Woman by a computer

Digital microaggressions and everyday othering: an analysis of tweets sent to women members of Parliament in the UK

1:30pm - 2:30pm / Wednesday 17th November 2021 / Online event
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
  • Admission: Free event
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Dr Emily Harmer (Lecturer in Media) and Dr Rosalynd Southern (Lecturer in Political Communication)

Online abuse directed at female politicians has the potential to present barriers to the political representation of women in the digital age. Previous research has produced mixed results, with some finding little difference between the extent of abuse received by male and female MPs, while others found that women and minority groups are subjected to specific kinds of abuse. While straightforward examples of abuse and discrimination are easy to identify, categorise and quantify, tweets which include more subtle microaggressions that position women and minority MPs as unqualified and unwelcome in politics deserve attention. This research therefore employs a qualitative thematic analysis of 11,543 tweets sent to UK members of Parliament. The analysis identified four themes: 1. ‘overt online abuse’, 2. ‘everyday sexism and othering’, 3. ‘dismissing discrimination and victim blaming’, and 4. ‘claiming reverse discrimination’. We argue that these digital microaggressions serve as constant reminders of the marginalised status of female representatives, and women of colour specifically, and should be conceptualised as forms of psychological and semiotic violence that reconstitute online political spaces as a hostile environment for women and may discourage women from seeking political office or compel women representatives to leave. Digital microaggressions may therefore be as damaging to women’s democratic representation as outright abuse.

This seminar will take place on Zoom and joining details will be sent to those registered via the Eventbrite page below.