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Opinion: Women ‘slut’ shaming study shows important of context

People are nasty to each other when there’s no real world repercussions, we know this from the last two decades + of internet usage, the growth of online gaming and the spread of social networking. All of us have called someone something nasty online and all of us have been called something nasty. Of course trying to ease back the throttle on being a dick online would be a nice trend going forward and there are efforts being made, but we need to quantify the data as well. However a recent study that looked at female “slut” shaming shows how important context can be when discussing these sensitive issues.

Demos was interested in collecting data on how people interact on Twitter, specifically when it comes to women using words like “rape,” ; “slut,” and “whore,” to aggressively demean one another. These words are used rampantly online though, to discuss a variety of things and by a variety of people. So first the study had to cut out the men, as they weren’t the focus of the study. That was easy, what was much harder and what shows a very pragmatic way of looking at language, was how the cross-party think tank then eliminated every use of any of those words, that wasn’t an aggressive one.

block
Until we invent a real internet police, blocking is probably your best option

In a Wired guest post, co-author of the report Carl Miller said that in making the study, the organisation needed to wade through all the tweets suggesting that certain sporting teams would “rape,” another one, or people being derogatory to themselves, and in some instances, those just discussing the use of the words. This is a important step taken by Demos as it shows a really adult way of looking at the language. It’s not outright railing against the use of the word “rape,” it’s finding out where it’s being used maliciously and targeting that.

All in all, Demos found that 12 per cent of all tweets using the word “rape,” were actually aggressive, insulting or threatening, compared with 20 per cent that contained the words “whore,” or “slut.” This was the result Demos was trying to decipher, as it told them that a lot of women are involved in nasty, female focused attacks using these sorts of terms too. But the study also highlighted – at least to this writer – how important it is when discussing language, that you take into consideration the intent and context of the words’ usage.

Demos wasn’t calling for words to be banned, though it did describe the usage of the words in a non-aggressive context as still misogynistic, which is another argument for another day, but at the very least, it saw the difference between a rape threat, and someone saying they got raped in a game of Mario Kart. It’s very different and that’s important.

Discuss on our Faceboo page, HERE.

KitGuru Says: Now that I’ve clambered down from my soapbox, let me remind everyone that since these words can carry emotional charge, that we don’t get aggressive in debating it. If you agree, disagree or just want to make your own thoughts heard, keep it nice. 

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