Here’s a not-so-fun fact: A 2015 study found that 65 percent of women in parliaments across the world have been subjected to sexist remarks. A powerful new video created by Austin-based photojournalist Kelly West, and released by the Women’s Media Center, is sharing some of those stories.
The piece, “Silencing Women in Politics: The Costs to Democracy of Gender-Based Online Harassment,” includes eight women from both sides of the political spectrum who have run for office, including former Texas state senator Wendy Davis.
“It’s not accidental that in the year 2017, still 75 percent of the people who hold office in this country are men. It’s very purposeful,” Davis says in the video.
Hearing the personal accounts of the sexist remarks that the women, who also include Marilyn Mosby, a Democrat who is Baltimore City’s State’s Attorney and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, have encountered are striking, especially now amidst the seemingly daily breaking news detailing sexual harassment women have faced in the workplace.
"The topic felt particularly important in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, but over the months that we worked on the film, it seemed to become more and more relevant," West tells CultureMap.
After leaving her longtime staff position at the Austin American-Statesman, West was looking to dedicate her work to things that were both interesting, but also tapped into greater cultural issues.
"I was looking for a project to work on that would feel meaningful, and ideally give back to the community in some way," says West. "Soraya [Chemaly, director of Women’s Media Center Speech Project] and Marya Stark — the film's producers — were working on research at that time related to the harassment of women in politics, and so we decided to focus the film on that specifically, and to make it a PSA in the hopes of educating more people about the issue."
West says ultimately the goal of the video is to raise public awareness — and encourage more women to run for office, despite the added challenges.
"My hope is that this film helps educate people about the realities of what women experience in politics, but also that it encourages more women to participate in the process," she says. "That's the only way to see significant change."