A city council member in the small, quiet city of Sonoma, California, Hundley was working from home Aug. What she read stunned her. She read the note a few times before the reality of the threat set in. Then she clicked the link.
While unprecedented s of American women are running for public office inharassment and smear tactics that dig into the personal lives of female candidates are still fairly common. Over the years, public response to these types of attacks on candidates have shifted, especially in the wake of the MeToo movement, said Jennifer Lawless, a professor at the University of Virginia who has spent years studying the intersection of gender and politics.
Research shows women who push back and call out the behavior are often rewarded. But the threat of such harassment can still deter women from running. Hundley conferred with advisers and close friends — many of whom suggested that she ignore the threats.
Instead, Hundley decided to address it head-on with a YouTube video, which has nearly 14, views as of Monday afternoon. The purpose of the website was to make her afraid, she said.
But she refused to be intimidated. Most politicians deal with trolls and criticism, and inthe platforms and methods for harassment are vast.
Tactics such as sexualizing candidates are usually specific to women, Lawless said. For men, evidence of sexual prowess is often seen as a positive, a boon to their masculinity.
Before Hundley, Krystal Ball chose to speak out when photos of her were leaked during her campaign for congress in Virginia inin one of the first instances of this strain of online harassment to garner national attention. The photos were taken at a costume party when Ball was 22, and showed her and her ex-husband holding a sex toy. When she thinks back to when she first saw the photos online, after having worked so hard to be taken seriously, the horror still seems fresh.
As with Hundley, Ball was advised to lay low or issue a denial, but she decided to go public.
Despite having little TV experience at the time, Ball did a gauntlet of interviews to address the photos. Ball was praised by many for her bravery and boldness.
Over the years, Ball has heard from many women that she gave them the confidence to run by showing that it was possible to endure such smear tactics with grace and directness, she said. Still, it pains her to watch other women go through similar things.
On the morning of Aug. But the outpouring Hundley has felt from her community and beyond has been entirely positive. Hundley said the help is coming from people who are determined to keep attacks like the one against her from being successful, and Hundley is proud to be part of the change propelling women forward in politics.
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