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May 31, 2024 46 mins

As we are making our way through a major election year, we are seeing a distressing increase in misinformation, disinformation and attacks against women candidates and leaders. Bridget Todd breaks down the situation and why it is crucial to address for the future of democracy.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Anny and Samantha. I'm welcome to Steffone
never told you a prediction of iHeartRadio. And today we
are really lucky because we are once again joined by
the fabulous and delightful bridget Todd three times in this month.

Speaker 2 (00:28):
That's amazing.

Speaker 3 (00:29):
I know, I love it. I'm like, okay, coming on,
how often can we have you on? Let's do more stuff?

Speaker 4 (00:34):
I also love it, you know, the Hugh Hefner antics
never end. Also, can I just say thank you for
if folks haven't listened to our Hugh Hefner conversation, I've
got a lot out of it, and thank you for Like,
I don't know, I feel like it was a meaty
one and people should listen to it.

Speaker 2 (00:54):
And yeah, I'm grateful that we had the space.

Speaker 3 (00:57):
Yeah, I know. And of course we stretched it out
very long.

Speaker 5 (01:00):
We still left out so many things at the end
that we do want to come back with, maybe like
a conversation about where Playboy and magazines as that are today,
and that will be a later, later conversation.

Speaker 3 (01:12):
I swear to Goddess later, because there's.

Speaker 5 (01:15):
So much and it is so deep, and like having
going through all of that depth conversation that who was
kind of at one point, we're like, this is abruptly ending,
and Annie had to fix us because he's like, yo,
we can't do it like that because that's too much.
But it was so much that there was no like
bits of it that was just like, Okay, this is
an easy, easy going part.

Speaker 3 (01:35):
There's no easy going part.

Speaker 4 (01:38):
No, Yeah, it's so true, and like what a I
don't know. I've been listening to a lot of nostalgia
podcasts that are like, oh.

Speaker 2 (01:47):
Remember when this, remember when that?

Speaker 4 (01:48):
Like you know, you're wrong about things like that, and
it's like, what a weird time for the culture, What
a weird thing that we all experienced together like it
was normal and it really.

Speaker 5 (01:57):
Was not right though, because we are aging, like slowly aging,
y'all slower than Maze fines great, but like looking back
on things, a lot of this conversation is because things
are revamping and we're seeing in the younger generation doing
their thing similar to what we already know and putting
their own like style to it. But watching it is

(02:19):
kind of like, huh, that's not as original as you think.
It's cute and I like your version, but just know
that this was there before. But at the same time,
I'm like, I wonder how many times the people before
us also felt that way. We're just coming into that
same like generational glitch of like, yeah, there it is.
This is why now I understand that the older generation
would just look at us kind of funny and be like,

(02:40):
what are you doing? This has been done anyway. I've
had those moments lately.

Speaker 4 (02:47):
I had one watching a group of like very young
people wearing the oversized jeans that are so long that
that you are stepping on them, and it was like
a damp day and I was like, ooh, I remember
that feeling of like the Jinko jeans that went over
the back that the heels of your sneaker and get
wet and gross yuck.

Speaker 3 (03:07):
You're gonna want the skinny jeans again one day.

Speaker 4 (03:08):
Yeah, like, oh, y'all are back there again. Okay, cool,
let's see how that goes.

Speaker 1 (03:13):
I just have to put in here, and I'm not
going to provide any more context than this, but Jinko
jeans are very important in my Dungeons and Dragons campaign
follow up or no, no, no.

Speaker 3 (03:27):
I I think Peaches has something to do with this.

Speaker 1 (03:30):
Dog Peaches is very much a inspiration in the campaign. Yeah, well,
I'll say this as the I run the game, sometimes
you got to go with what the players are doing.
And we're all from kind of the same generation.

Speaker 3 (03:43):
Is that millennial level of like.

Speaker 6 (03:46):
Yeah, anyway, we really appreciate you joining us today, virgin
What you the topic you have for us is one
that I admit is giving me a lot of thingsniety,
But I'm very glad that you're here to talk about
it because it's so so important and there's a lot
to breakdown, So let's go ahead and get into it.

Speaker 2 (04:08):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (04:09):
I feel the same anxiety and angst that you're feeling
I'm feeling, and that is that we have an upcoming election.
I've been doing this thing where I'm saying I'm not
going to even pay attention to the election until we're
like one hundred days out. Generally for me around then
that I'm like, oh o God, I just want a campaign.
But I think like I need to confront the fact

(04:31):
that we're in an election year, and it's not twenty
twenty four.

Speaker 2 (04:34):
It's not just an election year.

Speaker 4 (04:35):
It's probably the election year, not just here in the
United States, but also globally.

Speaker 2 (04:41):
I did not know this.

Speaker 4 (04:42):
Around the world, more voters in history will vote this year,
with at least sixty four countries and the European Union
having elections combined. This is about forty nine percent of
people worldwide are meant to be holding national elections in
twenty twenty four.

Speaker 2 (04:57):
So it's a very big deal.

Speaker 4 (04:58):
The stakes are high, or not wrong to be feeling
a little anxiety or a little angst or a little
uncertainty around it, Annie, But given all that, I think
it really makes sense to think about whether or not
elections are fair to women who are running for office. Obviously,
this is like a global issue, but right here in

(05:19):
the United States things are also very bleak.

Speaker 2 (05:21):
And it's important because we can't have like.

Speaker 4 (05:24):
An equitable, functional democracy if women are not able to
run for office without facing identity motivated attacks simply for
showing up and daring to be women.

Speaker 1 (05:34):
Yes, and you've talked about this a lot before, and
I think it's so important because if you're considering running
for office as a woman or any intersection of marginalized identity,
that's just like an extra thing to deal with, and
like your family has to deal with, like people who
know you has to deal with, and I can't honestly

(05:55):
blame people for being like, you know what, I don't
want to deal with that, And that's a huge problem.
Is a huge.

Speaker 4 (06:01):
Problem, absolutely, and even for folks who are not running
for elected office, it's a problem because more and more
we're seeing it just harassment and identity based attacks being
part of showing up to public or civic life. And
so if you want to be a poll worker for
your elections in your town, or if you want to
speak up at a town hall meeting in your town,

(06:23):
just these every day, not exciting bits of democracy, these
everyday ways that folks should be able to show up
and make their voices heard and participate in their civic
and public life. Women and people of color and other
marginalized people are facing attacks just for doing that. And
you know, it makes me sad because I've seen very
clear research that suggests that women are shying away from

(06:48):
public office and shying away from this kind of civic
participation because.

Speaker 2 (06:52):
Of these attacks. And on the one hand, I get it, like.

Speaker 4 (06:55):
Women are smart enough to know if I'm not protected
and when I do this, if I have to pay
lots of lots and lots of money to protect myself
in a way that my male counterparts just don't even
have to think about. I don't want to do that.
And so as much as I want to have the
representative democracy that we all deserve, I understand why more
and more marginalized people are checking out and being like, yeah,

(07:16):
I'm just not going to sign up for this, Like
why would you?

Speaker 2 (07:18):
I get it?

Speaker 1 (07:19):
Yeah, And I think one of the reasons for my anxiety,
A lot of our anxiety, as you said, you have
been on here to talk about it being like disinformation
in these attacks and misinformation, it feels like it's gotten
worse for a lot of reasons. Is that in my.

Speaker 4 (07:37):
Head or I am sorry to say it is not
in your head. You know, today in twenty twenty four,
women in politics and positions of power are the targets of.

Speaker 2 (07:47):
Just overwhelming volumes.

Speaker 4 (07:49):
Of gender disinformation and online abuse in forms of character assassinations,
fake stories, and humiliating or sexually charged images. Something that
is new is the proliferation of AI enabled disinformation, visual disinformation,
so things like cheap fakes, deep stakes, all of that
kind of stuff that I think we really hadn't had
to wade through before, Like we are now.

Speaker 2 (08:12):
And I also just think, I mean, this is just
my opinion.

Speaker 4 (08:15):
I think that the cultural landscape around these kinds of
attacks have changed.

Speaker 2 (08:21):
I think that we're in a place where people.

Speaker 4 (08:25):
Are really willing to believe things that adhere to their
worldviews already. And so if you see a piece of
disinformation or an AI generated deep fake, even if there
are all the things that you're like, that's probably not
true if it aligns to your worldview. Anecdotally, I believe
that I've seen more and more people being unwilling to

(08:47):
challenge things that are clearly not true if it aligns
to their worldview. And we're talking about misogyny and sexism,
so much of that is wrapped.

Speaker 2 (08:56):
Up in how people think about the world.

Speaker 4 (08:58):
And so if you already are somebody who was prone
to think that women are untrustworthy or women are incapable,
or women are not qualified or not good leaders, when
you see something that confirms that, even if it's like
obviously AI manipulated or something are not true, I do
think here in twenty twenty four, people are going to
be willing to be like, oh, yeah, that tracks, you know,
because it aligns to this like deeply held idea and

(09:21):
attitude about women that they already have, right, you know.

Speaker 5 (09:25):
One of the things I was thinking about the last
time we kind of had a similar conversation about this,
we talked a lot about like bots, and we talked
a lot about like how Russia really did target specific
women and marginalized people, even pretending to be like marginalized
people themselves in order to attack other people or be like, yes,
I'm definitely voting for so and so because I am

(09:46):
this type of person who thinks that this candidate will
do the best for us, even though it's not true
at all, which you know, we've seen plants essentially everywhere,
but then these bots were this thing. Is there something
different this time round that we're seeing, Like as as
calculated as that was, obviously it's getting worse.

Speaker 3 (10:02):
What are we seeing now?

Speaker 2 (10:04):
Yeah, that's a great question.

Speaker 4 (10:05):
I would say that I was somebody who really talked
a lot about the way that global forces were using
and exploiting our online ecosystem to like manufacture political conversation
in a way that was inauthentic, and I think that's
important to talk about. Like, there was an entire Senate

(10:25):
inquiry report that said that Russia specifically was interested in
targeting black people, black voters and get them to either
vote for Trump or to stay home in our last
presidential election.

Speaker 2 (10:35):
Right, So, like that's a thing.

Speaker 4 (10:38):
However, I think in twenty twenty four, the conversation really
has to be more involved because it's not just foreign adversaries,
it is also people right here in the United States.

Speaker 2 (10:50):
You have the front.

