Gender identity and representation online is a topic that many may not have studied, but one that most of us are aware of as a result of our on online activity, whether it be playing ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ (2009) on Xbox live, watching music videos on YouTube or scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.
‘Gender order’ is defined as “the ways in which societies shape notions of masculinity and femininity into power relationships” (Macionis & Plummer, 2012: pp 390) and ‘gender roles’ as “learning and performing the socially accepted characteristics for a given sex” (Macionis & Plummer, 2012: pp 393). In this context, we can think of women operating in an online culture of misogyny and gendered abuse as victims of the ‘gender order’ and ‘gender roles’ that this overly masculine and ‘troll’-filled culture (Adams, 2011: pp 1) unjustifiably forces upon them – this role being a group of emotional, sensitive, unintelligent, subordinate and submissive women in an online world dominated by men who supposedly exert the traits of the intelligent, superior alpha male.
The results of this culture is often seen through the “crude insults, aggressive threats and unstinting ridicule” (Thorpe & Rogers, 2011: pp 1), and in particular the signature “modus operandi of the attackers… the rape threat” (Thorpe & Rogers, 2011: pp 1), that many males in the online community use in order to establish dominance over women and their views. Many experts and online discussions cite that the psychological causes, motives and pleasures involved in a troll’s online behaviour include:
– “Attention and recognition, even if negative
– The emotional release of venting
– Power (the power to disrupt)
– The thrill of breaking social conventions
– Sabotaging groups the troll dislikes
– Immaturity” (Fosdick, 2012: pp 1)
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to censor or prevent this kind of online gendered abuse against women whilst maintaining the level of freedom of expression that fuels the online success of a website or other media platform. Personally though, I love CollegeHumor’s satirical approach to squashing online misogyny and the abuse of women, which whilst being hilarious, also explicitly illustrates the truly horrific nature of the abuse of women online through its reversal of stereotypical online gender roles. However, in terms of finding effective short- and long-term strategies to addressing this issue, I highly doubt that feminists anywhere will be calling for this kind of ‘fight fire with fire’ stance. (Language warning, this video contains a tonne of explicit content!)
* Adams, T (2011), How the internet created an age of rage, The Guardian, London, pp 1
* Fosdick, H (2012), Why People Troll and How to Stop Them, Os News, osnews.com, pp 1
* Macionis, J.J, Plummer, K (2012), Sociology: A Global Introduction, 5th edition, Pearson, Harlow, pp 390, 393
* Thorpe, V & Rogers, R (2011), Women bloggers call for a stop to ‘hateful’ trolling by misogynistic men, The Guardian, London, pp 1
* West, J (2009), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision