This week, results from the largest-ever study on online abuse against women were published, and researchers have discovered that Black women are the primary targets of abusive tweets.
According to Wired.com, in 2017 both Amnesty International and global artificial intelligence software product company, Element AI, surveyed 1.1 million tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the United States and the United Kingdom.
After painstakingly analyzing the data, the group extrapolated that abuse toward women on Twitter is even more excessive than we thought, with female Twitter users receiving abusive content on the popular social media site every 30 seconds. As is often the case, abuse towards women of color – especially towards Black women – was the worst.
In fact, the group discovered that Black women were 84 percent more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive messages related to gender, race and sexuality, with one in 10 tweets mentioning Black women containing problematic rhetoric, compared to one in 15 for white women. And female journalists were particularly predisposed to get an ugly rise out of people.
“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of color were much more likely to be impacted, and Black women are disproportionately targeted,” Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty International, explained in a blog post. “Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices.”
As someone who is both a Black woman and a journalist – my reaction to this groundbreaking research was… DUH!
There isn’t a single woman working in Black media surprised by any of this. To be honest, Amnesty International could have probably saved a coin (and a full year of research) by just rolling up to the Essence Music Festival to ask sisters how particularly ugly the Twitterverse is for us. We may be the backbone of “Black Twitter” but we’re also the site’s favorite choice for target practice.
Here’s where things get interesting though.
While this new study states the obvious about the intersections of racism and misogyny on social media, another group of researchers has found that WOMEN are actually more likely to be misogynists online than men.
How’s that for a plot twist?!
The extensive study, which was conducted by a social intelligence company called Brandwatch, analyzed millions of tweets and found that 52 percent of misogynistic hate speech tweets came from women, versus 48 percent from men.
“We don’t want the research to be as vilifying women,” said Ed Crook, the lead researcher of the study. “That goes against objectives of the study. We are not pointing at women and saying they are misogynists.”
Poor Ed is probably too nervous to call women misogynists in public (which legally speaking is probably wise in this social climate) but I’m not!
Female misogyny is nothing new and in the Black community we have a name for women who so desperately try to distinguish themselves from “other females” with the intent of appearing to be more appealing to men: Pick Me’s.
As far as derogatory names go, Pick-Me is both a jarring yet begrudgingly accurate turn of phrase, given that the essential message that these women portray to not just men but society as a whole is, “Please pick ME! Not her. ME!”
And now we have data to show that this subset of the female population, have pretty much infiltrated social media, to create an environment where you’re statistically more likely to be called “a bald headed hoe” by another woman than by her Hotep boyfriend whose waiting for her to make him a sandwich.
But let’s be clear though, the Pick-Me mindset isn’t just a Black woman thing, cause no group fits the definition of the term better than that pesky 53% of white women who convinced themselves to vote for Melania Trump’s immigration sponsor two Novembers ago.
According to Silvia M. Dutchevici, LCSW and founder of the Critical Therapy Center, female misogyny, which she refers to as “internalized” misogyny, is the “subconscious internalization of all the sexist and negative views and hatred of women that exist within our culture and ideology.”
She continues to explain that these subconscious beliefs, “are passed down through cultural norms, messages and socialization… and requires a strict adherence to gender norms.”
Which is why when a woman who has found comfort and safety in the feeling she gets from “traditional values” comes across another woman who wants to disrupt the social paradigm, she is actually liable to get as offended by this disruption as her male counterparts.
However, while we’re taught that men are the “rational” gender, cattiness amongst women is not just accepted but also expected as societal norm, which is what emboldens female misogynists to attack other women with a ferocity that most men couldn’t get away with.
And you don’t have to take my word for this, even more research has found that half of misogynistic tweets which contain blatantly hateful words like “whore” or “slut” come from women.
Folks might wax poetic about the importance of “Girl Power” at fancy brunches and in inspirational memes, but the truth is we’re facing an epidemic where women are being weaponized to attack their own. Instead of constantly talking about Black on Black crime (which by the way, still isn’t a thing) – THIS is the real infighting we need to be concerned about.
But there’s hope though. I can’t stress that enough because it would be irresponsible of me to just drop all this depressing data on y’all without any insight on how to make things better.
