It is shown that both male and female Members of the Parliament can be targeted by this form of violence but it differs which kind of comments and threats they receive. Women receive more threats of sexualised violence and more often become patronised or infantilised.
The prevalence of death threats is a bit higher for male Members of the European Parliament (29%) compared to their female colleagues (24%).
But threatening Parliamentarians with rape or other forms of sexualised violence and intimidations was mentioned by about 20% of female participants, whereas none of the male participants reported this.
Furthermore, being patronised or infantilised was reported by 40% of female politicians but less than 20% of male counterparts.
Additionally, there are higher psychological consequences for female Members of the Parliament. They feel intimidated, stressed, and feel ashamed more than male Members of the Parliament reported. Structurally, this leads to the Silencing Effect: The aggressive comments make recipients show avoidance behaviour. 17% of female recipients described that they reduced their Social Media Postings after being threatened (only 6% of male recipients did so), and 14% of female Parliamentarians reduced their public events.
Prof. Steinert highlights that this poses a risk to weaken the representation of females in politics and by that democracy as a whole. The upcoming phases of the project will also highlight concernment and defense strategies applied by Politicians adds Prof. Pfeffer.
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These data are one of the first outputs of the research project "Understanding, Detecting, and Mitigating Online Misogyny against Politically Active Women" led by Prof. Jürgen Pfeffer, Prof. Janina Steinert (both TU München), and Prof. Sahana Udupa (LMU München). A detailed description of the project can be found on the project homepages of Prof. Janina Steinert and Prof. Jürgen Pfeffer.