Why are women more likely to send misogynistic tweets than men?

A new survey showed that 52% of misogynistic tweets actually came from women

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General view of the Twitter application in use on an iPad | Image: Andrew Matthews / PA Archive/Press Association Images

New research from an anti-bullying charity delved into the nature of insults being issued online and found that women are more likely to send misogynistic tweets than men.

The research, conducted by Ditch the Label, highlighted the worrying trend, noting that the numbers had been borne out across a massive number of tweets.

Speaking to Sarah McInerney on Newstalk Drive, Liam Hackett, founder of Ditch the Label, said that the report analysed about 19 million tweets over a four year period to look at two different elements. Firstly, masculinity and how it's constructed, and secondly how misogynistic language is used online.

"We found that over the past four years, there have been four million instances of tracked misogynistic insults, and 52% of all misogynistic tweets have been sent by women," Hackett explained.

The charity worked with social data company Brandwatch to break the tweets into categories, depending on what kind of insult or misogynistic language was being used.  

Often it's targeting women based on their appearance, their intelligence and their sexual preferences, although the abuse also frequently compares women to animals.

Hackett added that it was "really concerning" to those who worked on the project to see that a majority of the tweets came from other women, and that the most common type of bullying was based around appearance. This, he argues, is indicative of a large problem around women and the 'standards' put in place by society.

"Over half of teenage girls want to change their physical appearance [...] and we know that when people don't feel good about their appearance, they project those insecurities on to somebody else, which is the root cause of appearance-based bullying.

"I think this data really highlights a broader narrative in terms of how women are feeling about themselves and how they're projecting that on to other women."

Hackett also noted that the findings of their research were backed up by a previous study, which highlights bigger issues and how women benchmark themselves against their own peers. This all raised valid questions about the way in which young women are being brought up to be competitive with each other. 

Furthermore, a finding which held across both parts of the research showed that: "anybody who has an interest in sport is more likely to be misogynistic, and more likely to conform to the constructs of masculinity."

According to the report, the common conception of 'masculinity' is defined by one of four things: How somebody looks, what their personality is like, their behaviour or their preferences, with violence and an inability to cry being the most prominent traits associated with masculinity.

Hackett notes that often, homophobic insults are used to criticise those who go against the grain. While that is changing, slowly, thanks to positive reinforcement from peers, Hackett argues that the very construct of masculinity being used by people is hugely problematic. 

"We know guys are more likely to bully than girls, they're less likely to report bullying if they're experiencing it, and they're less likely to talk about problems that they have going on in their lives. In fact, suicide is the biggest killer of young men below the age of 45, and I think the construct of masculinity in its current format is not working and it's incredibly toxic.

"And it's not just guys, but when you grow up and society says this is who you should be, and this is the mould that's been made for you, it's really limiting if you don't fit that mould."