The 1918 Acts in Britain allowed women to vote and sit in parliament for the first time (Ball, 2018). Since the eligibility of the Women Act, the population of women in parliament has significantly increased, especially in the 1990s (Ball, 2018). However, political communication and online incivility have been major concerns and topics of research for academics, journalists, and politicians. According to anecdotal evidence and research, members of parliament are disproportionately targeted, especially the ones from vulnerable social groups and, in this case, female members of parliament (Southern, & Harmer, 2021). Research has presented the effects of socio-demographic characteristics on incivility and abuse on Twitter. Uncivil interactions between politicians and citizens on Twitter have increased over the years and are a major concern. Using longitudinal information to assess information and communication on Twitter that mentions parliament members over a while and relying on topic models and machine learning methods, new insight can be offered on dynamics and prevalence of incivility on legislators. Uncivil messages on Twitter respond to controversial political events and policy debates, all mentioning members of parliament. Although there is evidence of coordinated attacks on politicians, uncivil communication is common to most Twitter users (Southern, & Harmer, 2021). The paper will discuss two hypotheses that state that female MPs will be more likely to receive abuse and interpersonal incivility than male MPs, and hypothesis two that Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) MPs will be more likely to receive abuse and interpersonal incivility than non –BAME MPs.
Regarding the material provided, incivility is evident in Twitter communications where Twitter users attack politicians. The information provided illustrates twitter records from a female politician Amber Rudd, and a male politician Dominic Raab. From the information, interpersonal incivility is the most common issue of concern. The messages in both tables are abusive, but for the female politician, it is more severe. Amber Rudd is abused for her looks; for instance, a Twitter user says that she looks like she has not slept in a week. She is also compared to another woman, and they are both termed as stupid. This is not common for a male candidate. The target on then twitter messages is disproportionally based on the vulnerability of the social group. For instance, the messages on Amber Rudd’s Twitter are mostly abusive and aim to diminish the power of a woman in her position. Hate speech is also evident in the information, for example, the message that Amber Rudd is a disgrace and Esther McVey1 is a dickhead. Therefore it can be concluded that members of parliament in British face threats of hate speech. They are abused and diminished based on different social groups.
Hypothesis 1: Female MPs Will Be More Likely To Receive Abuse And Interpersonal Incivility Than Male MPs.
Interpersonal incivility can be described as a situation where one person is uncivil towards the other. According to a recent study by Rosalynd Southern and Emily Harmer published on a journal article titled “Twitter incivility and “every day” gendered bothering; an analysis of tweets sent to UK MPs, it was evidenced that female MPs suffer high levels of abuse online (Southern, & Harmer, 2021). The study focused on the worst instances of abuse for high-profile members of parliament and compared top subtle incivility forms for less prominent MPs online. The study analyzed tweets send to the Member of Parliament in fourteen days of incivility. Various factors were associated with the different incivility messages on Twitter. The findings from an in-depth thematic analysis on gender-based tweets show a difference in the different types of incivility for females and males. According to Rosalynd and Emily, male MPs received more generally uncivil tweets; unlike female MPs, female MPs received tweets that questioned their position as politicians and were stereotyped, unlike the male MPs (Southern, & Harmer, 2021). Qualitatively, on gender othering, several tweets contained misogynistic abuse, tweets objectifying and demonizing females, and tweets feminizing male MPs.
Also, another study commissioned by Mantilla revealed that gender differences have significant impacts on voters and that candidates are portrayed in terms of long-standing gender stereotypes (Theocharis, Barberá, Fazekas, & Popa, 2020). Gender differences have severe consequences, especially for female candidates. Women politicians are treated differently, thus receiving more abuse and are mostly affected by “gender trolling.” Also, a report by Amnesty International (2018) declared Twitter a toxic place for women politicians (Theocharis, Barberá, Fazekas, & Popa, 2020). Uncivil behavior is directed towards women parliamentarians informs of online threats and harassments. Therefore, based on considerations from the different articles and research, female MPs are more likely to receive abuse and interpersonal incivility than male MPs.
Hypothesis 2: That Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) MPs Will Be More Likely To Receive Abuse and Interpersonal Incivility than Non –BAME MPs.
Research on an article titled “Amnesty International UK” online abuse against women MPs mostly affects Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women candidates than white women MPs (PARLIAMENT, 2018). The suggestion was concluded from an analysis of one hundred and seventy-seven tweets mentioning women MPs active on Twitter in the 2017 general election. BAME women MPs received the most abusive tweets compared to white women MPs despite almost eight times the number of white women. For instance, Diane Abbott, the first UK black MP, faces the most abuse. She incredibly received disproportionate abuse from Twitter messages. The types of incivility abuse focused on her race, gender, and threats of sexual violence. For example, a Twitter message referred to her as a “fat retarded black bitch”. However, the findings show that political party does not contribute to online abuse against women MPs. Black and minority women MPs receive most abuse on Twitter communication compared to white women MPs. Therefore, the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) MPs will be more likely to receive abuse and interpersonal incivility than non –BAME MPs.
However, between the two hypotheses, “female MPs are more likely to receive abuse and interpersonal incivility than male MPs” receives the strongest support. This is because gender discrimination has been a major issue in society. Female MPs receive more abuse basically because of their gender. Most of the incivility messages on Twitter directed to female MPs objectively discriminate them of their positions in the society based on gender. Both MPs, whether white or black, face abuse in communications, especially in Twitter messages but in most cases, female MPs receive the most abusive messages. Twitter and social media platforms are toxic places for women, whether black or white, due to their place in society.