The first step is to confront the “Pick Me” within.
I know this may be a hard pill to swallow but…the same way Black people ingest racist rhetoric on a daily basis and have to intentionally deprogram themselves so they can get “woke” – WOMEN are also ingesting and internalizing misogyny that they too need to free themselves of.
In order to do that you need to be cognizant of the signs that you (or one of your good girlfriends) may have a Pick-Me streak. Below are the four most common pitfalls that I’ve seen play out more times than I can count.
Constantly shaming other women for their choices
If you are overly concerned about how other women live their lives, sis it’s time to have a seat. Looking out for other women is one thing, but shaming them is a whole other thing entirely.
And yes, I’m aware that like “woke” – “shaming” has now become an overly used word that is on the verge of losing all meaning. But if you use words like “should” and “real” a lot it may be time to start minding your business.
Example: “You shouldn’t talk to your man that way. REAL women know their place”
“But what did SHE do?” responses to stories of abuse
If every time you hear a horrible story about some heinous crime committed towards a woman, your first inclination is to defend the alleged abuser. Eek! It might be time to check in with yourself before hitting send on that post in the comments section.
Of course in America everyone is innocent till proven guilty, but if I ever tell my homegirl a man threw a brick at my face, I’m expecting her to show some compassion to the big bump on my forehead before asking what I said to deserve it.
And to be clear, no one deserves abuse. So the insinuation that your question is going to absolve the abuser of accountability is already based on a problematic premise.
Blaming feminism for the destruction of the Black community
Ya’ll. I’m gonna be honest, this one is such a dusty talking point, I’m not sure I have the bandwidth today to repeat the obvious.
If you feel this way, do you boo. And when you’re done, go Google why you sound crazy.
Refuse to let men do (or be held accountable for) ANYTHING
This is the most clever of all the tactics. Modern day Pick-Me’s aren’t always visibly downtrodden and often hide behind the seemingly pro-woman stance of being an “independent woman.”
But unlike empowered women who have healthy relationships, they make sweeping statements about not needing anything from a man, in order to make them sound like an easy choice for men.
When discussions about relationships arise, they often say things like, “I know I’m wife material because I’ll cook, clean, pay the bills, and raise both you and our kids. And I don’t need anything in return… but your love.”
Girl. No. Just, stop.
This may sound like independence, but an inability to create mutually beneficial relationships where both parties get fed isn’t anything to be proud of. All you’re really doing is letting the world know that you have woefully low standards and an even lower self-esteem.
Putting down women who do have standards and reasonable expectations, for being “difficult” – while you, in all your Pick-Me splendor, are willing to be the emotional equivalent of a Chia-Pet, is just ugly.
I recently had a friend try this bit of shade, by stating that unlike me, she would never want a suitor to pay for her meals on a date. She made a whole passionate speech about how wanting a partner to pay for a bowl of soup just felt an unnecessary part of the courtship process and she’d been raised to need nothing from her partners but their time and affection.
The masculine energy in the room actually ate this speech up and said things like, “Wow. That’s so refreshing,” while I sat there, lowkey amused by her passive aggressive attempts to exalt herself as “a cheap date.”
And academically, I’ve studied this topic long enough to know that women who act like this, are operating from a place of lack. So I didn’t take her showboating personal.
But for the sake of preserving my peace, (and her edges, which I inevitably would have ended up snatching had she tried that mess again) that weekend ended up being the last time we hung out.
Here’s the thing that many Pick-Me’s don’t realize: any woman who attacks other women (be it directly or indirectly) in an attempt to make herself more appealing to the patriarchy, is ultimately fighting against her best interests.
Creating spaces where blatant misogyny is being championed by our own, may end up getting you a man-child of a husband, but it’s also what we helped get Donald Trump sitting in the oval office. Is getting chose really worth all that?
Like racism, misogyny is a disease that to some degree can be cured (or at the very least neutralized).
So ladies, next time you find yourself wanting to writing a nasty tweet about what some other women “should” be wearing, how she “should” be acting to be marriage material, or what she “should” be doing to keep a good man – stop yourself and ask, “What is my intention here? And is this REALLY any of my business?”
Or better yet, go get you some business of your own, and concern yourself with that instead.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric