Just look at how many of those comments are about my gender. Those comments are because I’m a woman expressing an opinion. It is hateful.
— Una Mullally (@UnaMullally) April 15, 2016
The Guardian trawled through 70 million comments and found that, of the newspaper’s 10 most abused writers – in the comments section – eight were women and two were black men.
The 10 writers who received the least abuse were all men.
Further to this, Una Mullally wrote about the matter in today’s Irish Times…
The vitriol that women and minorities experience online is anecdotally obvious, but now we have the data. Perhaps finally, news organisations will wake up to how the scale and scales of abuse are tipped towards women and minorities.
The bigger picture also calls into question the value of comment sections at all. Whatever the motivations for the Guardian study, what it shows is something any journalist who is not male, straight, white, or all three already knew, but that was often undermined by their male, straight, white, peers.
Women get more flack because they are female. That doesn’t mean that male journalists never get abuse, but the motivation for that abuse is different.
Gendered abuse or criticism is not as obvious as “I hate this article because you’re a woman”. It is more insidious than that. Male journalists are often criticised for the opinions they hold, whereas women are often criticised just for holding opinions.
…Where is the value in making potential comment posters and readers angry and annoyed when they go below the line? The authors of articles are not the only victims of abuse, but also other comment posters who go up against the most domineering comment posters.
…Comment sections as they currently exist have failed. Instead of fostering intelligent debate, they are taken over by ranters and ravers. Instead of adding value for the reader, they detract from the reading experience.
Instead of representing alternative points of view, they are specifically hateful of women and minorities. In an industry obsessed with what its readership wants, the tail has ended up wagging the dog.