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Being Terrorized Comes With Job for Women in Politics

The only African American woman in the Vermont State Legislature announced she wasn’t seeking re-election after being targeted by people

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women, politics, terrorised
Official Seattle City Council Portrait taken on January 5, 2016 (Public Domain). VOA

When Erin Schrode, then 24, decided to run for Congress in her California district in 2016, she expected to face grueling hours and numerous other challenges, but she never anticipated fending off thousands of abusive online messages in politics.

“One of the first pieces I read was, ‘We’re going to laugh with glee while we gang rape you and bash your bagel-eating brains in,’” says Schrode, who is Jewish, recalling the messages she received.

“Just all of this idea that, you know, that I should get a husband and behave properly. That I should be quiet. That girls have no place in politics,” she says of other messages she received.

The Democratic activist, who lost her primary challenge, soon learned she’d been targeted by a neo-Nazi website known for spearheading internet trolling campaigns. Some of her personal information — including Schrode’s email address and cellphone number — were posted online.

“When I had police officers arrive at my house to go over safety precautions, when I was briefed by the FBI, when I’m speaking with the Department of Homeland Security,” Schrode says, “that is rattling, and that’s a new level of danger that I never would have expected when announcing my candidacy as a 24-year-old woman for United States Congress.”

women, politics, terrorised
In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Erin Schrode poses at her home in Mill Valley, California. In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Erin Schrode poses at her home in Mill Valley, California. VOA

Unfortunately, what happened to Schrode is not an anomaly.

A well-known tactic used to discourage women from seeking or holding political office is to literally terrorize them, often with threats of sexual violence, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

“The kind of attacks that women face are about white male privilege and white males wanting to make sure that they hold on to the power and feeling threatened by the influx of women as more and more women are stepping up and running for office,” Walsh says. “There is a sense of losing control and losing power.”

The most recent high-profile attack on women in politics occurred last month when President Donald Trump tweeted the suggestion that four Democratic members of Congress — all women of color — should “go back” to the “corrupt” countries they came from.

women, politics, terrorised
U.S. Reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). VOA

Three of the four lawmakers targeted in the tweet, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, were born in the United States. The fourth, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, left Somalia at the age of 6 and came to the United States when she was 10.

“The response is to attack them to demean them to belittle them and to make them the ‘other’ and the outsider,” Walsh says.

“It is such an old trope of, you know, ‘You don’t belong here.’ It’s a message that women and people of color and women of color have received so many times in history,” she adds.

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins was threatened in relation to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Viewed as a critical swing vote, she ultimately voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

women, politics, terrorised
rom left, Senators Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito and Lisa Murkowski. VOA

The harassment Collins faced included letters laced with white powder and a fax promising to slit her throat. Voicemails left at her office advised Collins not be be “a dumb b***h” and called her “a feckless woman.”

Collins along with two other GOP women, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, were targeted by online trolls in 2017, after they doomed Republican hopes of repealing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. In online attacks, the senators were called “lying feminazi’s” and “old hags.”

Last year, the only African American woman in the Vermont State Legislature announced she wasn’t seeking re-election after being targeted by people affiliated with white supremacist groups. Announcing her decision on Facebook, Kiah Morris, a Democrat elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, denounced the “divisive, inflammatory and at times, even dangerous” political discourse found on social media.

In Iowa, Democrat Kim Weaver decided against challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Steve King in 2018 because of the continuation of death threats she’d first received after challenging King in 2016. Weaver told followers on Facebook that she’d faced “very alarming acts of intimidation, including death threats … my personal safety has increasingly become a concern.”

women, politics, terrorised
Kiah Morris, who became Vermont’s first black female legislator in 2014, decided against seeking re-election in 2018 after receiving racial threats and harassment. VOA

In 2016, Nevada Democratic Chairwoman Roberta Lange demanded an apology from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, saying that she’d received death threats from his supporters. Lange told CNN threats had also been directed at her husband and 5-year-old grandson.

When an all-women majority on the Seattle City Council blocked a vote for a new basketball arena in 2016, the five female lawmakers received death threats from disappointed fans. The four men on the panel had voted in favor of the measure.

One email to each of the female council members said, “As women, I understand that you spend a lot of your time trying to please others … but I can only hope that you each find ways to quickly and painfully end yourselves.”

Walsh, of Rutgers, said she is concerned harassment could keep women in both parties from seeking office.

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“Now what we’re looking at is a playing field where women who think about running for office are afraid — afraid for their own physical safety, afraid for their families and for their children,” she says.

Schrode, the activist who ran for Congress in California, has spent the past two years helping distribute millions of meals in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

She says the harassment she faced hasn’t scared her off from running for public office in the future … as long as she doesn’t have a family.

“Would I run again as a mother with children knowing what I would open, not only myself, but my family to? That I can’t answer,” Schrode says. “I’m proud to be a woman. I’m not proud of what it means to be a woman running for office in this country today.” (VOA)

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Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Politicians compete with each other for power and this greed for power can demolish democracy

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democracy
Greed for power in politics may demolish democracy in India. Pixabay

By SALIL GEWALI

It is too disgusting that Shiv Sena is aiming for something which was nothing but an act of betrayal. Here the principles and ethos of the party are just sacrificed. The “chair” of Chief Minister is what the individual parties in Maharashtra are wanting so badly. And for this only Shiv Sena has severed its ties with its all-time ally BJP which emerged with the largest number of MLAs. Is it not the BJP with which Sena made the alliance before the election? Why so much bitter feelings after the poll result? Many past elections were fought on this mutual understanding. Sena had always taken pride and bragged about its power and clout as because the BJP was behind it. But now very contrary equation and chemistry are on display. NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena are sharing the ideas as opposed to the expectation of the whole electorate.

Democracy
Politics in India might lead to a sinking democracy.

One believes it’s Congress and its High common which Shiv Sena Supremo Late Bal Thackeray always disliked and ruthlessly held them up to ridicule. It was because they hold the opposing ideologies. But now his son Uddhav Thackeray kneeled down and sought the helping hand of those rival camps to walk the party through for the chair of Chief Minister. Going by the flood of comments on the social media, this party has ostensibly fallen from the grace. BJP is not a holy cow either. It is equally good at flexes its muscles for the power.

Also Read- Being Terrorized Comes With Job for Women in Politics

While Maharashtra is already under the president rule, the NCP and Congress now exploring all possible means to back Shiv Sena.   Uddhav Thackeray only wants to see his son Aditya Thackeray being the Chief Minister of one of the riches states in the country. The trend is not at all healthy. Here everything is utterly clear that the cherished values of democracy in India are fast eroding. Majority of the states in the country, only the “particularly families” are  always standing up to rule the roost. This is a bigger threat to the fundamental values of the country.The NATION is no more controlled by the government of the people, nor is it for the people. It is the government of the particular families which is formed for the fulfillment of the low greed and narrow aspiration of those particular families. Lastly, it is the common people who are always at the receiving end of the leaders’ whims and tantrums. Phew, the country is not at all in the safe hands.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali