According to a recent study, women are responsible for a staggering 50% of the misogyny that occurs on social media platform, Twitter. Now, as digital journalists, we read about these kinds of sociological experiments and 'studies' all of the time - and plenty of them are utter tripe - but this one's really stuck with us; misogyny from our male counterpart is a hard enough battle to overcome and one that we're not even nearly done with, but women hating on other women with words as degrading as 'whore' and 'slut'? Well, that's just enormously counter-productive on our quest for gender balance.
According to The Telegraph, this study - carried out by the UK-based 'Demos' - monitored Twitter across the pond over a course of three weeks, finding that a whopping 6,500 unique users were personally targeted by 10,000 misogynistic and aggressive Tweets (again, to stress, this was just over a three-week period.) When they then looked at the gender profile of said aggressors, 50% of them were women. Casting their net further afield, they confirmed that misogyny knows no bounds as internationally, over 200,000 Tweets using these specific terms were sent to 80,000 people in the same three-week timeframe.
“This study provides a birds-eye snapshot of what is ultimately a very personal and often traumatic experience for women," explains Alex Krasodomski-Jones, a Demos researcher involved in the study.
Misogyny is unacceptable whether from a man or a woman, but for women to incorporate these kinds of derogatory words, words that have long been used against their collective gender, and reappropriate that same language into their own arsenal of online abuse? That's just a sad realisation all round.
But what can we do about it? What small difference can be made to change the tide on a very real problem?
Writer, social media influencer, and stylist Jo Linehan has this advice: "I'm always upset and in awe of how mean people can be online. I steer clear of negativity and the darker, nastier side of the internet as much as I possibly can, so when I hear a stat like this it shocks me so deeply. For women online, I would say check yourself. We are all guilty of judging others from the safety of our couches, behind a smartphone screen, and we forget that the people at the other end of a tweet or a status are real. It's so easy to make a decision based on someone's online profile and want to comment and have your say, but my advice is an old adage: if you wouldn't say the same thing to someone's face then don't say it online. And if you're on the receiving end of abuse online, I would immediately block the user. Stay positive and stay focused; no one needs that negativity in their news feed."
Meanwhile, Claire Buckley of Buck & Hound (PR, events and social) found this statistic frightfully unsurprising: "How numb have we become that this doesn’t shock me at all? Women shaming women for being too confident, too ambitious or too beautiful is not a new phenomenon but it is escalating behind the veil of anonymity that social media provides. This is a feminist and moral issue that can only be remedied through education and both genders continually setting an example that strives for equality and tolerance. We are definitely being conditioned to make snap judgements and then encouraged to vocalise them. Everything is so transient that we’ve become fickle, prejudice and cynical. Tinder and Snapchat are the perfect examples of this."
Freelance fashion stylist and writer Justine King says: "I'm becoming more aware as I get older that the greatest hindrance to us as women ever reaching equal status to men (in the workplace and society as a whole) is other women. We're so hard on each other unnecessarily and too quick to judge our fellow female kind - whether out of jealousy or just sheer habit. Thankfully I haven't experienced much negativity myself online but have blogger and stylist friends who face it on a daily basis. It begs me to ask, how many followers do you have to reach before people stop thinking you're a real human with real feelings? Many of these haters defend their behaviour with "If she's choosing to put herself out there online, she's asking for negative comments..." That makes about as much sense as saying "By leaving the house in the morning, you want to be ridiculed in the street". Why people think they have a right to comment on someone else's skin/ weight/ relationship/ life choices in a public sphere while hiding themselves behind a keyboard just baffles me. As women, we need to support other women, not take them down. By slandering your fellow females online, you're normalising it and telling men it's ok to do so too."
Tropical Popical founder (and creator of the HunReal Issues) Andrea Horan says:
"I'm not surprised at all tbh. You just have to look at how women and a lot of the time strident feminists talk about the Kardashians. Sure, they're not role models or feminist pin-ups by any stretch of the imagination and they don't claim to be but the vitriolic bile that gets thrown at them is outrageous. If you actually break down why people hate them, it's usually baseless - they're only famous for releasing a sex tape - em, no, loads of people have sex tapes and make porn but they're not loaded. They're vapid - in fact, they've been through every human experience from having a father die when they were young; their stepfather became Caitlyn; Rob suffering from depression; alcoholism with Scott; cheating husbands; overdoses; raising a family pretty much on your own... The way this powerhouse of women pull together and support each other, creating revenue streams all over the place is something to be applauded. Sure, a capitalist centric life based entirely on what you look like is not what any of us should be aiming for but they're living their best life and just get abuse for it. It's almost like people make themselves feel better or more worthy by tearing them down. That's pretty much why we started The HunReal Issues - to take some of the snobbiness and elitism out of (some) feminism, take away some of the judgements and make it accessible to all women."
We'd have to agree wholeheartedly with the comments above. For all of its advantages, the internet and its plethora of accompanying social media platforms have certainly brought about a far more judgemental, pass-remarkable mindset among both women and men and to some degree, though we might not troll or leave nasty comments, we all make judgements in an instant, even just in our own heads. Is it time to switch off auto-pilot and relearn how we consider and treat others?
Food for thought, even if it tastes bad.