-“Doctor…Most men in my office hate me—not that they say it in my face.”

Kim X. is a successful defense lawyer in one of top law firms in Brickell but in spite of having earned her standing, her male co-workers deeply resent it. Most of the vitriol consisted of whispered asides at the water cooler that she was able to identify; when she showed up men changed the conversation. However she recently had the suspicion that the misogyny migrated online.

The under-representation of women in the top tier of public administration, business corporations and academia has been extensively documented. That concealed discrimination has been buttressed by a workplace culture that discreetly demeans women and their work as objectionable conversations rarely occur in the open. Misogyny is still alive but hides underground. The water cooler setting has been replaced by the computer or the smartphone.

However the use of the digital media leaves an indelible archive behind. Computer experts have refined some machine-learning techniques adapted to explore patterns in large bodies of text, which can quantify some gossip. Alice H. Wu, a student in the University of California at Berkeley, studied more than a million posts from an anonymous online message board known as “Economics Job Market Rumors” that is well visited by the economists.

That forum is completely anonymous and it’s impossible to find out the gender of the person posting a comment, let alone if he/she is an economist. But the subject of each post can be identified by gender: man or woman. Ms. Wu adapted machine-learning techniques to find the terms associated with the posts about men and those about women. Here are the top ones for gals:

  1. Hotter
  2. Lesbian
  3. BB (baby)
  4. Sexism
  5. Tits
  6. Anal
  7. Marrrying
  8. Feminazi
  9. Slut
  10. Hot
  11. Vagina
  12. Boobs
  13. Pregnant
  14. Pregnancy
  15. Cute
  16. Marry
  17. Levy
  18. Gorgeous

The anonymous online discussions of men about women usually involve topics related to their personal behavior, physical attributes or gender issues. In contrast the discussions about men are focused on the field of work or strictly professional issues like job opportunities, career moves or counsel. This data might no be representative of the entire field of economics but an active minority can certainly sour the workplace environment for women.

Gossiping is part of every workplace and we have to deal with it in stride. However the spreading of false or inaccurate information about a colleague can seriously damage her career prospects and skills evaluation process. Once a rumour spreads in an inter-connected place, it takes a life of its own and continues to exponentially grow.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.



4 thoughts on “The virtual misogyny

  1. Acts of violence and abuse against women online are an extension of such acts offline. Threats of violence, privacy violations, sexist comments, you name it.
    It’s so much easier online, right?

    Many women I know have experienced online harassment. First ‘date’ and being shown the pic of his manhood already. How very romantic.

    1. Good morning and thank you for your commentary.Oh dear! How horrible! And perhaps it is not even his artifact as a man who shows off so disgustingly in front of the delicate ladies is usually sexually impotent or finishes too early..A total waste of her time!

  2. I’m honored that you thought of me, as for the story, it makes me happy I don’t have to deal with that anymore, now that I mostly work from home. I have always been one who thought people were talking about me, guess I just have a complex being a woman and short to boot. 🙂

    1. Dear Kim: good evenirg and thanks for your commentary. If you had the feeling that the males in your office were talking behind you back, maybe they really were. And that’s a telltale sign you were doing a good job and envious inqualified men hated you just for that reason. Un baccione.

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