On March 8th, 2021, International Women’s Day, D66 party leader Sigrid Kaag made a call to men, in particular, to speak out against sexist messages to women. 

Hate tweets

At the beginning of this year, De Groene Amstredammer (in collaboration with data scientists at Utrecht University) showed that 10% of all tweets addressed to women in politics were hateful and aggressive. 

In total, 339,932 tweets were analyzed. These hate tweets all relayed the same message. “Don’t talk, don’t have an opinion, and don’t you dare stand for anything; we know where to find you.” Politicians that belong to a minority religion or are of colour will receive extra hateful comments in comparison to their white, women counterparts. 

Kaag receives one hate tweet per 15 minutes 

Sigrid Kaag is an exception to that 10%. Kang, by far, receives the most hateful messages. 22% of all the tweets she receives are hateful, sexist, and aggressive. When looking at who Kaag is as a person, everything about her background seems to trigger a sexist person. She is a powerful woman who is married to a Palestinian man. Kang speaks about this, “He is not just a foreigner, but also a man with an Islamic background, who was born in Jerusalem. Moreover, I am internationally oriented and therefore cosmopolitan. 

Misogyny? We don’t have that in the Netherlands!

In the Netherlands, we are quick to think that talks about misogyny are exaggerated. We all like to think that sexist and harassing tweets are unkind acts of individuals, and not as common, societal trends. However, it is time to recognize that the climate for women is still becoming increasingly bleak in the Netherlands. 

Journalists also write differently about female politicians

In addition to researching tweets, the research team analyzed 245 newspaper and magazine interviews.

In these interviews, both female and male politicians were featured. Researchers found that women were described and questioned differently than their male counterparts. In interviews with women, journalists would ask questions relating to family or about their families. In interviews with men, journalists would ask questions related to power. Moreover, the team found that in 80% of female interviews, the female politicians were addressed by their first names, while in the case of male interviews, only 30% of them were addressed by their first names. 

How do female politicians deal with this?  

Most politicians believe that you must not allow yourself to be vulnerable or you will bring these issues upon yourself. Above all, you should not engage or else it will come back to get you. The motto is: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! However, we do see that women are more likely to respond and not let blatant sexism go unanswered. 

Lilianne Ploumen

Nieuwsuur (NOS, a reputable Dutch new agency) reported in an introductory video that Lilianne Ploumen’s 2012 ministry came quite unexpectedly. According to them, Ploumen had been party chair before her ministry, which is not true. Before her time at the ministry, she worked for years in the sector of development cooperation. Would NOS write about Wopke Hoekstra, a male Dutch politician, and say that his ministry was also unexpected? No, of course not.

Sigrid Kaag 

In Volkskrant (a Dutch reputable newspaper), Kaag confronted the topic of her being seen as an elitist. Kaag replied that this information was far from the truth and was completely unjustified. She explained that she had worked her way out of a rotten childhood and there was nothing elitist about her upbringing. 

Female Politicians, Fight back! 

We are slowly moving towards a new era. An era where women politicians, when confronted with sexism are able to actively challenge their assaulters and not let it go unanswered with a friendly smile. 

Resources:

Internationale vrouwendag 2021 Sigrid Kaag: https://d66.nl/over-sigrid/sigrid-kaag-speech-internationale-vrouwendag/

Misogynie als politiek wapen: https://www.groene.nl/artikel/misogynie-als-politiek-wapen

Diepgaande data-analyse van de online haat tegen vrouwelijke politici: https://www.groene.nl/voorbeeld/diepgaande-data-analyse-van-de-online-haat-tegen-vrouwelijke-politici

Vogelvrije vrouwen: https://www.groene.nl/artikel/vogelvrije-vrouwen

Seksisme in de politiek het laat mij persoonlijk koud: https://m.kro-ncrv.nl/fragmenten/seksisme-in-de-politiek-het-laat-mij-persoonlijk-koud

Och, die Kaag trekt een dure jurk aan naar het debat? Hoe durft ze!: https://www.parool.nl/columns-opinie/och-die-kaag-trekt-een-dure-jurk-aan-naar-het-debat-hoe-durft-ze~b802cad1/