Tuesday, October 26

Dutch elections: is online sexism preventing women from becoming MPs?

With female turnout in this week’s elections in the Netherlands breaking records, a campaign group can be excused for feeling optimistic.

Stem op een Vrouw (Vote For A Women) was created in 2017 to achieve parity in the Dutch parliament and have as many women and men in the 150-seat parliament.

Last year, about a third of MPs in the House of Representatives were women, according to World Bank statistics. That’s less than 42% in 2010, the highest proportion in the country for more than two decades.

There are 10 women leading unprecedented political parties in the elections. By being at the top of their party’s electoral lists, they have the best chance of entering parliament.

There is also a strong presence of women in general. For example, 60% of Party for the Animals candidates are women.

Overall, of all candidates running for office, 37% are women, according to Devika Partiman, founder of Vote for Women.

“I think this is great,” Partiman told Euronews. “I’m not fully satisfied yet, but of course, it’s already a lot better than [in] previous years.

“And I’m glad to see that so much attention is now being paid to this issue of how many women are in the Dutch parliament.

“So people might think that this is really the time to make the changes happen. That is very positive. And I am also happy that we can finally see some more diversity in our electoral lists.”

“This also applies to women who are on current lists compared to women who already have a seat in parliament.

“All these women are role models for Dutch girls and women.”

But the caveat to this optimism is a recent report from the Utrecht Data School, part of the Dutch city’s university.

It found that 10% of all tweets (they studied 339,932 between October 1 and February 26) directed at women on the Dutch electoral rolls contained hateful comments or sexist threats.

Researchers suspect that the number of hateful tweets not directly targeting women in politics is even higher. For example, after a talk show on the M television show with a panel made up solely of female politicians, misogynistic comments piled up online. “What are all these women doing on television at dinner time?” read a tweet.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the last government, is possibly the most affected by the abuses.

He received 13,235 hateful tweets over the nearly five-month period, 22% of all tweets directed at the politician.

“Women generally have a harder time in politics and the media,” Kaag told the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer.

“They are told about their appearance and their family. The discernible pattern is that girls and women are told, ‘Don’t talk. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t defend it. Because we know how to find you.” ‘. “

Partiman said the abuse was preventing women from pursuing careers in politics.

“We investigated 50 Dutch girls and women who had doubts about a career in politics,” she told Euronews. “They were really interested in doing it, but they didn’t take the final step. We wanted to know what stopped them and around 30 mentioned hate online as one of the reasons.

“We as an organization see that online hatred against women politicians is very visible and very common, so yes of course this scares women.

“This is also the reason that prevents women from following their career plans. They often make an appointment with us, but then give up because they just don’t want to deal with misogyny in their local departments.

“This is also the reason why, in general, the career of a Dutch politician is usually shorter than that of a politician.”

Joelle Canisius, a member of the Groenlinks party’s youth organization DWARS, said such hate and sexism online deterred her from pursuing a career in politics.

“I am also on Twitter, and when I see what happens there, I shudder every time. The more visible the woman is, the worse it gets.”

As soon as a woman becomes a deputy, hateful tweets become part of everyday life, he added.

“I believe that this misogyny and sexism is a learned system and that it is deeply ingrained in our society. We live in a patriarchal system.”


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