Demonstration in Paris to defend the right to abortion, in Paris on July 2, 2022

On the internet, women victims of "backfire" masculinist

In its latest report, the High Council for Equality between Women and Men denounces the phenomenon of “backlash” from the masculinist counter-offensive that is organized on social networks.

The High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCE) published its latest report January 23. Beyond the “alarming finding”, to use the words of the HCE note, he emphasizes that all forms of harassment against women persist, particularly with regard to cyberbullying.

The HCE denounces the phenomenon of backlash which means “backlash”. This term was initiated in 1991 by the American writer Susan Faludi and targets the antifeminist and reactionary discourses that have emerged as a result of feminist movements and advances since the 1970s. Thus, violent reactions emerge in the face of the progress of rights women and give rise to terms like “neo-feminism”, “wokism”, “feminazi”… Reactions that are also expressed through social networks.

A whole section of the report looks at cyberstalking and claims that “masculinist ‘raids’ are on the rise online to silence or discredit women”.

The authors of these raids organize themselves on forums and seek, for example, to close accounts that bother them. They then designate accounts to report en masse. “They have been very well organized for several years now,” notes Tech&Co Elvire Duvelles-Charles, author of the book Feminism and social networks, a story of love and hate (editions Out of reach) and creator of the Clit Revolution Instagram account.

Targeted because of their gender

Several studies show that these actions persist. Amnesty International was particularly interested in 2018 in public figures such as women politicians or journalists. On a given sample, an artificial intelligence has identified a million abusive tweets over the course of a year, or a hateful post every thirty seconds aimed at them.

Online, other public figures such as streamers are also the target of these insults, such as Nat’Ali, a video game streamer on Twitch for almost six years, who suffers daily cyberbullying or Maghla, one of the France’s most followed streamers with 700,000 subscribers on Twitch. On October 24, 2022, the videographer published a series of messages in which she exposes the hateful content that she faces daily on the internet. The Ultia streamer has announced that she has filed a complaint for the wave of cyberbullying she suffered at the end of October.

Beyond public figures, many women are victims of cyberbullying. Thereby, a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021 reports that 47% of women surveyed have experienced online harassment because of their gender. According to a UN report73% of women have experienced online misogynistic hate for all the wrong reasons.

The HCE report takes up the media example of the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard “which has been the subject of extraordinary attention on social networks for several weeks”, analyzes the report. For the author Rose Lamy, quoted in the report, this affair is symptomatic of a “sleeping masculinity crisis”.

Cyberbullying and backlash

And the HCE to alert: “the serious threats of a decline in women’s rights and the fear of a backlash anti-feminist movement require greater intervention by the public authorities commensurate with the challenges”.

A finding shared by Elvire Duvelle-Charles, herself a victim of cyberbullying. Without speaking of an increase in cases of online harassment, she stresses that cyberbullying actions are increasingly targeted, that their perpetrators are very well organized upstream and that the mass phenomenon is accentuated: the same people got together to aim for the same target at the same time.

The author points out in particular the insufficient penal response. “The perpetrators see that they will not be convicted so they continue their cyberbullying.” Elvire Duvelle-Charles wants “justice to condemn more, that social networks facilitate the missions of investigators and do a real job of moderation”.

Demonstration in Paris to defend the right to abortion, in Paris on July 2, 2022
Demonstration in Paris to defend the right to abortion, in Paris on July 2, 2022 © Christophe ARCHAMBAULT © 2019 AFP

When she read the report, the finding unfortunately “not surprised” her. She notes that after MeToo, “while women’s rights are about to gain ground and politicians take hold of the issue, the violent reactions multiply”. She takes as an example the decline in the debate on the right to abortion in Europe, a sign of “a backlash well established,” she continued.

Cyberbullying follows real-life violence. According to a study of the association Feminism against cyberbullying, 72% of victims declare that the cyberviolence continued in person.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *