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.

9th Floor – Jenny Shipley

The next interview in the RNZ ‘9th Floor’ series features Jenny Shipley.


The 9th Floor: Jenny Shipley – The Challenger

By Guyon Espiner

Jenny Shipley evoked strong responses from New Zealanders during her time in politics and I suspect that, with her new comments about “middle class welfare” and working with Winston Peters, she is about to do so again.

But while people respond strongly to Shipley, there has been very little examination of her leadership. Researching the interview for The 9th Floor series, Tim Watkin and I found there were few books and very little academic study of this hugely influential New Zealand politician.

During the day we spent with Shipley she said New Zealand needs to take the “blowtorch” to middle class welfare, with student allowances and healthcare areas where middle and higher income earners should pay more. She finds it “morally bankrupt” that the country doesn’t have an honest discussion about this and that she personally feels “sick” that on her income she can’t opt out of subsidised health care.

She also has some fascinating observations about working with Winston Peters, who may again be a key coalition player after the coming election.

“Winston could have been Prime Minister but for want of himself. His complexity often got ahead of his capability. Watching him on a good day he was brilliant,” she says. “He was an 85 percent outstanding leader. And the 15 percent absolutely crippled him because he would get so myopically preoccupied with a diversion that it took away his capability and intent on the main goal.”

Shipley also says that Peters, Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998, was excellent at absorbing information but sometimes simply hadn’t done the reading. “I would make a personal judgement as he came into my office as to whether the envelope with the papers in it was either open or closed and it often would tell me the extent to which he had read what we were then going to discuss. I learned to both respect and manage it and on those days the meetings were short.”

Perhaps more than any other leader we spoke to she lets us in on the influences, conflicts and complexities of being Prime Minister. There are two striking aspects to this. The influence and impact on her family is one, and includes a harrowing story of how death threats against her affected her young son. The other is being a woman at the top of politics. Would history have treated Jenny Shipley and Ruth Richardson differently if they were men?

Q+A – defence, Clinton and housing

Q+A today:

Today: ivs Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee – have we got our defence priorities right? Can we afford his $20 billion spend?

I think it’s generally accepted that we have to spend a certain amount on a credible defence, although the spend is about half what Australia spends and what the US suggests based on GDP.

Labour may quibble about some details but must agree broadly that we do a bare minimum.

NZ First want to double what we spend.

Greens probably prefer nothing was spent.

Major banks have moved to limit foreign buyers investment in the housing market-but who’s really driving up prices?

Three major banks have moved to limit foreign buyers from investing in the housing market – but who’s really driving up prices? Political editor Corin Dann looks at the data with Corelogic’s head of research Jonno Ingerson.

And:

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills will finish up his five year term at the end of the month. He talks to Greg Boyed about his time advocating for our most vulnerable kids.

Russell is always worthwhile to listen to.

Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills says we can change the state of the terrible child abuse in NZ. “It’s ok to intervene.”

Having been critical of Rino Tirikatene on twitter this seems more sensible:

How do we get vulnerable children out of poverty? Get the parents out of poverty. Easier said than done, but do-able.

And:

Our first woman PM Dame Jenny Shipley reflects on Hillary Clinton’s historic first

While Shipley was out first woman MP she was not elected, Helen Clark was New Zealand’s first elected woman MP.

So far Clinton is just the first woman to look like getting a nomination to stand for President of the USA.