There’s undoubtedly a gendered element to [online] abuse. Women in politics will be much more likely to get abuse about how they look, what they wear and that’s probably, to be frank, at the more innocent end of it. Women in politics, and I probably speak for every woman in politics, will have seen commentary on social media which is of a sexually violent nature and that’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable for women in politics, just as it’s unacceptable for a woman anywhere to suffer that kind of abuse. It’s not only just women, of course. I think ethnic minority people in politics will suffer abuse that is of a different nature and we’ve got to call that out. It’s not acceptable.
The thing about people who hurl abuse on social media is that social media didn’t create these people, they’ve always been there. It’s just that social media gives them a way of getting to you that they never ever had before. We should be careful about not letting [online abuse] affect our behaviour, nor should we just shrug our shoulders and ignore it, because that contributes to the sense that somehow [abuse] is acceptable, when it’s emphatically not.
What makes me angry when I read abuse about me is that I worry that it puts the next generation of young women off politics. So, I feel a responsibility to challenge it, not so much on my own behalf, but on behalf of young women out there who are looking at what people say about me and thinking, “I don’t want to ever be in that position”.