20 Feb 2018

Why do internet trolls hate gender-related content?

Students of the University of Vienna wanted to know why gender studies are often attacked on internet forums. Their study analyzed 598 comments under gender related content.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Why do internet trolls hate gender-related content?
 - NewsMavens
Clinical picture of a "hysterical" female patient. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In Austria, the preoccupation with gender is often referred to in a derogatory tone as "gender hysteria" or "genderism". To its critics, gender is a provocative tool, at odds with the “natural order” and tradition. The online comment sections under articles on gender are usually filled with sexism and mockery.

And yet, there is so much more to the concept of gender than this, especially in Austria. Women still earn less than their male counterparts at work and much of their labor is unpaid and/or part-time, such as caring for children or the sick. Tending to the household also remains largely their business. Why then, are gender studies so despised?

The article reveals the findings of a quantitative discourse analysis on the topic. It will come in handy to anyone interested in how gender studies are perceived in a conservative, patriarchal society -- and those sadly still prevail.

women's issues, media

Details from the story:

  • In 2017 Der Standard published an interview with Sabine Grenz, professor of gender studies, which provoked many negative comments. Grenz used these reactions as a research material and, together with students, conducted a quantitative discourse analysis of almost 600 comments. They wanted to find the main points of attack and the basis for the criticism.
  • They found out that the users of online forums usually take it for granted that women are not discriminated against. This false assumption leads to a common belief that gender research "invents" problems.
  • The research concludes that the critics of the discipline usually present little knowledge on the topics that gender studies actually deal with. That the discipline, like other social sciences, operates on empirical data, goes unnoticed. Instead, the comments reproduce stereotypes about women, some ancient -- like the word "hysteria".
  • Interestingly, the students also observed that while half of the 598 postings evaluated came from first-time users, the other half was posted by users that wrote at least five times. Seven people had posted 20 times or more frequently.
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