Last week, U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hill’s resignation speech detailed the abuse that drove her out of office. “I am leaving because of the thousands of vile threatening emails, calls and texts that made me fear for my life and the lives of the people that I care about.” She feared the “hundreds more photos and text messages that they would release bit by bit until they broke me down to nothing.”
This week, abuse is behind the decisions of many of the 18 female members of U.K. Parliament to not run for re-election, reports the New York Times.
In a Times of London op-ed, Caroline Spelman, who is ending 22 years in Parliament, wrote that “sexually charged rhetoric has been prevalent in the online abuse of female MPs, with threats to rape us and referring to us by our genitalia. It is therefore not surprising that so many good female colleagues have decided to stand down at this election.”
Her fellow Parliament member Heidi Allen, who also is not running again, wrote in a letter to her constituents that she is “exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace.”
The letter has since been removed from her website. She told BBC Radio 4 that she is “attacked on a daily basis, on email, on social media, people shout at you on the street.” She discussed a “particularly nasty” email about an abortion, which she has previously discussed publicly as a difficult choice.
One hopes that this harassment galvanizes future female politicians. “Drawing on my own research, I find reason for optimism,” writes Claire Gothreau, a research associate at the Center for American Women and Politics. “Self-reported gender discrimination and harassment can actually mobilize women to become politically engaged. As experiences with harassment and discrimination increase, so does political efficacy, interest, and propensity to participate in politics.”
In other words, ladies, now is the time to run for office.