What a b!tch! Cyber aggression toward women of color

Diane Felmlee, Paulina Inara Rodis, Sara Chari Francisco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Online aggression represents a serious, and regularly occurring, social problem. In this piece the authors consider derogatory, harmful messages on the social media platform, Twitter, that target one of three groups of women, Asians, Blacks, and Latinx. The research focuses on messages that include one of the most common female slurs, “b!tch.” The findings of this chapter reveal that aggressive messages oriented toward women of color can be vicious and easily accessible (located in fewer than 30 seconds). Using an intersectional approach, the authors note the distinctive experiences of online harassment for women of color. The findings highlight the manner in which detrimental stereotypes are reinforced, including that of the “eroticized and obedient Asian woman,” the “angry Black woman,” and the “poor Latinx woman.” In some exceptions, women use the term “b!tch” in a positive and empowering manner, likely in an attempt to “reclaim” one of the common words used to attack females. Applying a social network perspective, we illustrate the tendency of typically hostile tweets to develop into interactive network conversations, where the original message spreads beyond the victim, and in the case of public individuals, quite widely. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of the processes that lead to online harassment, including the fortification of typical norms and social dominance. Finally, the authors find that messages that use the word “b!tch” to insult Asian, Black, and Latinx women are particularly damaging in that they reinforce traditional stereotypes of women and ethno-racial minorities, and these messages possess the ability to extend to wider audiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-123
Number of pages19
JournalAdvances in Gender Research
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies


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