twitter, trolling, misogyny online
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Cyberbullying Digital Identity Masculinity Research

Masculinity and Misogyny in the Digital Age

In conjunction with leading social intelligence company BrandWatch, we analysed misogynistic behaviour and ideas of masculinity on Twitter

[You can read the full report here]

Our Annual Bullying Survey 2016 (a study in which we looked at why young people bully others) revealed that those who identified as being male, or who had grown up in a male-dominated household were more likely to bully than those who identified as female or who had greater female influences at home. In response to this survey, we partnered up with leading social intelligence company BrandWatch, to see if our findings were also reflective of behaviours across social networks, specifically Twitter.

After analysing 19 million tweets from both the UK and US over a four year period, we found that 1 in 3 of all discussions associated with masculine behaviour on Twitter referenced violence; ranging from physical aggression, gun violence, domestic violence and war. However, in contrast to our initial findings, females were found to be the largest perpetrators of misogyny on Twitter, with 52% of all misogynistic tweets authored by women. Out of the 19 million tweets analysed, nearly 3 million of those were flagged as misogynistic insults.

 

“Females were found to be the largest perpetrators of misogyny on Twitter”

 

We know from existing research that men are less likely to tell somebody if they are experiencing bullying; societal constructs of masculinity have long denied many boys and men around the world freedom of visceral expression; taught from a young age to suppress their emotions, to ‘man up’ or look ‘weak’. But things are changing; what it means to be a man is a growing talking point – after analysing discussions on masculinity in four key areas, (how an individual behaves, how they look, their personality and lifestyle preferences) we found that Twitter users are utilising the network to question and challenge existing ideas of masculinity, as are brands and media sources – which is promising news, as advertising plays a major role in reinforcing notions of gender.

Although perceptions are slowly shifting and stereotypes of masculinity are being challenged, masculinity-related insults unfortunately remain prevalent. This is especially the case among authors associated with family or parenting, which suggests that these terms and attitudes may be transferred to future generations. There were also indications that exhibiting certain behaviours are still largely considered the domain of a specific gender – for example, 1 in 3 conversations over Twitter described the act of crying as a feminine behaviour, whereas stoicism and a lack of emotional response were associated with manliness.

“1 in 3 conversations over Twitter still describe the act of crying as a non-masculine behaviour”

 

This report is crucial to helping us better understand the constructs of masculinity so that Ditch the Label can work to proactively reduce rates of bullying and to help encourage more males to reach for support when they need it. By exploring the usage of misogynistic language used across Twitter, we also better understand the broader gender landscape which helps us in our campaign for greater gender equality.