Confirming what we've all known forever anyway, a new study has discovered that men who abuse women on the internet are failing at pretty much everything else
Next time (because, statistically-speaking, there’s likely to be a next time) a man is mean to you on the internet, just remember this: he’s a loser.
Nope – we’re not regressing to Year Six, when nobody would sit next to us in the canteen and we had to find a way to make ourselves feel better about it. We’re not even being bitter and twisted and man-hating. We’re just stating the facts.
A new study, called Insights into Sexism: Male Status and Performance Moderates Female-Directed Hostile and Amicable Behavior has revealed that when men lose at video games, they’re more likely to be offensive towards any women playing against them.
Focusing in on Halo 3 (a game that involves shooting a lot of guns at a lot of people wearing sartorially confusing helmets), the study discovered that when men were playing – and losing – against other men, they dealt with it. They probably kicked the mouldy cheese sandwich lying on the floor next to them, and angrily threw their Game of Thrones back catalogue at the wall in dismay. But they dealt with it.
But when men were playing – and losing – against women, they ignored the hypothetical cheese sandwich in favour of taking their anger out on their female opponent; telling her that she’s worthless, that she’s sexually repellent, or that he’ll hunt her down and violently punish her for getting ideas above her station.
Because boys are still being raised to believe that they should never, ever lose to a girl. That girls should never be better than – or equal to – boys. And that if a woman ever did beat a man at something, then clearly she should be brought down a peg or two, because it’s her who’s in the wrong for stepping out of line – rather than the man, for not managing to keep up.
“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status,” explain the study authors, “the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy.”
But what makes the study really interesting, is the fact that Halo 3 actually works in a very similar way to most other online forums, such as Reddit, 4Chan or any number of comment sections. Meaning that it actually provides a disturbing insight into why some men (no, not all, but some) seem to think it’s OK to treat women so badly on other areas of the internet too. After all, it’s anonymous, and male players still significantly outnumber female ones – so they feel confident shutting down a rare woman who dares to speak (/play) out of line.
You see it in real life all the time too – when a man in the running for President loses out in the polls, and immediately attempts to reduce Hillary Clinton to the clothes that she’s wearing, or questions her skills as a mother. Or when a woman gets a promotion that her male colleague was up for too, so he makes a comment about her single status to keep her in check. Women do it to women too, because our power balance is (unfortunately) still inherently precarious, but men don’t do it to men to the same extent – because they don’t feel like they have as much to prove.
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Thankfully, the study suggests that if we continue teaching boys and girls that they’re equal from an early age, then it might not be this way forever.
And in the meantime? Well, it’s probably time to beat some guys at Halo 3.