The only category in which women got more Twitter abuse than men was journalism: abusive messages accounted for more than 5 percent of the tweets sent to the female journalists and TV presenters in the study and fewer than 2 percent of the ones sent to the male journalists. (However, the most abused male journalist in the sample, controversial ex-CNN host Piers Morgan, was counted as a “celebrity” rather than a journalist; otherwise, he would have single-handedly raised the proportion of abusive tweets to male journalists to almost 6 percent of the total.) While about three-quarters of the offenders were men, about 40 percent of the abusive tweets to women were sent by other women.
Are women really singled out for abuse on the Internet—or is it more the case that Internet abuse of women, at least when committed by men, is singled out for special concern and opprobrium? Many feminists would argue that there are good reasons to treat it differently. Sexual slurs toward women evoke the threat of real-life sexual violence; they are also perceived as intended to “put a woman in her place” and tell her that her opinion is worthless because she is a woman. (A sexual slur toward a man is considered just a personal insult.) But the double standard also has overtones of traditional chivalry which views women as more delicate and deserving of consideration—while nastiness toward men is treated simply a part of the rough-and-tumble of public life, to be taken in stride and shrugged off.