When it comes to online abuse, we need to see a fuller picture (Caroline Criado-Perez, The Pool, 1 June 2016)
Last week, we found out that women are our own worst enemies. “Women are responsible for half of online abuse, study finds,” said The Telegraph. “50 per cent of misogynistic tweets from women”, reported the BBC — although, oddly, they don’t provide the source for this quote. The study made it into the Miami Herald in America, and El País in Spain.
But what was this study — and does it really say that?
The short answer is no. In fact, even the Demos, the study authors, don’t claim that their research shows that women are responsible for half of online abuse. […] They simply claim that women are “as comfortable using misogynistic language as men”.
Which is a rather smaller claim than that women send 50 per cent of online abuse, (and the issue of the media misreporting science merits a book all of its own), but actually, their study can’t even claim to show that.
Chalmers also takes issue with the Demos’s failure to situate its research within a context of male violence against women. As Chalmers points out, “If a man gets a tweet saying, ‘I’m gonna rape you,” he probably won’t take it seriously, because his experience of moving through life is not one in which he’s likely to be raped.” A woman’s experience is rather different — indeed, I had already experienced some of the sexual violence I was threatened with. As you can imagine, that rather altered its impact.
Semi-related note to self: read more on Gottlob Frege and the distinctions between sense and reference; connotation and denotation; and use and mention.