Politicians Under Threat : Gender Aspects of Violence against Political Representatives

Sammanfattning: This thesis investigates violence against politicians and its gender dimensions. Violence targeting elected representatives in the course of their work has received scant research attention, despite the central function of elected officials in representative democracy. Moreover, attacks on representatives of marginalized groups, such as women, carry symbolic meanings and can increase political alienation and distrust in the political system among women as a group. For these reasons, studying violence against politicians as specific actors, and how this violence may be gendered, is imperative.The thesis’ first essay fills a significant research gap by providing the first large-scale empirical analysis of gender differences in exposure to violence among politicians in general and across the political hierarchy. It demonstrates that Swedish female politicians experience slightly more violence than male, and significantly more violence than male counterparts at powerful and visible positions. The second essay shifts the perspective from the experiences of politicians themselves, to the perpetrator side, and investigates constituents’ attitudes to contacting and harassing women and men politicians in the US and Sweden. The essay suggests that gendered stereotypes of women politicians and norms on gendered leadership styles is an important driver of women’s higher exposure to political harassment from constituents. Citizens prefer to contact women representatives over men when they are angry about a political decision and want to change it, which increases the likelihood of hostility directed at women representatives. The third essay systematically theorizes representational costs of violence against politicians, and investigates how Swedish women and men politicians’ representation is disrupted by violence. This essay shows that violence has subtle but wide-ranging gendered representational costs. It enforces masculine coded candidate ideals of toughness, makes women representatives decrease their visibility, and silences debates and individuals that challenge hegemonic male substantive dominance.All in all, the thesis shows that violence against politicians amplifies women’s political marginalization, and disrupts representation at large and women’s representation in particular.