There is absolutely a growing trend of incivility, anger, and threats directed at many people in the public realm, particularly politicians and news media. This harassment disproportionally affects women, particularly in already marginalized communities. These attacks are very concerning, reprehensible, and in many cases illegal due to their inclusion of threats of harm.
No one is above criticism or arguing a position they take or an article they pen. In fact, many would say that they welcome debate, based on the merits of the content and not the gender or background of the originator. But physical and verbal intimidation is not a form of democratic expression.
Yes, there have been some of this same style of vitriol directed at male members of both professions, but the overwhelming majority of these examples are levelled at women. Numerous examples of abuse, including threats of assault and even death, intimidation, and misogynistic and racist language have been shared by many elected officials and members of the media publicly. Many have also been put in the position to involve law enforcement, out of fear for their own safety and that of their families.
These women have already made the sacrifice to put themselves out in the public realm, giving up anonymity, and privacy, and thereby sacrificing significant personal freedoms in order to serve their neighbours and society at large. Not addressing this concern will ultimately mean that qualified individuals will make choices to not enter these fields, depriving us all of their gifts, talents, and experience. We are interdependent and these actions actively erode the social fabric that democracy depends upon.
From my position of influence and privilege, it is a responsibility I share to stand up and speak in defense of those whose being targeted. While I have not experienced this personally, I have had a front-row seat to see examples of disturbing language and threats directed at many of my female colleagues. The alarming frequency and tone of these attacks when contrasted with their genuine desire to serve Calgary remind me of how fortunate we are to have their strength and resolve leading our City.
You don’t have to agree with the decisions of those leading, or the opinions of those contributing to the public discourse. But their right to lead and serve without fear is paramount. On an individual basis, we can all make an impact by reaching out positively to those you know have been targeted, thanking them for their public service and letting them know that our collective voices are louder and committed to building a safe society for all.