Study: Women Have it Worse on YouTube
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Guys! Guys! Guys! Did you know that women, on YouTube, get harassed? If you didn’t, now you do. And if you don’t believe me, now there are scientists who say it’s true. So I’m sure that now people will stop telling me that I’m imagining things, that women just have a thin skin, that it’s all just constructive criticism, or that men get just as much bullshit as anyone else.
Haha, just kidding, this will literally not change anyone’s mind. But let’s talk about it anyway.
Inoaka Amarasekara is an Australian researcher who started looking into gender disparities among YouTubers back in 2015. Three years later, she’s found evidence that bitches ain’t be lying. She manually sifted through more than 23,000 YouTube comments on popular male and female science channels to sort them into six categories: positive; negative or critical; hostile; sexist or sexual; appearance-based; and neutral or general discussion.
Let’s pause just to appreciate this fact — she didn’t think that an algorithm would be nuanced enough to sort the comments, so she did it all herself. I don’t even read the comments on my own channel, because they’re often so pointless and gross that all it does is make me more interested in campaigning in favor of global warming in the hopes that it will lead to the extinction of the human race.
I guess the comments aren’t quite as bad to read when they’re not personally directed at you and your weird teeth and bushy eyebrows or whatever, but still, have you looked down there? It’s a horrific pit of despair. I’m just wondering if anyone has checked in on Amarasekara to make sure she’s okay, because sister spent three years reading YouTube comments and no one can come through that unscathed. In one of the greatest understatements of the year, she told the New York Times that after her ordeal, she was “quite disappointed” and that she “could see why people would not want to be on YouTube.” You don’t say!
Anyway, of course what she found was that yes, female science communicators got more shit. They get more than double the amount of critical comments compared to male hosts, and more than three times more comments about their appearance. Not shockingly, women also got twelve times more sexist or sexual feedback than men.
The New York Times points out that the study also found “positives” for women, one of them being that we get more comments. Uh, I’m not sure that’s actually a positive when those comments are way more likely to be talking about our tits, but thanks.
In actual positives, women were more likely to get likes and subscribers per view. Women were also a little more likely to get more positive comments than men, but let me tell you, it takes about 100 positive comments to make up for one comment detailing exactly how a man plans to find you and rape you. Maybe 200.
I know I sound a bit, um, pessimistic about this study’s potential to cause any meaningful change, but I do think it’s important. Unfortunately, women and minorities have lived experiences that we all understand and accept, but privileged people often have a hard time understanding and accepting them when we point them out. Rationally and scientifically documenting them won’t suddenly make everyone figure it out, but it is an important and unfortunately necessary step in telling our stories and finally being understood. And if research like this gets enough press, like the New York Times writing a feature about it, then maybe, just maybe, YouTube will be forced to acknowledge that the current system just isn’t working to make female creators feel safe and comfortable making content for this platform. As I’ve said before, I would never have come back to YouTube were it not for my patrons on Patreon.
Speaking of them, I’d like to take a moment to give them a shoutout. If you want to become a patron, you can skip the YouTube comments and leave comments that I actually read and even occasionally respond to over on Patreon.com/rebecca.
So thanks to all of my current patrons, a few of which are Keith Bostic, Suzanne Jacobs, Ben Matics, Robert Sheehan, Luke Swanson, Bob Gilmore, Tom Jaworowski, Bjarte Foshaug, jtorrey13, Dag-Erling Smorgrav, JonT, Oak Ragette, Auros Harman, Phiroze Dalal, Marcella Gilmore, Laura Wadlin, Siouxsie Wiles, and Secular Woman (that’s an actual organization and you should check them out!). You’re all stars and you absolutely completely negate the nonstop shitshow that is YouTube. Hey YouTube? Fix your shit. Thanks.
Women getting harassed on social media? Zounds!
Okay, yeah, we all knew that. And we all knew a YouTube comments section makes an Arkansas country club look downright civil. (I miss the old-school trolls who would just show up and act like a moron: “I accidentally my Super Nintendo, is that bad?” It seems the Serdar Argic school of trolling is everywhere now.)
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