[Recommended]Research Proposal: Sexism on Social Media

Research Proposal: Sexism on Social Media Seballos 1 Alexandria Seballos Dr. Gina Gemmel English 161 19 October 2018 Research Proposal: Sexism on Social Media The…

Research Proposal: Sexism on Social Media
Seballos 1
Alexandria Seballos
Dr. Gina Gemmel
English 161
19 October 2018
Research Proposal: Sexism on Social Media
The research question that is driving my inquiry is why social media has a bias against
women. This is an important question because sexism has been a problem that has plagued
women all over the world for centuries and the emerging use of technology and social media
only allows more avenues for sexism. As technology has advanced and become part of our daily
lives so too has the use of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. In this day
and age social media has become a part of our culture, allowing us to connect and share our lives
with others. While this may seem very positive and beneficial, my research has shown that it also
creates new outlets for bias and harassment, largely against women, as degrading and sexist
posts, images, and comments can now be repeatedly sent to a single person or made public to
anyone that has a social media account.
Although social media is a newer addition to technology, there are arguments discussing
how social media both harms and helps women. Those such as Marwick, Buni and Chemaly, and
Daniels and Zurbriggen argue that social media does more harm as it facilitates violence,
harassment, and negative stereotypes against women. Many social media sites allow images
depicting violence against women and comments threatening women to circulate around their
site as well as permit pages dedicated to hating women to stay on the site. On top of that, many
social media sites reinforce female stereotypes by encouraging women to present themselves in a
certain light online. However, there are some, such as Chittal, who believe that social media can
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help women. Chittal argues that social media gives women a voice and allows them to speak out
against violence and injustices in a more public setting.
While many argue that social media is very beneficial to women, especially in recent
years with the new wave of feminism, I argue that social media is still a place that fosters sexism
and encourages bias and violence against women. Recently, many women have recognized and
spoken out about this problem and are pushing social media companies to do something about
this issue, such as hiring more people to perform moderation on the sites or being more
transparent about what can be said online. I agree with their demands and believe that social
media companies should take responsibility for the harassment that occurs and create harsher
guidelines that define and regulate what can and cannot be said on their websites.
There are multiple counterarguments that I may encounter while conducting further
research. One is the argument that social media companies should not regulate the sexist
comments and posts because it would be a violation of that user’s freedom of speech. Another
argument is that social media can’t foster violence against women since threats made online are
not the same as threats in real life. Further, some would also say that if the woman feels like they
are being targeted on social media then they should just stop using it, but the answer isn’t as
simple as that. On top of this, another counter that could be made is that social media doesn’t
foster sexism since it gives women a voice for speaking out and pursuing feminist ideals.
Buni, Catherine and Chemaly, Soraya. “The Unsafety Net: How Social Media Turned Against
Women.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Jan. 2015,
The authors of this source, Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly, have written this article
as a way to discuss how social media sites aid in creating an unsafe online environment for
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women. They provide a multitude of examples from celebrity nude photo leaks to the suicide of
victim Amanda Todd, to the harassment of journalist Carolina Criado-Perez. All of the women
mentioned in these examples, and more, had been repeatedly harassed and threatened online,
which then led to them being threatened and harassed in real life outside of the internet. When
contacting social media sites about removing the threatening comments and posts, companies
like Facebook, Twitter, and Google refused to take action until the problem became publicized.
The reason many sites refuse to take down these posts is due to free speech. Companies are
allowed to sift through posts and moderate speech on their sites, but what constitutionally counts
as a threat or a violation of free speech is unclear, making it difficult for companies to stop the
harassment. As a way to work towards solving this problem, Buni and Chemaly offer up a
number of solutions consisting of the companies providing more transparency in what comments
violate their terms of speech, dedicating more staff to performing moderation, and hiring more
female programmers and managers to fight the sexism in the technological field and aid in
creating a safer environment for women online.
Chittal, Nisha. “How Social Media is Changing the Feminist Movement.” MSNBC, 26 March
2015, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/how-social-media-changing-the-feminist-movement
In her article, author Nisha Chittal discusses how social media has aided women and
changed the feminist movement. Before, activism and protests were restricted to those who were
in the area of the protest or who had the ability to travel there. But now, any and everyone can
participate in their cause through social media and hashtag activism. Through sites like Twitter
and Facebook, people can rally together, share their stories, and raise awareness no matter where
they are by simply going online and using hashtags, such as with the #FBrape hashtag that called
Facebook to change their policies about posts that contain violence against women. Many people
argue that social media doesn’t help in enacting real change, but Chittal states that it is effective
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in raising awareness and “giv[ing] a voice to those who are otherwise voiceless.” She also points
out that the bad press that comes with hashtag activism can pressure companies and politicians to
change their ways or take action on a problem.
Daniels, Elizabeth A. and Zurbriggen, Eileen L. “The Price of Sexy: Viewers’ Perceptions of a
Sexualized Versus Nonsexualized Facebook Profile Photograph.” Psychology of Popular
Media Culture, vol. 5, no. 1, 14 July 2014, pp. 2-14. ProQuest, doi:
The authors of this article, Elizabeth A. Daniels, and Eileen L. Zubriggen, have
conducted a study to analyze how women that use a sexualized profile picture are perceived by
other women and girls, compared to those that have a non-sexualized profile picture. The study
found that the woman with the sexualized profile picture was perceived to be less physically
attractive, less socially attractive, and less competent while the woman with the non-sexualized
photo was viewed as the exact opposite. The authors believe that this is due to both the
objectification theory, which “argues that Western societies routinely sexually objectify the
female body,” and to societal pressures for women to be sexy (3). They also believe that these
negative perceptions of sexualized women could lead to negative behaviors and even sexual
violence towards women (9). To solve this problem, Daniels and Zubriggen propose that parents,
adults, and educators teach children about the consequences of how they portray themselves on
social media, as well as educate them on the effects of gender stereotypes and the sexualization
of women (11).
Marwick, Alice E. “Scandal or sex crime? Gendered privacy and the celebrity nude photo leaks.”
Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 19, no. 3, 2017, pp. 177-191. ProQuest, doi:
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The author, Alice Marwick, has written this article in order to analyze and compare the
reactions of people on social media with the reactions of the popular press to the 2014 celebrity
photo leak deemed “celebgate” (177). Marwick conducted her research by analyzing the top
comments discussing the photo leak on a popular social media website named Reddit, and by
analyzing a number of different articles and editorials. Marwick found that on Reddit, users
celebrated the ability to see the nude photos of celebrity women, slut shamed the women for
taking the pictures of themselves, stated that they had a right to these images since celebrities
make a profit off of their public image anyway, and argued that it wasn’t a violation of the
celebrities’ privacy because they shouldn’t have taken the pictures in the first place. The only
problem online users had with the images were that some of the celebrities were underage in the
photos and that would be considered child porn (182). Marwick found that in the popular press,
almost all of the journals and articles deemed the leak a violation of privacy and classified it
under the same problems as harassment and sexual assault (187-188). Essentially, Marwick
discovered that those on social media saw no problem with the leak of female celebrity nude
photos, while the popular press saw it as an invasion of privacy.

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