“These are hateful comments. They are nasty, gender-based and demeaning. They are not constructive and it’s no wonder why so many women fear choosing politics as a career,” said Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly yesterday.
Ms. Drever’s Members’ Statement followed comments last week from Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips about online harassment directed at women politicians. “I have no idea why women might think twice about entering politics,” Phillips tweeted on May 25, 2016.
Premier Rachel Notley and other female cabinet ministers in Alberta have been the target of vicious online attacks and threats since the New Democratic Party formed government in May 2015. For the first time in our province’s history, the majority of Alberta’s cabinet ministers are women.
Here is the entire text of Ms. Drever’s statement from Hansard:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the last year there has been a growing awareness of online gender-based violence. Hundreds of thousands of women face online harassment because of who they are and what they say. Women sports journalists and broadcasters, provincial and federal cabinet ministers, even our own Premier have been trolled online with hateful messages and name-calling due to their gender and public profile.
Mr. Speaker, as you and others in the House already know, shortly after I was elected, I experienced hate messages that were explicitly sexist and subject to taunting and online harassment because I am a woman. In May 2015, after forming our government with near gender parity in our caucus, an individual posted publicly on Twitter using the ableg hashtag, “Pretty confident things’ll run smooth with so many broads’ ladyshipping over the #ableg. Aren’t you? Guys? Don’t you want broads mitigating?”
Another example is a comment directed at a federal female MP: “What a C you next Tuesday. Like seriously just go back to your house and run your car in your garage while you think of another anti oil campaign to attend.”
Mr. Speaker, these are hateful comments. They’re nasty, gender-based, and demeaning. They are not constructive, and it’s no wonder so many women fear choosing politics as their career. In no way do they provide a constructive conversation on policy or political action.
For many women things often escalate further. Name-calling, violent messages, rape, sexual assault, and even the threat of targeting family members are sent through online threats to feminists regularly. The practice has become so common that the process of reporting these has become second nature. The intersections of harassment get even more intense for women of
colour, queer women, indigenous women, and women living with disabilities. They are targeted even more intensely, and the
language used to attack them is almost unrepeatable. Online communities are working to stand up against gender based attacks online.
Mr. Speaker, as a woman in politics I stand with all women who have experienced gender-based harassment. You are not alone in your struggle. I encourage all members of this Assembly to respect us and treat us with dignity and equality.
Thank you. [Standing ovation]