Speaker 4 (10:51):
Runner for the Republican Party engaging in identity based disinformation
attacks all the time, right, And so I think the
problem has gotten more involved, and I think there are
more parties involved.

Speaker 2 (11:04):
And I also think it's.

Speaker 4 (11:05):
Been more normalized, right, Like I think like the idea
that someone would just lie about a candidate and tell
a lie that is only works because it is supported
by bias or unfair attitudes or lies.

Speaker 2 (11:20):
About somebody's identity.

Speaker 4 (11:21):
I think that we're in a place where people are
not calling that what it is, and so the whole
problem thats would have like gotten worse.

Speaker 1 (11:29):
Yes, And I think like when you do call it
what it is, we've just become so like we don't
trust anybody else's data. We don't trust for they're getting
their sources. That's what my experience has been When I
get in fights with people, they're always like, where's your source?

Speaker 4 (11:48):
No, don't even get me like this, like where don't
I even start?

Speaker 2 (11:53):
Like I have had that same experience.

Speaker 4 (11:55):
It's part and parcel of why I've kind of like
given up on a certain kind of online discourse with strangers,
because I'm just like, it's not worth my time. If
you're somebody who wants to be in the trenches arguing
with somebody on a Reddit, more love to you, like
good job, good luck, and it's.

Speaker 2 (12:11):
Not my ministry. I don't have the energy, I don't
have the.

Speaker 4 (12:13):
Time because and I guess that's the thing about people
with these entrenched worldviews, but it's very hard to have
conversations with them in some cases because it's like, oh well,
here's a like reputable source, and it's like, oh, well
the source is wrong. Here's why you can't trust whatever source.
And the problem is is really that like a lot

(12:36):
of these institutions and sources really have given people legit
reasons to be suss about them and to question them, and.

Speaker 2 (12:43):
So it just makes it that much more complicated.

Speaker 4 (12:44):
We're like, you know, well, yes, like I don't want
to go out here and cape for like the CDC
or whatever.

Speaker 2 (12:52):
But like we have to start somewhere.

Speaker 4 (12:54):
We have to have like a baseline understanding of just
the reality that we're all sharing, other wise everything breaks down.

Speaker 1 (13:12):
You are someone who has been working in the world
of disinformation and misinformation for a while, and I think
it's interesting because when we talk to you, there's always
kind of like almost like a game plan of like
how things work, are how people do things, and as yes,
as you've been saying, like some of it relies on

(13:32):
what's baked in already, of like the sexism baked in
already totally.

Speaker 4 (13:36):
So that is a great way to put it, Annie,
because it really is like a game plan. And I really,
in the work that I do around missing disinformation, I
really encourage folks to like take a step back and
see the machinations of how this is working, to sort
of see the ways that we are being essentially like
hoodwinked and grifters are sort of like getting something out

(13:58):
of us by following a very specific kind of game plan.
And so you can really think about the way that
we're seeing misogyny based attacks work today as a sort
of three pronged attack.

Speaker 2 (14:09):
Prong one is online violence.

Speaker 4 (14:11):
So like threats of abuse, hate speech, harassments, beer campaigns.
Then you have pronged two disinformation by bad actors. So
like the kind of artificial activity that Sam was talking about,
like bots, coordinated influence operations, fake news combined with algorithmic
preferences toward insidiary content. Right, Like a whole body of
research tells us that social media platforms, places like Twitter, Reddit, whatever,

(14:37):
they really do prioritize content.

Speaker 2 (14:40):
That is inflammatory.

Speaker 5 (14:41):
Right.

Speaker 4 (14:41):
And so if you are somebody who wants to tell
an inflammatory lie that it's identity based about somebody that
is going to get profential treatment on algorithms, it's just
a fact. And then the last prong is what you
were talking about Annie, just gold fashioned everyday sexism, right,
Just the general suspicion around women, particularly women of color

(15:04):
and black women, suspicion around our motivations, our abilities are
like motivations to lead, like why do we want to lead?

Speaker 2 (15:12):
How do we get to a leadership position?

Speaker 4 (15:14):
All of this really allows gender based attacks to take
root in mainstream political discourse. So I wish that we
were talking about something that we only see festering in
you know, random dudes blog dot biz. But a lot
of this conversation does get amplified to like mainstream platforms.

Speaker 1 (15:37):
It does. And that's something I've been thinking about a
lot lately too, is the you've talked about before, like
how kind of like outrage gets more money, like in
it's monetized in our social media and other platforms. And
I feel when women point that out, the criticisms come

(16:01):
again of like, well, see she can't handle it or
what have you. But there are numbers to back this up.

Speaker 2 (16:07):
Oh totally.

Speaker 4 (16:08):
And something about that is like men are not being
asked to handle identity based criticisms when they run for
public office or just not. And so I would argue
that like a landscape where women are asked to handle
something that their counterparts simply do not have to deal
with is not a fair landscape.

Speaker 2 (16:27):
And you shouldn't have to put up.

Speaker 4 (16:28):
With identity based lies and smears to run for office.
You should be able to handle criticisms about your record,
about what you say, about your behavior, about your policy.
But we're not talking about that. We're talking about you
can't lead because you're a woman. I am suspicious of
your motivations because you're a woman. That's a different thing
that men in public office simply do not have to

(16:49):
deal with.

Speaker 2 (16:49):
So let's look at some of the data around this.

