“At a time when insults travel at warp speed, calling a girl or women a slut or ho in US youth culture has become prevalent, casual, and normalized…” (SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence. Cappiello McInerney). Every woman has experienced some type of sexism in her life. Sexism is the prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination of women based on gender. According to the website rampage.us, sexism can be put into two different categories. Women could encounter benevolent sexism, where the remarks or actions are subtle and are supposed to come off as chivalrous. For example, one might tell a woman that she has natural motherly instincts. This comment may make her feel like she’s only meant to have children, or she can only be gentle (rampages.us). The second category of sexism is hostile sexism. Hostile sexism is rooted from the belief that women are inferior to men. This is “the more physical and aggressive approach” (rampages.us). Both these categories of sexism are happening more than ever and are beginning to seem normal, just as the authors of SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence discuss in their book. In fact, it is glorified. Why is sexism so routine? The answer is social media. It’s almost impossible to scroll down your Twitter or Facebook feed without seeing some type of sexist joke or meme. Because these “jokes” cause laughter, society sees nothing wrong with them. Meanwhile, millions of women are being affected negatively in real life. The women affected aren’t taken seriously due to the romanticized state of these sexist remarks. One of the biggest advocates for sexism is the online world, and social media; in particular, normalizes sexism with the use of comedy and anonymity. This normalization negatively affects women in real life.
Because of the jokes shared and retweeted online, women are more likely to experience sexism. Social media encourages the normalization of these problems. When people see sexism online they usually don’t even see it as being sexist. The reason they don’t notice the sexism is because comedy comes along with it. If anyone is bold enough to be blantly sexist toward women, that person can hide behind a computer screen. As Bailey Poland puts it in Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online: “Online harassment is rooted in offline beliefs, and those offline beliefs are supported and reinforced by the prevalence of sexist behaviors online”. The anonymous people are not afraid to express the opinions they usually hide offline. Because of this power to be invisible online, more and more women are being called something offensive and/or sexist. The authors of SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence conducted an experiment, starting in the 1990’s, where women were interviewed about being labeled sluts or hos. She found that every middle and high school had one or two girls that were known as a ho or slut. Twenty years later, the same interview was organized with a new set of women. This time she found that not only was it much easier to call women sluts and hos, but almost all women have been labeled a slut or ho sometime in their life (SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence). Both these differences are the result of the internet and social media. Today, women can post a promiscuous tweet or photo and anyone with Internet access can call those women hos and sluts. The simplicity and safety of social media make sexism seem normal.
“Slut-shaming” is one the ways social media expresses it’s sexist views. Slut-shaming is judging a woman based on her sexuality and appearance. “Hundreds of thousands of twitter accounts are devoted to “babes daily,” or “sexy fitness chicks.” They’re made for men to drool over the naked bodies of women while they simultaneously tweet out jokes about “hoes,” and “sluts” (“Why Social Media Has Fueled Double Standards for Single Women”). Social media makes this issue seem like nothing. The comments and judgements are so prevalent, that people start to get used to them. Amber Rose and Cardi B are two women who have received slut-shaming comments online. The reason they get so much backlash is because they were once strippers. They are both very comfortable expressing their sexuality online. The online community sees this as an invitation to call Cardi B and Rose sluts. Both these women are now very successful in other areas. Cardi B is now a TV personality and Rapper, while Amber Rose is now a model, fashion designer, and is known for raising awareness of slut-shaming. Unfortunately, the sexist people online still think they can call them hos and sluts just because they were once strippers. Once a women is seen naked online, she is no longer respected. Everyone has something to say and they won’t hold back. There are “funny” vines, tweets, and memes poking fun at these women, even when they didn’t want the picture seen at all. “The Internet made misogyny routine and sexual bullying easy…” (Penny 257). “Leaked” celebrity nudes and sextapes are another example of sexism online. When female celebrities have their nudes posted online the world is too quick to call her a slut. When men have their nudes leaked, the comments are positive. Women admire the picture, and a lot of men just don’t look. Slut-shaming will stay relevant as long as social media has the ability to make it so.
Furthermore, sometimes online sexisim is taken outside of the computer with the use of past and present social media posts. Men and women are quick to judge a woman based on what she posts online. Men never have to worry about that. Even social media apps like Instagram judge women by the pictures they post. Women could even have a hard time finding a job, because of the posts they put online. Laurie Penny shares her experience with this outside judgement on her online life in “Cybersexism”. She was attending a gathering after being given a job as a magazine’s youngest political blogger when a man tells her that a gossip website has some pictures of her. They were pictures from her Facebook posted years before. In the pictures Penny was kissing another woman in a revealing shirt. The man threatened to use these picture against her unless she “handles the situation”. The man used the Internet to acquire power over a woman. Implying that women aren’t good enough if they are seen like this. Women get backlash for photos, but men are never condemned for expressing sexist opinions. If women try to defend themselves online they are overreacting, while men are labeled masculine if they defend themselves. Social media encourages sexism online and offline.
Anyone could see the daily sexism recorded online. Nevertheless, there are still skeptics who see nothing wrong with these comments. Internet trolls like to argue that expressing sexism online is “freedom of speech” and trying to stop people from tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagraming about it is censorship. Penny explains the irony in this: “According to the current logic of online misogyny, a woman’s right to self-expression is less important by far than a man’s right to punish her for that self-expression” (Penny 267). It doesn’t make sense to claim censorship when women are attacked for every little thing they say or do. Other people argue that the sexism online is just “jokes” and the people offended, should “stop being sensitive and get over it”. This view isn’t too smart either when we think about the real life sexism that happens because of the jokes on social media. Women lose their lives to sexism everyday and joking about it comes off as offensive.
People sit behind the computer everyday and throw stereotypes at women. The choice to be anonymous creates a safety blanket for both men and women to share their sexist views. The ones who choose to show their faces use humor to express their prejudices. Both these tactics continue to fuel the normalization of sexism on the internet. The best solution to stop these videos, tweets, and comments from normalizing sexism is to show the severity of sexism as a whole. In real life, women are killed over sexist views. Just because people laugh and make jokes on social media about it, doesn’t mean it’s not just as serious or life-threatening. Until something is done social media will continue to glorify and normalize sexism online and in real life.