Online harassment is a growing societal problem. Although online harassment, or cyber aggression, has begun to receive attention, little research systematically explores the common themes found in hostile messages. In this project, we focused on online harassment directed towards women of color. We applied social network methodology and text clustering (topic analysis) to messages posted on the social media platform Twitter. We examined the occurrence of aggressive, harmful Twitter messages directed towards two groups—Hispanic/Latinx women and Black women. Next, we uncovered common themes that emerged within the communications. Messages towards both groups of women contained themes of racial stereotypes. In tweets that targeted Black women, one emergent theme concerned charges of promiscuity, where messages included slurs that accused Black women of being overly sexual. In messages containing Latinx slurs, on the other hand, xenophobia was one recurring topic, with common terms related to menial labor and political comments invoking the need to “build a wall.” Both groups of women also were subjected to feminine, attractiveness insults. Findings suggest that these negative communications are not idiosyncratic in nature, but instead routinely reinforce traditional, negative, race and gender stereotypes. As a result, these hostile messages contribute to the maintenance of race and gender inequality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science