I’ve spent most of the last three days pondering what I want to do, and how best to go about doing it.
I’m a bit stuck to be honest.
- There’s plenty of evidence for the use of the obvious keywords, even in tweets from the UK. They’re used by men and women. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the use of misogynist language has become normal among some people. Of course, who these people are, and whether they can be put in a ‘class’, is impossible to say without knowing much more about them.
- There’s evidence for threats to rape being used against women online.
Both of which make it clear that misogynist abuse is a ‘thing’.
Twitter, with it’s 140-character limit, isn’t the best medium for highlighting more subtle uses of misogynist language. Plus, because it’s a public forum (or, at least, some tweets are public), individuals using extreme language are doing so in the knowledge that their words are there for anyone to see. Privacy is the very thing the kind of people who use offensive language don’t want. Anonymity, yes. Privacy, no.
I’ve tried downloading tweets with a variety of less-offensive keywords and phrases, such as ‘silly bitch’, ‘stupid women’ and ‘that woman’. When I did this yesterday, there was clearly something happening in the US media as there were a lot of references to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky as the phrase ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ was repeated several times.
What is noticeable, though, is how many women say things about other women, making judgments about their bodies, clothes, or behaviour. I’ve yet to see a man doing the same of other men.
Maybe, then, I should stop looking at twitter, and turn my attention to female journalists like Sarah Vine, who was a guest on Woman’s Hour this morning. It was suggested by the interviewer, Jane Garvey, that Ms Vine, in common with other female journalists, was complicit in the denigration of women by women, in a way that men simply don’t do to each other. So, today I think I’m going to have a go at using some text-mining applications on a couple of on-line comulns by female writers (starting with Sarah Vine), and see where that takes me.