steph black

reflections of a wild feminist
Women and Online Harassment

Fieldnotes: Diving into the deep, dark, misogyny of Twitter

Why: Examining hashtags that have commonly been used to perpetuate misogynistic sentiment on various social media platforms in order to better understand the people I am studying.

Where: Twitter

What: I will start by saying I hated doing this fieldwork. I knew I would be uncomfortable going into it, as there is no way to look at openly misogynistic hashtags without at least some apprehension, but I was struck by just how deep the vileness went. Because my field is digital, I also knew that I would be juxtaposed very differently to my subjects than had I been in a physical space with them. By being exclusively online, I was able to zero in on exactly the kind of misogyny I fear. The software I used culled through the most relevant posts within a certain date range and within certain platforms, so I was able to tailor my field to my specificity. Being exposed, all at once, in one place to these levels of nastiness and hatred was deeply unsettling and unpleasant. I deliberately chose to do this work in the comfort of my own apartment, in bed, with a cup of tea, in a futile effort to brace myself against the wretchedness. But I still felt like I had to take a shower when I was done to scrub the hate off of myself. Because what I witnessed was not one or two individuals with these beliefs, but hundreds of people, mainly men, supporting and adding to each other’s ideas. They had civil and pleasant conversations with each other about these misogynistic topics. In many of these tweets, there was anger and fury, but the most disturbing was the calm, rational posters who carefully made their cases in thinly veiled opinions posed as facts. It was kind of chilling to see., the hashtag tracker I used, took about three to four minutes per hashtag I searched to load all of the results on both Instagram and Twitter. It then aggregated that data and told me, within the last 7 days, how many posts contained the hashtag, how many separate users used the hashtag, the number of impressions each post with the hashtag received, the total reach of each post containing the hashtag, the most common countries using it, the ratio of men to women using it, the top posts with the hashtag, other related hashtags, the top platforms on which the hashtag was being used, as well as the top users of the hashtag and most recent users of the hashtag. So, essentially, more information than I honestly could want when looking at someone who believes feminism is akin to Nazism.

Some initial things that struck out to me were the number of women using some of these hashtags. There were generally three reasons I found why a woman would use a misogynistic hashtag: 1) She used it by accident or clearly didn’t know what it meant. Yes, I did see this happen a few times, especially around #notallmen. 2) She was genuinely using it in a misogynistic way. Usually, these were women who also included things like #Trump, #Maga, conservative, etc in their profiles. These women bought into the message the hashtag was conveying. And finally, 3) Women were using the hashtag as a reference in their denunciation of it. This is especially true when looking at #notallmen. Many, many women tweeted this hashtag but in a way that conveyed they disagreed with the sentiment of it or even in a mocking or sarcastic way. This was a small ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak endeavor.

Additionally, I learned that #redpill was being used frequently in the debate over gun control. Many pro-gun advocates used it in regard to keeping their guns and in their denunciation of who they deem their enemies from taking them away. I had understood #redpill as only used in situations where men realized that women were misandrists, women are evil, and generally becoming aware of the realities of being a man. This was not the case, and the term #redpill is now being used much more expansively to include being awakened to any conservative/traditional/right-wing/alt-right reality.

Another trend I observed was the ‘burying’ of a misogynistic hashtag in a list of other neutral or non-inflammatory hashtags. For example, take this tweet:

Liberal gun-grabbing cowards do what they do best – back down and cower.

#ParklandStudentsSpeak #MSDStrong #LiberalismIsAMentalDisorder #LiberalismIsAMentalDisease #LiberalIndoctrination #2ADefenders #ShallNotBeInfringed #2AShallNotBeInfringed #redpilled #NeverAgain #RedPillCrucible

There are eleven hashtags. Three of which are neutral, common, and popular hashtags that are being used by people who are pro-gun-control and generally more left wing. I wonder if the reasoning behind that is to get more of those people to read this tweet and see this opposing point of view?

Overall, this will help me in my final project. I might want to go back and compare some of the hashtags above with feminist hashtags and compare the visibility of them and see whether or not there are significant differences. But this was good to see the realities of who is posting what and how much.

Some Data:

Hashtag Date Range: Number of posts with hashtag Number of users using hashtag Reach Impressions % Male
#notallmen 3/19-3/26 145 134 100,000+ 100,000+ 55.2%
#antifeminism 3/19-3/26 342 184 100,000+ 100,000+ 50%
#femaleprivilege 3/19-3/26 73 55 55,016 55,544 100%
#feminismisbullshit 3/19-3/26 9 2 37,522 100,000+ No data
#feminazi 3/19-3/26 661 455 100,000+ 100,000+ 73.3%
#feminismiscancer 3/19-3/26 660 382 100,000+ 100,000+ 92.3%
#redpill 3/19-3/26 444 269 100,000+ 100,000+ 58.8%
#mgtow 3/19-3/26 640 264 100,000+ 100,000+ 81.9%




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