click here to learn more about the video project


WASHINGTON, D.C. — As voters across the nation head to the polls today, the Women’s Media Center is releasing a video that brings to light the online harassment and violence directed at women candidates and public officials. 

The four-minute video, “Silencing Women in Politics:  The Costs to Democracy of Gender-Based Online Harassment,” includes personal accounts of eight Republican and Democratic women who have run for public office — including Wendy Davis, a Democrat and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate from Texas; Marilyn Mosby, a Democrat who is Baltimore City’s State’s Attorney and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida — and the sexual or sexist remarks they encountered. The video is being shared on social media and is available here.

“With this short video our goal is to raise public awareness of the daily hostility that women in politics face as the result of being women in public life,” said Soraya Chemaly, co-executive producer of the spot and director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, which raises awareness about the scope and toxic impact of online harassment. “We hope, with this video, to challenge communities, political parties and electoral institutions to consider how ‘business-as-usual’ approaches to running campaigns and supporting candidates have to change in order to recognize the additional risks women take when they run for office and serve in public roles.”

The video notes that 65.5 percent of women politicians have been subjected to violent, sexualized threats and hate speech.

“I think there’s great purpose behind much of the misogyny that we see in political campaigning and in the way that women are treated as office holders as well,” says Davis, who, as a state senator in Texas, led an 11-hour filibuster of an abortion bill. In the video she notes that she’s been called “a bad mother, abortion Barbie, baby killer, gold digger.”

 “It’s not accidental that in the year 2017 still 75 percent of the people who hold office in this country are men,” she says in the video. “It’s very purposeful.”

Mosby says, as a woman of color, she represents one percent of all elected prosecutors in the country. Ninety-five percent of the prosecutors in the country are white, and 79 percent are white men, she says. Mosby — whose office led the prosecution of five police officers in the death of Freddie Gray — recounts that she was referred to as an “affirmative action attorney.”

“At first, you’re taken aback, but I’ve come to realize that you can’t really internalize it, it’s something greater than you personally. It’s more about what you represent,” Mosby said.

Ros-Lehtinen notes that the growing number of women running for office is a challenge to the “good, old boy system.” “When you have a legislative body that is mostly made up of white males, is that really representative of our good, old U.S. of A?” she asks. “I don’t think so.”

Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said the video underscores the daily hostility that women in politics face to their freedom of speech and civic and political participation. “We are proud to sponsor this project which reflects our longtime commitment to calling out the toxic sexism in media.”

The video also includes testimonies from U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts; Angela Angel, a Democrat, who is the Maryland State Delegate for Legislative District 25; Stephanie Roman, a former high school student in Dallas; Kim Weaver, a Democrat who ran for Congress in Iowa; and Rina Shah Bharara, who serves as an inaugural member of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Conference’s Indian American Advisory Council.

“When women engage in politics, they should not have to risk their dignity, privacy and safety or the dignity, privacy and safety of their families who are threatened with rape, death, violence, pornography and more,” said Marya Stark, co-executive producer of the video.  

The video, directed by Kelly West, provides non-partisan resources that can help women get elected. Patrice Stanley, a former Democratic candidate for state office in Maryland, also served as a co-executive producer for the video. It was sponsored by the WMC, Deeds Not Words and individual donors.

Burton noted that the video is one of several projects that the Women’s Media Center has sponsored to raise the awareness of sexism in media and politics, including Name It Change It with She Should Run, an organization that trains women candidates to run for office and “The Women’s Media Center’s Media Guide to Gender Neutral Coverage of Women Candidates & Politicians.”  

The Women’s Media Center, co-founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, works to make women visible and powerful in media. The Women’s Media Center trains women leaders to be in the media; promotes women experts to the media through WMC SheSource; conducts groundbreaking research and reporting on media inclusion and accuracy; and features women’s voices and stories on our radio program “Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan” and through WMC FeaturesWMC FBombWMC Women Under Siege, and WMC Speech Project.

For additional press information about the video or the Women’s Media Center, contact Cristal Williams Chancellor at: cristal@womensmediacenter.com or 202-270-8539.