transfer 25(3) » Rezeptions- und Wirkungsforschung

Feminist Humour as a Democratising Strategy to Challenge Misogynist Online Incivility

Comments containing misogynist attacks on social media can cause emotional distress to those who observe them. This is especially true for observers who are potential victims of misogyny themselves, namely women and femmes. Their consequential withdrawal from online spaces can be seen as detrimental to democratization processes.

It has been suggested that women and femmes who self-identify as feminists are more likely to counter misogynist hate speech while at the same time being more likely to be victims of such speech. Therefore, their participation in online spaces can be seen as particularly threatened on the one hand and important for the democratising potential of the Internet on the other.

The theoretical exploration of online misogyny as a form of incivility and feminist humour as a rebellious juxtaposition to the corrective function of disciplinary humour was the basis for this empirical study. A total number of 666 participants took part in an online survey containing stimulus material.

The results show that feminist humour can indeed be considered as an effective counter strategy. However, this also applies to civil and uncivil counterspeech. In fact, it seems to be more important that misogyny is countered at all, rather than how it is countered.

The importance of these findings is elevated by the fact that 96% of the survey participants reported of having read a misogynist comment on a social media platform before. 37% of the survey participants stated that they have been victims of misogynist hate speech themselves in the past. There is a significant difference between those participants who identify as feminists (38%) and those who do not (19%).

In sum, feminists have a crucial role in (re-)claiming online spaces for women and femmes and countering misogyny. Having identified humour as a successful strategy to improve their emotional well-being can therefore be declared as furthering democratising processes online.