Speaker 4 (16:53):
So discrediting and disabusing women candidates in the twenty twenty
two midterm election echoed these patterns that really took shape
in twenty twenty when racist and sexist and ablest abuse
was hurled at candidates like Representative Ilhan Omar and Senator
Tammy Duckworth, when multiple secretaries of state faced harassment and
legit physical threats for ratifying the election results, and white

(17:17):
supremacists plotted to kidnap and hold ransom Governor Whitmere side note,
that is something that like, I don't think that we
ever like the fact that white supremacists were foiled in
a plot to kidnap a public elected official. We did
not have nearly enough conversation about that. I believe if

(17:37):
that had happened in another country, we would be like,
we would be looking at it like, wow, look who
can't do democracy? Oh my god, what is going on
over there? It happened here, and I feel like it
barely made made a blip.

Speaker 5 (17:50):
I mean, it's kind of like any abuse situation or
stalking situation unless they're dead. They don't care unless we die,
They're not going to listen. It's not an actual threat,
which is the most absurd thing that they need to
see it end in violence in order to give credit
to what happened, Like that's unfortunately what's happening.

Speaker 4 (18:08):
And that's sort of my point of this whole conversation, Sam,
is that we shouldn't accept that we have to wait
until somebody is dead or in the hospital to have
these conversations. Right like media platforms amplified violence and abuse
against Nancy Pelosi and her hustbody broke into her house

(18:30):
and attacked her husband with a hammer and.

Speaker 2 (18:31):
He was hospitalized, right.

Speaker 4 (18:32):
Like, it shouldn't take something like that to be like,
oh wait, is this a real thing. It's a real thing,
and it shouldn't have to get to a point of
violence for us to really take it seriously, and that
these kinds of.

Speaker 2 (18:47):
Attacks are really expanding.

Speaker 4 (18:48):
There is a recent global study shows that women government
officials targeted with violence is one of the largest categories
of attacks in the US compared to other regions of
the world, which includes public and civil servants, local authorities,
and nonpartisan political appointments such as judges, so like, yeah,
like it's a global problem, but the problem is unique
in the United States, and especially given that we might

(19:10):
have two women running for vice president in twenty twenty four.
The way that we talk about gender and leadership and
the way that we know the kind of conversations that
we normalize and tolerate around women in leadership, we are
going to have to sort of get that straight right,
because it's certainly going to be something that comes up.
In fact, I would say that we've already seen this
when it comes to a tax on Vice President Harris.

Speaker 1 (19:34):
Yes. Yeah, it's so sad because I remember having these
thoughts when like Hillary Clinton was almost elected and then
Vice President Kamala Harris. I was thinking that they're going
to be assassinated. I thought that, And that's horrific that

(19:54):
I thought it, But I was like worried for them.
And there's a reason to because there are. If you're
living in a world where you're getting constant threats of
like death and violence and sexual violence, it's hard not
to think like one of these people might actually do something.

Speaker 4 (20:16):
Yeah, especially in a country where guns are not really
that difficult to come by, in a country that normalizes
and amplifies these this kind of violent rhetoric against women
in public officials like the conditions are perfect for that
kind of violence to easily move from online violence to
offline violence, just like we saw in January sixth, right

(20:37):
like we're I'm not like pulling this out of nowhere.

Speaker 2 (20:40):
We have already seen this.

Speaker 1 (20:41):
Yes, and again there are numbers behind behind.

Speaker 2 (20:46):
This, there sure are.

Speaker 4 (20:48):
So shout out to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. They
have a study that found that women of color candidates
are targeted by the right at really alarming rates online
a couple of key finding so, abusive messages accounted for
more than fifteen percent of those directed at every female
lawmaker analyzed, compared with around five to ten percent of

(21:08):
male candidates. Women of color are particularly likely to be targeted.
And this piece I think is really important. So male
politicians who are ethnic minorities are not more vulnerable than
their white counterparts. For instance, Corey Booker and Tim Scott,
who are both black men, got similar levels of abuse
to white male candidates. However, the attacks against them were

(21:29):
more likely to be around race. ISD found so abuse
directed toward women it's more likely to be about their
gender than abuse targeting men. Abuse targeting men was more
generalized and focused on their political stances, while the messages
directed that women are more likely to focus on things
like their appearance or like general competence. Female Democrats received

(21:52):
ten times more abusive comments than their male counterparts on Facebook,
and Republican women received twice as many abusive comments as
Republican men. So it's one of those situations where women
of color and black women.

Speaker 2 (22:04):
Are really shouldering the majority of this burden.

Speaker 4 (22:07):
But it's it's it's not the same along gender and
race lines, right, Like it is very different if you
are criticizing somebody because of their their political stances or
their policy versus if you're criticizing somebody because of the
way they look or because of like a like a
general sussbission of who they are based on their identity, Like,
those things are very different. And as this report from

(22:29):
the Institute for Strategic Dialogue points out, everybody is not
shouldering that burden equally.

Speaker 1 (22:34):
Yes, and it's it's very frustrating for a lot of reasons.
But as going back to like the whole like showing
your sources thing, it's really hard to combat, right, it's
really hard to to fight against this.

Speaker 4 (22:53):
It really is like, this is work that I have
done professionally during various times of my career, and you know,
being in the space, we talk a lot about things
like debunking, which I do think has its place. However,
it's a pretty frustrating endeavor because it's like you're playing
whack a mole, right Like I used to be the
person who would have meetings with Facebook or Twitter or

(23:15):
Reddit and be like, oh, well, here's a bunch of
examples of content that violates your terms of service and
seems to be violent threats or attacks on public officials
or women running for office, and they'd be.

Speaker 2 (23:27):
Like, okay, we'll take those down.

Speaker 4 (23:28):
And it's like you can't do that forever, right Like,
So it is a frustrating thing, and I think, you know,
you need more than just debunking to combat this stuff,
you know, gender disinformation. I don't feel like it can
really be addressed through just fact checking or debunking. These
attacks are often based in character assassination or just unverifiable information,

(23:51):
and so when that is magnified by algorithmic preferences of
platforms that privilege fake and outrageous content.

Speaker 2 (23:58):
To enhance profit. We have a real problem.

Speaker 4 (24:02):
It's a tech problem, it's a policy problem, it's a
democracy problem, it's a cultural problem.

Speaker 2 (24:06):
It's a lot of problems all rolled into one big
ball that like whack.

Speaker 4 (24:10):
Playing whack the moll on individual pieces of content just
ain't going to cut it right. And so I would
say that this really needs to be combated by changing
social media platform policies in the long term, and also
a cultural understanding of what's going on. Right, So not
just being like, oh, well, it's just a platform problem,

(24:31):
really understanding the role that, like the way that we're
all thinking about and talking about women who run for
office and other marginalized people who run for office, really
does play a role in pushing back against this.

Speaker 5 (24:42):
I mean a part of the conversation is that the
reason feminism is important, the reason intersectional feminism is important,
is to undo the misogyny and the conversations that happened
that allowed this to start with, that allow this type
of rhetoric to begin with. Like in this conversation, odd
because I always go back to thinking, how immediately like

(25:03):
a one a man specifically wants to threaten a woman
is always some kind of sexual violence that's the immediate
part is like their go too. And we know when
it comes to war crimes, that's one of the number
one things that is used within these wars that are
often so like awful. We start thinking about it, like
the level of sexual violence that happened to show power
and control and a lot all of this has to

(25:24):
do with the misogynistic take on power, and it's kind
of one of those questions of like how do you
even begin, especially when it's so deeply rooted that any
almost especially like I'm gonna say this, like uneducated, ignorant people,
that's their go to, Like that's the first thing, is
that you deserve to be like raped, Like that's their comment,

(25:46):
and you see it so many times that it becomes normalized.

Speaker 4 (25:50):
Yeah, I mean, how many of us, like I know
that I've experienced this.

Speaker 2 (25:54):
I'm sure that you all have.

Speaker 4 (25:56):
I'm sure that a lot of people listening, how many
of us have had some creed say like I hope
you get raped, you deserve to be raped. Like the
fact that that is hurled at us as a threat
when we speak up and use our voices, I think
that that illustrates exactly what you're talking about.

Speaker 2 (26:12):
Them.

Speaker 1 (26:14):
Yeah, so what what can we do then to address
this online? Perhaps?

Speaker 4 (26:26):
So the first thing I would say is really understanding
the kinds of attacks that stick and letting that kind
of inform your thinking about how you respond.

Speaker 2 (26:35):
Right, because not all of these these.

Speaker 4 (26:37):
Tactics are creative equal, So let's look at the ones
that are actually effective at impacting voting behavior. Attacks that
seem to pack the biggest punch on voter behavior focus
on character things like trust, qualifications, likability, and control with
a constant backdrop these like sexualized attacks that we were
just talking about. So you can sort of think of
these attacks as manifesting in the.

Speaker 2 (27:00):
Candidates are untrustworthy.

Speaker 4 (27:01):
So women are liars or hypocrites or too ambitious, right that,
like the very fact that this woman is running for
office means that there is something off about her, Like
you can't trust somebody who wants it too much?

Speaker 2 (27:14):
Right, And then meanwhile it's like, oh, so did like.

Speaker 4 (27:17):
The male candidate just like accidentally fill out the paperwork
to run and just like accidentally found themselves on a
podium like And those attacks really work because trust is
obviously a major factor in vote choice. Another one is
that women are unqualified women are stupid, weak, incapable, and experienced.

Speaker 2 (27:35):
Right, So historically.

Speaker 4 (27:37):
Women must meet a higher threshold to prove their qualifications.

Speaker 2 (27:42):
Another is that women are just unlikable. I just don't
like her.

Speaker 4 (27:46):
I don't like her face, I don't like what she
stands for, difficult to get along with.

Speaker 2 (27:50):
This is one that like you see a lot with
women of color.

Speaker 4 (27:54):
You know they're angry or like never satisfied or like
what a sour puss. No one likes them. They have
annoying personalities. Like women, leaders are expected to be agreeable.
I remember when Elizabeth Warren was running for president. One
of the attacks that her campaign really saw a lot
is that she was like too prepared and would would evoke.

Speaker 2 (28:15):
Plans for too many things.

Speaker 4 (28:16):
So if you asked her a question, she'd be like, oh,
here's my plan on that, or like here's my policy
paper on that, and people were like, don't like it too.

Speaker 1 (28:24):
I can't be with her.

