When women in power are attacked, let’s take it personally

Women leaders, be it in politics or corporate settings, are increasingly being subjected to online and offline harassment, hate and threats but when the harassment comes from colleagues and men in power, it gives everyone else that much more reason to feel confident and casual about such behaviour.

Last year, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna hired security to protect herself and her family after she was subjected to a slew of hate speech as a result of an opposition leader’s reference to her as “Climate Barbie” on Twitter. This incident, coupled with her re-election, has resulted in McKenna receiving a number of threats, hateful messages and verbal abuse online and in person.

Earlier this month, when Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s running mate and Vice Presidential candidate, the world rejoiced and yet there were voices of those, including that of the current American President — who has on a number of occasions referred to Harris as “nasty”, “a mad woman” and “the meanest” — that shouted racist, sexist slurs against her.

US Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been constantly facing hateful slurs from the President as well as from other congressmen. In July, she publicly called out a Republican congressman who used a sexist slur against her and also called her “crazy,” “dangerous” and ” disgusting.”

New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern has also faced this inhumane behavior from several men including an Australian broadcaster who said that “someone should shove a sock down [her] throat” when she spoke about climate change.

The reason for listing these incidents is essentially to show a pattern, of educated, powerful men using dehumanizing, hateful language in the hopes of discrediting women and the work they do. This show of violence, sexism and sexual harassment could possibly also be because of the threat these women pose working in a male-dominated field.

That’s no excuse and all such behaviour needs a serious change and an attitude adjustment because women in powerful positions are constantly being subjected to abuse when all they are trying to do is their job. And yes, so many of these women stand up to the hate and haters; Cortez, McKenna, and several others have even publicly condemned and called out their abusers but it is not the responsibility of women alone to fight this fight. All of us, as one, must fight to call out such abusive behavior and must hold men in power and otherwise, who indulge in such hateful behaviour, accountable.