The study — conducted by social intelligence company Brandwatch on behalf of anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label — used both automated and manual data analysis tools to analyse almost 19 million public tweets to explore the current climate of misogyny and masculinity on social media.
As part of the study, researchers analysed the language around 4 million tweets and found that women were more likely than men to use pejorative, misogynistic language.
The analysis excluded instances where misogynist terms were clearly used ironically or in a neutral context, e.g. “bitch please”. Instead, the research focused on instances of hate speech, where language “intentionally attacked and offended” and “language where womanhood is being undermined”, Ed Crook — lead researcher on the study — told Mashable.
According to the research, which looked at tweets written in the English language published between August 2012 and July 2016, women were most likely to use derogatory language pertaining to promiscuity, appearance and animals (e.g. bitch, cow, mare).
Male Twitter users, on the other hand, used language relating to anatomy, intelligence and sexuality. Furthermore, insults to do with female anatomy were also “significantly more likely to come from the UK”.
The study, while revealing, should be taken with a grain of salt: It’s not entirely clear which words were considered misogynistic or how the data was gathered, so the results may not properly reflect the full context of a tweet, its tone, or whether it was part of a larger conversation.
Crook — research manager at Brandwatch — told Mashable that the findings show that women’s use of misogynistic language focused largely on sexual promiscuity and ‘slut shaming’, whereas male language was centred on female objectification.
This common theme of derision relating to promiscuity and female bodies did not have a male or masculine equivalent, the research concluded.
“We don’t want the research to be seen as vilifying women. That goes against objectives of study. We are not pointing at women and saying they are misogynists,” Crook said.
Crook believes the findings suggest that misogynistic language is “increasingly being considered normal”.
“We wouldn’t want to endorse censorship, but it would help for people to be cognisant of the language they’re using, particularly language that’s loaded,” Crook continued.
Crook also believes that campaigns designed to encourage gender equality should address both men and women, not just men.
“It may also reflect a normalising of misogynistic language and that authors (including female authors) no longer consciously consider the terms offensive,” reads the study.
This isn’t the first study to suggest that women are playing a role in publishing misogynistic tweets. Indeed, a recent analysis by think tank Demos found that half of all misogynistic tweets came from women.
The research by Demos counted the number of international uses of certain words as indicators of misogyny over the course of three weeks. The study found that 200,000 tweets using the words “slut” and “whore” were sent to 80,000 people during the three-week period.