Speaker 2 (28:29):
It really. I mean, like if.

Speaker 4 (28:30):
You're if you were a woman who like dominated and
led the group project in class, I don't need to
tell you that. Sometimes when you're really good and really
qualified and know what you're doing, uh, that will be
seen as an attack on you.

Speaker 2 (28:46):
We're like used against.

Speaker 4 (28:47):
You to be like, I just don't like her, even
though she's like did all the work on this project
that I would have gotten an F without her, I
don't like it. And lastly that they're uncontrollable. They're too angry,
too crazy, too hormonal, too evil, all of that, that
they're too whatever to be voted into office. And you
can really see how these are like things that kind

(29:09):
of there's there's really no way to win because they
are sexually promiscuous or they're uneffable, right, so it's like, oh,
if you're too sexual or not sexual enough, both of
those are like attacks, so it's like what are you
supposed to do, Like there's no way to.

Speaker 1 (29:25):
Win, right. A lot of these are very they're conflicting
with each other. It's like you're too ambitious, but you
don't know what you're doing. Like it's like too okay,
I can't prepared. I guess that's bad, too okay.

Speaker 4 (29:38):
Cool, absolutely and so like, and all of these attacks
work and they stick despite being like contradictory or like
seemingly really silly. They work because of this larger system
of unchecked misogyny massage noire and biased against women. That
is worse for marginalized women. And so the reason why

(29:58):
these are effective and actually you know, not just existing
out there but actually impacting voting behavior is because of
this larger cultural climate of bias against women and marginalized people.

Speaker 1 (30:10):
Absolutely, and I know a lot of us have experienced
that just in our lives, just seen it. Do you
have any tips on how we can counter this or
fight back against this?

Speaker 2 (30:30):
Totally?

Speaker 4 (30:31):
So the biggest one, I think is just to share positive,
accurate content about women's participation in civic and political life.
You know, I would say the most effective form of
inoculation against this is not like debunking each specific individual attack,
It is demonstrating that women belong in political life, that
women are good leaders, So really demonstrating women as trustworthy, qualified,

(30:55):
and competent. That's the kind of content that we need
to really correct the narrative and protect leaders and emphasize
the need for women and marginalized people's place in political involvement.
So take all of that to mean that probably the
worst thing that you can do if you're trying to
combat this kind of thing is to directly respond or
engage with individual attacks because that could amplify them or

(31:17):
legitimize them. This is something that I think is really
tough and I have to check myself on because when
I'm scrolling social media and I see like a lie
about a woman, my first instinct is to reply and
be like, that's not true, blah blah blah. But because
of the way that algorithms work, you actually might be
amplifying that because the algorithm is like, oh, you're engaging
with this, it must be good content.

Speaker 2 (31:38):
Let me show it to more people. So that is
not what you want to do.

Speaker 4 (31:43):
Instead, push out positive, proactive counter messaging that supports women
leaders as qualified and also acknowledge the kinds of identity
based harms that they are facing. So if there's a
particular woman candidate that you're like, like, yay, I like
this person, emphasize that woman's credentials, her expertise, her background,
and her shared values. According to research from Gretchen Barton

(32:04):
of the Worthy Strategy Group, there are six intangible qualities
that Americans look for in their leaders. They want somebody
who is a challenger, a nurturer, an innovator, strong, stable,
and visible and meets the moment right and so there
is a huge disparity in women being and underrepresented in
each of these categories that Americans site when they're asked
to envision what they want of a leader, And so

(32:25):
we should really be working to flip the script a
little bit and show all the different ways that these
dynamic women leaders that dot our political landscape fit those
things that Americans say that they want out of their leaders, right,
So highlighting the ways that women are innovators, highlighting the
ways that women are strong and stable and visible, highlighting

(32:46):
the ways that women really are the ones who are
rising up to meet the moment and challenging the status quo. Right,
all of these things that we know make women great leaders.
A good way to challenge the lies that women are
facing in our current media climate is to highlight.

Speaker 2 (33:03):
The truth about the.

Speaker 4 (33:04):
Fact that women do make really good leaders and that
we want a pluralistic society where women are well represented.

Speaker 1 (33:10):
Yes, and it's really unfortunate because there are examples of this,
plenty of examples of women being good leaders, but it
always feels like either they're ignored or like, if I'm
thinking of cases from outside the United States, like that's
the United States, though, like she's a good leader from Europe.

(33:34):
Okay New Zealand, honey, Okay, cool. I don't like that
one thing. I have to say. I have had some
experiences where I've tried with liberal white men to do this,
and let me tell you how angry they got. I

(33:56):
was shocked. So if that's that's like a to me,
that a wake up call of how embedded this is.
That I thought they would at least hear me out,
and they did not.

Speaker 2 (34:07):
Yeah, I mean, I hate to say it.

Speaker 4 (34:10):
I have had the same experience, and I think there
are a lot of men in my life that think
of themselves as like progressive or radical or lefty or
like promoters of democracy. But then even they don't see
the ways that misogyny and sexism threaten our democracy, even
as those things are so clear to me. And so

(34:30):
I've really experienced what you're highlighting that like, even from
men who are like ostensibly with it.

Speaker 2 (34:38):
It's just I think it's just I don't think that
men see it that way all the time.

Speaker 4 (34:41):
I just think that they that they're like, oh well,
sexism ended back in whatever, and like it's just not
a topic that I think impacts our lives anymore when
it so impacts our lives, and I guess that's one
of the reasons why it's so insidious and why it
takes such intentionality to combat it, because the things are
so ingrained that people might not even realize the ways

(35:03):
that they are contributing to it.

Speaker 1 (35:05):
Yep. I had a guy tell me there was no
sexism in the twenty sixteen election, and I was like,
you do know what I do for a living, right,
It's like, I just don't see it. Okay, cool, I'm
gonna leave because I'm gonna get real mad. But just
I don't agree. And a part of that is this

(35:27):
idea we shouldn't talk about it, are we should ignore it,
which is not really helpful.

Speaker 2 (35:34):
Always no there, I mean, I'm guilty of this too.

Speaker 4 (35:38):
There used to be this attitude that, you know, the
only way to counter these unfair attacks was to ignore them,
right like when they go low, we go high, Like
don't don't mention it, like it'll go away. I hate
to say that that is really a page from an old,
outdated playbook. Research really suggests now that ignoring these attacks.

Speaker 2 (35:57):
Just doesn't make them go away.

Speaker 4 (35:58):
It just allows them to fester, get amplified and become
legitimized and become part of our political discourse.

Speaker 2 (36:06):
And it could also kind of.

Speaker 4 (36:08):
Backfire for women who are running for office, because candidates
want to see like strength and backbone and a candidate
meeting the moment. And so if you're like I'm not
going to respond to that, that can sort of backfire
because it's like, oh, well, why isn't she meeting the moment.
So that doesn't mean that like a woman candidate needs
to get meyred down in the in the bog of

(36:29):
like defending herself against unfair lies and attacks. But it's
really about emphasizing your accomplishments and qualifications in a way
that corrects harmful narratives without repeating those narratives and without
legitimizing those narratives. It's like a little bit of a
tightrope block to do it correctly. And again, like I
just want to emphasize that it's something that we should

(36:49):
not have to do. Like certainly male candidates are not
having to prepare counter messaging in this way to be like, well,
I got to respond to this attack, but in a
way that emphasizes my values and thus legitimize it.

Speaker 2 (37:00):
And also like like.

Speaker 4 (37:02):
It's a minefield that not everybody is asked to wade through.
So I just want to acknowledge that we should not
have to deal with this. However, I have seen a
lot of candidates who use these kinds of unfair identity
based attacks as an opportunity to really create community and
contrast with the people who are hurling these attacks at them.

(37:22):
Like a good example is the former Canadian Minister of
Climate and Environment Catherine McKenna, exemplified this advice when she
pushed back against this this hashtag that she was facing
that labels her climate Barbie, which resulted in death threats,
and to respond, she tweeted, do you use that sexist
garbage about your daughter, mother, and sister? We need more

(37:44):
women in politics. Your sexist comments won't stop us. And
so that's a really interesting way how she responds to
an unfair sexist attack that attacks her gender and makes
it about all the other women and girls who are
watching this kind of garbage and and being like, don't
we want a climate that supports these women and girls
to be in politics?

Speaker 2 (38:04):
Like you know, these.

Speaker 4 (38:05):
Kinds of comments go against that, like and they're not
going to stop us, right, So, like I have seen
candidates that really challenge this in some unique ways.

Speaker 1 (38:15):
Yeah, and going back to your point of like, we
shouldn't have to be doing this at all, And this
is a topic I think about a lot in terms
of so many, so many things, But it's not just
women who are being targeted that should have to speak
up or say something.

Speaker 4 (38:34):
I'm so glad that you brought that up, because I mean,
how many of us have been in a situation where
somebody says something or does something and you're like, oh,
I don't want to be the one that has to
be like, well, that's actually offensive, or like that's actually
not a cool thing.

Speaker 2 (38:50):
To say in the workplace.

Speaker 4 (38:52):
And it really shouldn't just be on the person who
is targeted to respond to this, because challenging a sexist
climate really does take all of that to speak up.
So a good example of this is Fannie Willis, which
I think you all might know, do y'all. I feel
like in Atlanta she might be somebody who's on Yell's radar.

Speaker 5 (39:10):
As well as just kicks in the primary, so we're
very excited.

Speaker 4 (39:15):
So Willis is the Fulton County District attorney prosecuting the
Georgia Trump election case constantly under attack, right, really showing
how black women are attacked and undermined, and how that
is a strategy to undermine democratic process, So that it
was a really good example. On February fifteenth, Willis took
the witness stand and right wing actors, including Fox News, surprise, surprise,

(39:39):
they circulated this meme that suggested that she had worn
her dress backward. So this is a caption that Fox
News put out Bonnie set to take the hot seat
again after day one packed with yelling a wink and.

Speaker 2 (39:53):
Surprise backward dress.

Speaker 4 (39:55):
So basically they were saying, this black woman is so
stupid and and competent that can you believe she wore
her dress backward?

Speaker 2 (40:01):
What an idiot? Who would ever believe in her leadership?

Speaker 4 (40:04):
Right?

Speaker 2 (40:04):
Like that was the substance of the attack.

Speaker 4 (40:06):
However, a guy on TikTok delegitimized that attack that had
broken into mainstream media by pointing out in a TikTok
that like, actually, here's the dress and she was wearing
it correctly, right, So this was like nonsense that a
fairly mainstream news outlet amplified just completely wrong. He found
the dress, it's like she's wearing it perfectly correctly.

