It’s no secret that UK politics still has a serious gender inequality problem. Women make up just 29% of all MPs, misogynistic attitudes and behaviour remain widespread in the corridors of power, and sexist media coverage continues to put young women and girls off politics (one word: Legs-it). And the experiences of one young candidate in next month’s general election are unlikely to make them any more likely to consider a career in politics.
Emily Owen, a 22-year-old who is campaigning to be the Labour candidate for Aberconwy, Wales, has lifted the lid on the “disgusting” online sexual harassment she has already faced as a woman in politics.
Owen has received messages about everything from the size of her “rack” to the sexual acts she’s willing to perform in return for votes.
One man said he would only vote for he “if she’s got a decent rack”, adding: “Anyone know her size? I mean she’s pretty enough but haven’t seen much of her body yet,” reported Welsh news site the Daily Post.
Another man, in his 50s, reportedly posted on Facebook: “Hello young Emily. I’ve seen your post and it’s brave for a young girl to put herself out there like that. You’ll need some practice on shutting men down I should think. You can practise on me any time.” Another man allegedly asked: “How many votes for a striptease?”
But Owen has had enough, taking to Facebook yesterday to post an angry response to the lurid remarks. "This is the first time I've been under this level of public scrutiny and I have to say I'm shocked!," she wrote.
"If people have questions about my politics, discuss with me. If you don't agree with my reply then challenge me. I'm more than willing to engage in political conversation so let's have that debate. This is acceptable.
"What is NOT ACCEPTABLE is flooding me with messages about what sexual acts I'm prepared to perform to get votes, what bra size I am, how many votes needed for me to strip and comments suggesting the reason I'm standing is to sleep with an Oxford grad."
She continued: "I've been debating ignoring it but this behaviour is disgusting and needs calling out!!! I highly doubt you'll be asking the male candidates their penis size in order to make a decision about their politics..... sexism is not okay."
People rushed to show Owen their support on social media. One wrote: "Welcome to the awful world of male dominated, dog whistle blowing misogynistic politics as we ignorantly head back to the dark ages. Be strong, take the moral high ground and bloody well win that seat."
Emily, originally from Bury, Greater Manchester, was just 21 when she was elected to Conwy County Council while still a student at Bangor University, and is now taking on sitting Tory MP Guto Bebb. Let's hope this isn't the last we hear of her.