Research

Violence against women in politics is a concept that draws from political violence and gender- based violence literature, addresses their convergence, and posits that violence against women in politics represents a frequently occurring but underexplored phenomenon that may depress women’s political representation. The small but growing collection of violence against women in politics literature acknowledges that factors like race and ethnicity, as well as age and political ideology, may interact with gender to exacerbate the abuse that politically active women experience. But I argue that few contributions to the field have adequately incorporated an intersectional lens, even one which is broadly defined so as to account for political ideology. Given the definition of intersectionality adopted by scholars of violence against women in politics, my research seeks to bridge this gap by examining the extent to which elected representatives’ gender identities, intersectional identities, and ideological leanings interact to elicit abuse. Employing unique Twitter data and utilizing a violence against women in politics framework, I examine a week’s worth of tweets sent to a sample of three pairs of similarly positioned representatives serving in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and seek to isolate the effect of gender. Though I find that violence, violence against women in politics, and intersectional abuse are rare at both the tweet level and at the congressmember level, differences within the pairs of similarly positioned representatives confirm that gender does shape the experience of online abuse. My research also suggests that other characteristics belonging to representatives, including their visibility and caucus leadership positions, may shape the ways in which as well as the extent to which the public engages with representatives in online spaces. This work offers both quantitative insights into the magnitude of abusive tweets that representatives receive and qualitative insights into the ways in which such tweets make reference to representatives’ intersectional identities and ultimately lays the groundwork for future research.