Speaker 2 (40:27):
While he did.

Speaker 4 (40:28):
That, other institutions put out positive counter content, avoiding the
direct attacks while emphasizing Willis's leadership and qualifications in order
to target them. So it was this like two pronged
thing where the TikTok messenger was able to be like, look,
how ridiculous this attack is, y'all, while other institutions pushed
out positive messaging about Willis's leadership and so really it

(40:50):
should not be on just her, this person targeted to
respond to these garbage lies about her character and her
values and her leadership. It really takes age to create
the culture where sets of them and misogyny is not
able to thrive and take root in this way.

Speaker 5 (41:06):
Yes, and I would like to say Alana backed her
like I said, she killed it in the primaries.

Speaker 3 (41:10):
We all celebrated.

Speaker 5 (41:14):
We love her at this point, Like of course, you know,
when it comes to judicial systems in the South, it
can get ugly. But when you have a case like
this and you realize you have someone who is firm
and we love it, like it's it's representing what we
want to see in Atlanta, which is we're not taking
care from you so move on.

Speaker 1 (41:37):
Yeah, And it's also so many of these attacks that
we're seeing right now are also distractions from like real
things we should be talking about. And it's I mean,
like she is wearing her dress backwards. It does have
these as you said, what they're trying to signal is
she is incompetent. But it's also just so like, okay,

(42:02):
but it's really important that we talk about this because
we are in an election year, extremely important election year,
and all of this stuff is very dangerous.

Speaker 2 (42:13):
Yeah, And I think like if you're listening and you're like.

Speaker 4 (42:16):
Well, I don't like Willis, I don't like Harris, I
don't like Pelosi, that is your right. However, you should
be more than anybody wanting to have a climate where
we are able to talk about these leaders and their
qualifications and their records in a way that is fair
and honest.

Speaker 2 (42:33):
Right, Like, when the climate.

Speaker 4 (42:36):
Is cluttered up with all kinds of garbage, sexist lies
and attacks, you can't actually have an honest conversation about
why these leaders are failing us or why these leaders
are not failing us. It just creates a dynamic where
like we're not having a conversation about the actual thing.
We're talking about backward dresses or whether or not somebody's

(42:57):
face looks weird, right, Like, we're just not having a
sub conversation. And it does not just threaten the women
who are targeted, it threatens all of us. Undermining women
leaders is part of a larger anti democracy agenda, right
It is not just about these individual women. It is
about threatening our democracy. And as you were saying earlier, Annie, Like,
it is unfortunate that it is very effective because people

(43:19):
might not always be able to see the ways that
sexism and misogyny and massage noire really threaten the fabric
of our democracy. It is this insidious thing that can
operate and plain in sight, even amongst people who think
of themselves as people who want to protect democracy.

Speaker 2 (43:33):
And so we really need to get a handle on it.

Speaker 4 (43:36):
We need to talk about it honestly, and we need
to listen to the people who are targeted and come
forward to talk about what they have dealt with just
for trying to serve their country or be part of
public or civic life.

Speaker 1 (43:47):
Absolutely absolutely, and I think I'm sure we'll be talking
about the election for several episodes. But it's also I
would say sadly of and plenty of my women friends
who are like, well, I don't want to vote for
her because they're I'm honestly, it sounds like I'm scared
to vote for her because what if she's bad? Or

(44:10):
like I'm hearing all this stuff about her and she
must be bad. So it's a really really toxic environment
for like actual conversations and democracy.

Speaker 4 (44:21):
So yeah, I mean I remember, like I have felt that,
like I have been, I have been like, oh, I'm
worried about having XYZ marginalized person in public office because
we have this insidious culture that it's like, well, we
tried one out and it didn't work, so we can
ever have another one. And that's just such a like

(44:45):
limiting mindset, and it's a mindset that you can creep
in before you know it. And we should really be
doing the intentional, sometimes internal work of like unwarring the
way that these things have really been internalized sometimes by
women and other marginalized people.

Speaker 1 (45:01):
Yes, well as always Bridget, thank you so much for
doing this work, for coming on to share it with us.
We always love having you. Can you tell the good
listeners where to find you?

Speaker 4 (45:13):
You can find me on my podcast if there are
no girls on the Internet, and you can find me
on Instagram at Bridget Marie in DC.

Speaker 1 (45:19):
Yes and go do that. Listeners so important, so important,
and thanks as always, yes to Bridget and to you
for listening. If you would like to contact us, you
can our email Stepania mom Stuff at iHeartMedia dot com.
Can find us on Twitter at mom Stuff Podcast, and
on TikTok and Instagram That Stuff I Ever told you.
We're on YouTube, we have a tblic store, and we

(45:41):
have a book you can get wherever you get your books.
Thanks as always to our super producer Christina, our exective
producer My and your contributor Joey.

Speaker 3 (45:47):
Thank you and.

Speaker 1 (45:48):
Thanks to you for listening. Stuff I Never Told You
to protection of iHeart Radio. For more podcasts from my
Heart Radio, you can check out the Heart Radio ap
Apple Podcasts, where you listen to favorite shows.

Speaker 2 (46:01):
The Lone

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