Chris Hipkins says many men 'uncomfortable' speaking out against abuse towards women as they don't want to 'undermine' them

  • 09/02/2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has told Australian media some men "feel a bit uncomfortable" speaking out against abuse levelled at women in power as "they don't want to be seen to be undermining" those women.

In an interview with ABC's Sarah Ferguson, published online on Wednesday evening after Hipkins' visit across the ditch the day before, Hipkins was asked how he "as a male colleague" responds to the "quite vile vitriol" directed towards former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Her resignation from the role in January sparked a conversation about the misogynistic abuse female leaders face and it was speculated the pressure of that was one of the reasons Ardern stood down. Ardern, however, has denied that played into her decision.

Responding to Ferguson, Hipkins said it was "absolutely correct" to characterise the abuse as "vile". 

"There is no question, unfortunately, women in leadership positions, women in politics, but women in other leadership positions are the subject of far more abuse and vitriol than men doing comparable jobs are.

"I think we do have a responsibility as men to step up and to condemn that and to speak out against it."

The Prime Minister said there are "many men who feel a bit uncomfortable about that".

"It's not because they want to endorse the sentiment, but because they don't want to be seen to be undermining the women who are the subject of it. But I think we do need to have honest conversations about it. 

"It is happening and it's not okay and it's not fair."

Research by the University of Auckland looking at posts on largely unregulated websites like 4Chan and Telegram about Ardern, bureaucrats and other politicians found 93 percent of abusive messages were levelled at the former Prime Minister.

Newshub revealed last year the number of threats against Ardern which then involved the police had grown from 18 in 2019, to 32 in 2020 and 50 in 2021.

National leader Christopher Luxon in January had to walk back comments suggesting he wasn't sure if women faced different abuse. 

"I'm not sure about that. You've seen other countries around the world where you get this just deep polarisation of political views," he initially told RNZ.

Later that day, he said: "I think there is an element of gendered abuse that happens with female politicians that's different from what we experience as men, I think."