On Tuesday, MLA Sandra Jansen, who crossed the floor to join the NDP last week, gave an impassioned speech to the legislature, calling for an end to misogyny.
Since crossing this floor, Jansen has been subject to countless abusive, hateful comments and threats. After reading several of these comments to the legislature, she called for her colleagues in all parties to stand up against hate speech directed at women in politics.
“If you are stunned by the words you have heard in the last few days, if you reject the inherent violence behind them, and you know that harassment and abuse, even if it's verbal, even if it's online, and even if it's directed at a political opponent, is poison. Let us be strong and clear in our resolve that no matter where we sit along political lines, we stand together against this.”
Jansen then said: “If we don't feed it, we must oppose it. Please oppose it. Don't ignore it. Don't look the other way. Don't excuse it – because our daughters are watching us. Imagine if we let that poison become normalized?” Jansen asked. “Or if our daughters forego the political arena altogether. That scares me.”
Several months ago Rachel Notley’s photo was used as a golf target. While similar incidents have occurred in regard to male politicians, women in politics are harassed more regularly, and with shocking allusion to violence at a much higher rate than men. The comments directed at Jansen were primarily specifically gender-based remarks. Unfortunately, these remarks are too often laced with violence.
Misogynistic hate speech works in a larger pyramid of violence against women. Online threats and harassment have become increasingly normalized in our society. When harassment, threats, and abuse are normalized, it lends to the furthering of misogyny. Harassment and threats sometimes become physical assault, emotional abuse, or in rare cases even murder. Women in politics face a level of hate and harassment that men simply do not face.
Public figures like celebrities and politicians sometimes face harassment. Unfortunately, the rise of social media has allowed for this harassment to be faceless and nameless – taking away the responsibility from the harasser. Women, according to workplace harassment statistics, are harassed in 79% of all incidents reported. These threats too often allude to sexual violence and physical violence.
Ultimately, women are being taught that their voices, their positions in power, and their presence is not wanted or valued. When we normalize this type of misogyny, when we are silent – as many of Jansen’s colleagues were –- we are telling a new generation of girls the same. We are telling them, if they want to pursue a position of power, they are to expect harassment, rape threats and even death threats. If they become involved in politics, they should expect that harassment on a new and terrifying level.
We cannot be silent. It needs to stop.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.