Dr. Paromita Pain
13 June 2019
ASSIGNMENT 004: Social Inequalities are Reflected Online
Bigots, homophobes, cyberbullies, gender bashers, racists and fascists; social media is overrun by them. Every day across cyberspace, from Facebook to Twitter, from Fox News to Daily Beast comment boards, the hate crowd is out for blood. If they're not insulting your intelligence, they are humiliating your loved ones; if that doesn't work, they'll body shame you and in many cases, resort to a "final solution," the death threat. How does gender, race, education, wealth and mental state play into all of this? Are there ways to analyze, categorize and segregate those who have weaponized the web for hate against those who are vulnerable?
Ratios are useful when it comes to breaking down internet social media users by gender. In the Hargittai-Shafer study on Perceived Online Skills, the authors point out the role of "self-efficacy" in the apparent (and statistical) disparity exhibited in computer use by gender;
"self-efficacy beliefs revolve around ‘one’s capability to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations’." (Hargittai, Shafer, Social Science Quarterly)
The article appears to jump in at a contemporary stage in gender analysis of the internet and social media. We might want to take a minute and redefine "social media" and its role in culture.
No secret is the fact that for generations, parents have bought toys for their kids based on a "perceived" role in society. Again, there is no reason to deny the inference that GI Joes, Barbie dolls, baseball bats and sewing needles may be considered a form of media, in fact, social. Gender stereotype is thus developed at an early stage, and as Marlene Kollmayer and her associates note in the paper on parents' "Desirability of Toys for their Children";
"Gender-typed toy play leads to the promotion of different skills in boys and girls, with girls practicing communal roles and boys practicing agentic roles." (Kollmayer, Shultes et al., Springer.com)
The difference in communal (housewife) versus agentic (breadwinner) can be traced as far back as The Enlightenment with Rousseau and Dr. John Gregory, who promoted the dedicated housewife philosophy for women as opposed to feminism prior to the French Revolution; in direct opposition to Mary Wollstonecraft's rejection of the second-class citizen role for women. (Reese, L., Women in World History) How does all of this translate to modern times and gender bashing on the web?
Sally Weale points out in The Guardian the disparity between boys and girls and toys;
"Research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) found that toys with a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys than girls." (Weale, S., The Guardian 2016)
No wonder that by the time the kids are grown, there is a built-in assumption that women are not equal to men when it comes to computers, reflected online, in particular, on social media. Naturally, if women are inferior in computer skills to the perennial (male) "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant," (defined in the '60s generation as "WASP"), then everybody else; blacks, Jews, foreigners, cross-genders, mentally impaired, old people and the homeless, are also inferior, worthy of being put down. It's a basic natural assumption, possibly even what it considers an "inherent right," for white supremacy to draw this conclusion. It would certainly not be too drastic of a quantum deductive leap to peg white supremacists as those posting most of the hate filled rhetoric found on social media.
Segregating and, or banning social media use to the particular group responsible for hate messaging is but a short term solution for the plague now sweeping at epidemic proportions across cyberspace. Recent cases drawing attention to that aspect of "cleaning up the web" have proven short sighted and bordering on failure. The social media problem is a social one, not a technological one.
LATE ENTRY: Two articles have just been reported relating to advertising and gender inequality, now banned in the UK.
'Harmful' gender stereotypes in adverts banned;
"The new rule follows a review of gender stereotyping in adverts by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) - the organisation that administers the UK Advertising Codes, which cover both broadcast and non-broadcast adverts, including online and social media."
UK bans ads promoting 'harmful gender stereotypes,' tying physique to romantic success, by Sam Borman
"It's likely to censor content that emphasizes distinctions between boys' and girls' stereotypical personalities (daring versus caring), belittles men for engaging in stereotypically female activities or suggests women are solely responsible for cleaning houses."
"CAP also warns against ads that stereotype culture, race, religion and belief, gender and sexual orientation, disability or illness, and age."
Hargittai, E., & Shafer, S. (2006). Differences in actual and perceived online skills: The role of gender. Social Science Quarterly, 87(2), 432-448.
Kollmayer,M., Schultes, M., Schober, B., Hodosi, T., Spiel,C., Parents’ Judgments about the Desirability of Toys for Their Children: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-017-0882-4
Reese, L., http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/lesson16.html
Weale, S., Gendered Toys, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/08/gendered-toys-deter-girls-from-career-engineering-technology