Abuse and misogyny in politics

There may be more than misogyny at play here but it certainly suggests that female politicians are subjected to worse abuse than male politicians.

RNZ: Gender bias and Facebook comments: Is there a male equivalent of a vile hag?

Analysis – Is there a male equivalent of a “vile hag?” What about a “sanctimonious bitch?” How about “patronising c**t”?

When RNZ posts stories about gender to Facebook, they’re invariably the ones that attract the nastiest comments.

More than race, sexuality, the environment or politics, stories about gender attract abuse, profanity and flat-out nastiness.

That’s bad.

So, when we posted a video from our series The 9th Floor, featuring former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley pointing out the difference in the way women politicians are spoken about, compared to their men counterparts, we braced for an onslaught.

Of more than 100 comments across a dozen RNZ Facebook posts, there is one abusive comment for Jim Bolger (two if you count, “He’s an idiot”), one for Moore and one for Palmer. There are more than 60 for Dame Jenny.

Over at The Spinoff’s Facebook page, at the time of writing, Shipley is called a vindictive bitch and a despicable turd.

Jim Bolger gets called fascist, “thick as pig s**t”, Mike Moore gets called boring, and Geoffrey Palmer gets off with no comments that could be called abusive – that have remained public, anyway.

Politics can bring out the worst in some people. So can gender issues. And when gender and politics are combined it can get very ugly.

Attacks against male politicians happen a lot, but often the worst is directed at female politicians – and the abusers aren’t just male.

“Helen Clark and I could give you the long list of counterpoints. How people have described both of us, compared with our peers … It tells me more about other people than myself,” she told us.

“A giant predatory slug emerges when she unzips the ‘human’ bodysuit at night,” was one way she was described on Facebook.

She was also advised to lose “unwanted pounds” by cutting off her head.

“As vomitingly heinous and odious as perata [sic] or collins or bennett.”

She’s “wasting precious air”, “fit only for the gallows” and should be pushed “in the woodchipper”.

Appalling, but sadly not uncommon.

All the ex Prime Ministers featured in the 9th Floor so far are from last century so won’t be as fresh on many people’s minds, and younger people may hardly know them, but Shipley was only PM for two years following Bolger’s eight, so the quantity and degree of vitriol is way out of proportion to length of tenure. It looks like misogyny, or there is some other reason why female politicians get much worse abuse.

Helen Clark will feature on the 9th Floor this Friday, and she has been subjected to a lot of abuse in the past so will probably cop something like what Shipley did.

So the abuse isn’t just coming from the left or the right of politics, there are abusive people who lash out at politicians, especially female ones, regardless of their leanings.

Leave a comment


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  3rd May 2017

    Many of those remarks are old and unisex-the one about losing weight by cutting off your head was old when I was a child. The word gallows dates that usage, and it and wasting precious air are used of men. ‘Thick as pig shit’ is unisex.

    Men are called scrotes, sleazebags, shits, arseholes, slimy gits and other charming names. Bastard instead of bitch, of course. ‘Cunt’ is usually used of men, as ‘prick’ is. I see no point in *s when we all know what the word is. Either say it or don’t.

    ‘Pompous prick’, ‘ Grow a pair.’ The wartime song about the balls of Hitler (only has one) Goering (two, very small) Himmler (has something similar) and Goebbels who has no balls at all has no female equivalent that I can think of. .

    Women use vile words about women.

    Do people complain about misandry when men are abused and ridiculed ? I’d say that abuse and ridicule of men is probably more common and more acceptable than when it’s done to women-but men don’t seem to complain about it so much. ‘Whoreson’ can only be used of men. So can poofter, shirt-lifter and other homophobic expressions that I won’t repeat.

  2. Blazer

     /  3rd May 2017

    I guess women rightly or wrongly are expected to be …kind and carin g,and when they are brutal,opportunistic,and vicious they…cop..it.When Thatcher died there was some colourful language.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd May 2017

    You can’t be serious. Trump wears a torrent of abuse every day from these turkeys. Drivel.

    • Blazer

       /  3rd May 2017

      this is rather good,I thought…

      ‘A giant predatory slug emerges when she unzips the ‘human’ bodysuit at night,”

    • Hillary Clinton has been subjected to a lot of abuse too, but this post is specifically about New Zealand.

  4. Anonymous Coward

     /  3rd May 2017

    Mike Moore did nothing, but Jenny Shipley … Slashed benefits.

  5. Missy

     /  4th May 2017

    Misogyny? I am not sure some of what is labelled misogyny is actually misogyny. Sexist abuse yes, but misogyny? Either way it is unacceptable.

    Don’t fall into the trap of many of the new wave of feminists on the left who claim anything sexist is misogynistic – their definitions have already watered down the meaning of sexism, and it is fast watering down the meaning of misogyny.

    Labelling sexist abuse as misogyny is not that different to labelling someone who wants to discuss immigration controls xenophobic.

    We need to be careful about the language we use so that we do not overstate some behaviours, thus making worse behaviours seem less so.

    In saying all that, I do think women in politics tend to get more sexist abuse than male politicians, and interestingly (from my observations) some of the worst of it comes from the left. I am not sure if that is because the left are nastier, more prevalent on Social Media, or if it is because the right have more women in positions of power, though from UK observations, (sorry Pete I know you are discussing NZ, but there are some parallels with the UK here), it seems to be more the former two than the latter.

    NZ is slightly different in that so far neither side has turned to sexist abuse of women on their own side – so to speak – but I think that is as much to do with the fact that as yet neither party have been taken over by the extremes to the extent that is seen in UK Labour with the hard left seemingly taking it over from activists right through to front benchers.

    One thing my observations have noted as a difference between the UK and NZ is that there is more sexist abuse towards Left female politicians in NZ, just look at the abuse directed at the likes of Jacinda Ardern, Metiria Turei, and Helen Clarke. Though the left aren’t any angels, some of the sexist abuse directed at Paula Bennett, Judith Collins, and Hekia Parata is as bad as what the other three gets.

    I don’t think this sexist abuse is unique in politics, I believe it is something prevalent in society, but I don’t think misogyny is, more like a complete lack of respect for people – and women – by many in society, some of which is fed and reinforced through media in my opinion.

    • Blazer

       /  4th May 2017

      what examples can you give about sexist abuse of NZ female politicians….I see abuse regarding them, but not necessarily..sexist.

  6. Kevin

     /  4th May 2017

    “Analysis – Is there a male equivalent of a “vile hag?” What about a “sanctimonious bitch?” How about “patronising c**t”?”

    Sinister old bastard.
    Sanctimonious prick.
    Patronising c**t (works for both male and female).

    There. Question answered.


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