The “cost” of politics for female leaders

By Alexa Fults
Staff Writer

Mona Lena Krook, Andrew Carnegie Fellow and professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Rutgers University. Picture courtesy of

Mona Lena Krook, Andrew Carnegie Fellow and professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Rutgers University, recently spoke at the Bairnwick Women’s Center on the harassment and violence against women involved in politics. Krook defined violence and harassment against female politicians as any threat that targets women because of gender, is gendered in its nature, or prevents women from participating in politics.

According to Krook, these threats are typically obscured from view and designed to silence and exclude women, thus altering the democratic process. Krook characterized violence in this sense as any direct force or threat of being violent and defined harassment as psychological intimidation or the presence of a hostile work environment.

Krook separated the forms of violence experienced by female politicians into four categories: sexual violence, psychological violence, economic violence, and semiotic violence. Sexual violence is classified as rape, sexual harassment, or any form of sexualized threat. Psychological violence is characterized as a manifestation of threats, stalking, or character assassination.

Economic violence consists of property damage or the denial of a salary, office, or staff. Semiotic violence can take the form of sexualized images or sexist language designed to make women appear incompetent or incapable of holding a political position.

Though violence and harassment against women in politics is not a new phenomenon, Krook pointed out that it is beginning to draw the attention of the global community. She showed the audience how several organizations have sparked movements with the hashtags “NotTheCost,” “NameitChangeit,” and “WeSaidEnough” to lift the conspiracy of silence in female politicians, who have been pressured into viewing violence and harassment as the cost of working in the political sphere.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union conducted a study revealing that more than 80 percent of female parliamentarians have experienced psychological violence. These women reported having received death threats directed towards them and their children, in addition to threats of rape, beatings, and abduction.

Krook attributes this extremism to the Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders, which explains that people see women less favorably than men in areas of leadership and performance regardless of the woman’s qualifications.

During her presentation, Krook was asked the following question: “What role does exclusive, patriarchal language have to do with equality?” She answered, “It has everything to do with equality. It shapes society and undermines democracy.”

Krook continued her response by saying that “if we were to reverse it, we would not accept it.” The world would be outraged by women threatening men simply for holding office, but society sees it happening to women every single day in every corner of the world.

Upon being asked if she felt the Role Congruity Theory of Prejudice Toward Female Leaders was applicable to the turnout of the 2016 U.S. election, Krook said that she felt the outcome might have been different had society not been brainwashed into viewing men as more natural leaders.

She named Donald Trump as “a perpetrator of violence” and explained that though Hillary Clinton was the most highly qualified candidate, it is no surprise that she didn’t win the election. In Krook’s line of thinking, why would a woman be elected to lead the patriarchy?