Violent ‘Others’: The Interconnections between Hate Speech Against Women and Immigrant Men in Online Discussions about Gendered Violence

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Satu VENÄLÄINEN, University of Helsinki, Finland
Tuija VIRKKI, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Social media has become an increasingly central site for the dissemination of misogynist, racist and xenophobic hate speech in recent years. Specifically in the context of online discussions about gendered violence, hate speech towards women, feminists and immigrants abounds. In this paper we examine the similarities in hate speech targeted at women, on the one hand, and immigrant men, on the other, in online discourse about gendered violence in Finland. We adopt an intersectional approach and propose that focusing on the interconnections of gender and ethnicity allows for a more nuanced analysis of these very common forms of contemporary hate speech than a perspective that examines them separately. Our data consist of discussion threads in online discussion fora and blogs focusing on 1) the topic of violence perpetrated by women (in 2007-2017) and 2) violence perpetrated by immigrant men (in 2015-2017). The analysis focuses on the ways in which categories of “violent women” and “violent immigrant men” are constructed in these discussions, and what is rhetorically accomplished with these constructs. We illustrate, in particular, how these constructs 1) evoke an image of Finland as gender equal and thus function as a means for constituting national identity based on the exclusion of those whose conformity with the value of equality is put under suspicion, and 2) allow for justifying anti-feminist and anti-immigration positions for Finnish men, who, in turn, are constructed as an unprivileged group betrayed by women and proponents of anti-racism. Both of these constructs thus allow to defend against perceived threats to the powerful position of Finnish men by veiling their privilege and the existence of gendered and racialized inequalities in Finland.