Women in Politics: A Twofold Challenge

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s approach to Democratic freshmen like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is indicative of the leadership style that has allowed her to steer her caucus for 16 years. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

If Nancy Pelosi were a man, would she have had fewer obstacles in her schedule? If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had been “Alejandro,” would she have been judged less?

To be a woman and working in politics, even in the so-called “first world,” is an extreme sport.

According to a report published in the academic journal State and Local Government Review, young women mayors, especially in large cities, are more likely to be victims of psychological abuse and violence than their male counterparts. This is a reality reported by 79 percent of mayors in the United States, who have claimed to be victims of some form of psychological harassment, threat, or abuse.

After evaluating a sample of 1,360 mayors in cities with populations of 30,000 and above of which 283 responded the study not only determined that the size of the territory is directly proportional to the violence faced by officials, but that the determining factor in this percentage is precisely gender.

Despite the fact that the rate of physical aggression at work for public officials is relatively low, the rate is inverse when it comes to harassment and psychological abuse, especially in the era of social networks.

“The advent of social media provides unprecedented opportunities to those inclined to abuse and threaten officeholders,” the study says. “It also provides for speedy dissemination of attacks and the possibility of acting with others in a coordinated fashion.”

In the case of women, harassment is more aggressive and often sexualized.

“Female mayors were more than twice as likely as males to experience psychological abuse and almost three times as likely to experience physical violence,” the study continues based on the figures: 4.55 percent of females mayors faced minor physical violence compared to 1.87 percent of men, and 16.4 percent of females and 1.9 percent of males reported sexualized violence or abuse. 

Further, 16.7 percent of women and just fewer than 12 percent of men faced threats of death, rape, beating, or abduction, and 18.2 percent of women experienced violence against property compared to 8.8 percent of men.

And on a national scale ignoring the “lock her up” chants with which President Trump decorated his presidential campaign women in Congress have faced unconscionable violence through social media, unparalleled in their male counterparts.

New representatives like Rashida Tlaib or Ilhan Omar have been frequently attacked not only because of their gender but also because they are Muslims or of immigrant origin.

Omar, in particular, has received multiple death threats in phone calls directly to her office, but mostly through Twitter and especially because of her religion and, in some circumstances, through messages shared by President Trump.

Only last July Trump told Tlaib, Omar, and colleagues Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to their countries, after the representatives criticized his immigration policies and were among the first to call for an impeachment inquiry.

Omar said in a press release that since the President’s attacks she had experienced “an increase in direct threats on my life.”

But to get into the misogynist record of the U.S. president we would need many more paragraphs.

The reality is that women in public office whether local, state or national wage a battle with many open fronts, where the height of the pedestal is directly proportional to the risk taken when deciding to change the country’s history and future.