Another prominent woman quits national politics over “ugly” atmosphere; More concerns raised

Independent Member of Parliament Liane den Haan announced on Thursday that she is leaving politics. “The current politics are ugly,” she stated on Twitter. She wrote that opportunism and populism makes up the current state of affairs, and that has caused the content of policy to fall by the wayside.

The MP, who has been in the Tweede Kamer since March 2021, also indicated that she is a frequent subject of hatred, abuse and misogyny. “This affects me, but it [affects] my children and my mother, who lives with us, even more,” she said.

Caretaker Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag also announced on Thursday that she would not be available to represent D66 as party leader again for the upcoming election. She came to this decision because of the threats made against her, which have caused “too much strain” on her family.

Several politicians then expressed their anger about the intimidation Kaag has experienced. According to political scientists Liza Mügge and Julia Wouters, there is a pattern of hatred towards female politicians in the Netherlands. “Because Kaag started talking about this, she turned it into a political problem,” said Mügge, an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam.

“We can be grateful to her for that, because what Kaag has experienced is the tip of the iceberg. Female politicians also face threats at a local level, but you hardly ever hear anyone speak about that.”

Wouters, who is not only a political scientist but also a coach for women in administrative or political positions, recognized that perspective. “The women I coach often think they have an individual problem that they are trying to find within themselves. While this is a problem we have as a society. Kaag’s message is, ‘This is happening and that is not okay.’”

Besides Kaag, more politicians have had to deal with hatred and threats. For that reason, PVV leader Geert Wilders has been heavily protected for years. During the coronavirus period, Hugo de Jonge, then the health minister, was regularly the target of threats and intimidation.

According to Mügge and Wouters, threats against female politicians and administrators have a different character. “All politicians, especially if they are visible and prominent, can face threats and violence based on their political ideas,” explained Mügge. “But with women there are comments and hatred that are specifically about being a woman; sometimes it’s even only about that.”

Mügge said, “Studies show that this could be a strategy to drive women out of politics.” She added, “The stereotype of what makes a good political leader is still very masculine.”

Women who radiate a presence as if they are “just one of the guys,” and those who do not have a clear emancipation agenda, are less likely to be subjected to intimidation. Wouters argues that women should continue to speak out about harassment, which was previously seen as a sign of weakness. “Now that happens more often and that opens the path for solidarity and support.”

Last year, Den Haan founded the GOUD party, after she split off from 50Plus. GOUD is a party that is particularly committed to the elderly in the Netherlands. “I believe in GOUD and in our message,” said Den Haan, but she will not stand for re-election in the upcoming elections for the lower house of parliament.

“It’s okay!” she concluded in her statement.

Reporting by ANP

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