Why so limited?

These generators do not do an adequate job of conveying the intersectional nature of the abuse received by women of colour, trans women, queer women, and other minority groups.

I know. And I am sorry. My research does focus on the gendered dimensions of online hate speech and harassment as opposed to those aspects which are homophobic, transphobic, racist, culturally intolerant, ableist, and so on. This is not to deny or downplay these issues, or the political intersec­tionality of gender with other social identities. It is simply beyond the scope of my current work to explore in any depth the nuances of cyberhate and harassment as it relates to race, class, sexual orientation, and so on. My hope is that other scholars will continue to forge on with new research projects dedicated to investigating these critical aspects of the problem.

These generators seem to rely on the assumption that only men are perpetrators of online abuse and only women are targets. What’s up with that?

It is indeed true that some men are targeted for abuse online, and that some women attack. My decision to focus on gendered cyberhate directed at women, however, is deliberate. Here are three extracts from my book Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History which speak to these issues:

Focusing primarily on gendered cyberhate involving male attackers and female targets is necessary because of the overwhelming anecdotal and empirical evidence that women are being attacked online more often, more severely, and in far more violently sexualised ways than men. Female tar­gets of cyberhate often receive extremely specific communications about how, where, and even what time they will be violated. Also included may be explicit details about which orifices will be desecrated via which instru­ments, as well as the names of the family members and children who will be forced to watch. These are not the types of tweets, Facebook messages, and emails typically received by men. Further, the misogyny, sexualised vitriol, slut shaming, and threats women encounter on the internet sit squarely within a much broader problem: namely the grossly high levels of violence that continue to be perpetrated against women and girls around the world. (Jane, 2017: 10, hyperlink added)

With regard to cyberhate directed at men, I note that while the ‘ugly, fat, and slutty’ trifecta is hurled at women with monotonous regularity, I have yet to witness any men being attacked via this particular combi­nation of insults. While there is an abundance of homophobic slurs and accusations relating to a condition we could call micro-penis syndrome, the low-level argy-bargy experienced by men (or at least by straight, cisgen­dered, white men) is very different to the abuse experienced by women. Norms do exist around physical appearance for men, but there is no cor­responding fixation with men’s ‘fuckability’ or ‘rapeability’. This reflects the broader fact that men are not traditionally shamed for promiscuity or sexualised self-representation. There is still no male version of the word ‘slut’ – or at least not one with derogatory connotations. When the rhetoric of sexual violence is used to abuse men online, it is often delivered via attacks on their female partners and family members… [This shows] that violent misogyny can still be present in cyberhate attacks in which men are the primary targets. (Jane, 2017: 10-11, emphasis in original)

[T]he clamour for ‘balance’ in studies of male-perpetrated violence against women (for example, the insistence that such research give equal space to the voices of women who have not experi­enced gendered violence and of men who are not perpetrators) is primarily a diversionary tactic deployed by men’s rights activists. Such arguments are on par with the suggestion that research about pedestrian-crossing injuries is incomplete or biased unless equal space is offered to examining the expe­riences of people who have crossed roads safely, and to airing the views of drivers who have never collided with pedestrians in such circumstances. Unless a project is designed to be explicitly comparative, there is no good reason to acquiesce to these particular demands. (Jane, 2017: 9, emphases in original)

Is it possible that some of the material included in these generators was sent by women to women rather than by men to women?

Yes. The nature of the internet makes it difficult – if not outright impossible – to determine users’ offline identities and genders. That said, the vast bulk of material used in these generators: (1) was drawn directly from accounts or profiles involving a masculine name, avatar, or other characteristic suggesting the account belonged to a male; (2) was reported by women who had good reason to believe it had been sent by a male; and/or (3) was indubitably authored by a male because it was sent from an account in which the man’s offline identity was entirely obvious. Again, however, it is impossible to answer the sender gender question with Cartesian certainty. Further, these generators do include a number of messages involving senders whose account details and profiles offered no clues whatsoever about their genders. The also contain several messages received by women who had reasons to suspect the senders might have been female, although, once again they could not say for sure. The phenomenon of women attacking other women (and also men) online would be an excellent avenue for future research.