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In Her Words is a twice-weekly newsletter by The New York Times that covers women, gender, and society. In this article, they explore the link between online violence against women and female representation in politics. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.

A global survey found that 42% of female parliamentarians have seen “extremely humiliating” or “sexually charged” images of themselves shared on the internet. “This is the first generation of women that’s really trying to join public life and run for office, and right behind them there’s an effort to limit their potential just as it’s starting,” says Lucina Di Meco, an expert on gender and disinformation.

Photoshop and disinformation play a big role in discouraging women from politics, as women politicians are often depicted as mentally unstable or hyper-sexual. Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia experienced this firsthand, when tabloids ran pictures of another woman in a bikini and falsely claimed it was her. “It is one of many tactics that has been used to silence me,” says Rwandan female presidential candidate Diane Rwigara, who had a similar experience.

It is one of many tactics that has been used to silence me.

What begins as disinformation can quickly escalate into offline violence, which makes many women question whether they want to enter politics in the first place. Last fall, state authorities revealed a detailed plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. The plan didn’t start in person, however, but online. The physical preparations for the kidnapping were preceded by weeks of disinformation campaigns about Ms. Whitmer. 

Last August, 100 American female lawmakers wrote a letter to Facebook urging the site to protect female politicians from online attacks. “They have the responsibility not to be the purveyors of disinformation,” says Representative Jackie Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. 

To access the full article, click the link below:

Fake Nudes and Real Threats: How Online Abuse Holds Women Back in Politics

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