WASHINGTON ― An organization advocating female representation wants to expose and combat sexism and misogyny faced by women in public office with a new video campaign.
The Women’s Media Center video campaign, launched Tuesday to coincide with Election Day, features stories from eight women ― Democrats and Republicans ― who have run for public office. They describe verbal and physical threats they faced as candidates, as well as scrutiny of their physical appearance and voices, and lament that such attacks often discourage women from entering politics.
“It’s not accidental that in the year 2017, still 75 percent of the people who hold office in this country are men,” Wendy Davis (D), a former Texas state senator and gubernatorial candidate, says in the video. “It’s very purposeful.”
Davis entered the national spotlight in 2013, when she held an 11-hour filibuster protesting a Texas bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. As her career advanced, critics called her “abortion Barbie” and made posters that featured her head attached to the body of a Barbie doll with a plastic baby in her belly.
“It made me drop out of the race,” Kim Weaver, former Democratic challenger to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), says in the video, referring to a series of death threats she received earlier this year.
Maryland state Del. Angela Angel (D) was called “a dumb bitch,” and says even online threats “could become real.”
“Their intent is to try to intimidate you. Their intent is to cause fear,” Angel says in the video.
“When you have a legislative body that is mostly made up of white males, is that really representative of our good, old US of A? I don’t think so,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) says in the video.
The campaign starts on the eve of the anniversary of the 2016 presidential election, in which sexism and misogyny played an outsized role. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has said gender contributed to her loss to President Donald Trump, and has spoken and written about attacks against her, often launched by Trump himself.
Over the last year, Clinton’s loss has motivated more women to become politically active and to run for office.
But on a more basic level, the women featured in the video encourage people to raise awareness about the sexism and harassment women face.
“What we need to do to change this, really, is to call it out when we see it happening,” Davis says in the video.