Section: 4.0 Intersectionality and misogyny

Intersectionality and misogyny

Key insights:

  • Misogyny, when combined with other forms of discrimination like racism, amplifies the harm experienced by women with intersecting marginalised identities.
  • In New Zealand, there are evidence gaps in several key areas related to misogyny, both online and offline, as well as gender-based violence. For example, more research is needed on the experiences of women with intersecting identities with online harms, with a focus on the overlap between misogyny and other forms of hate such as antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, and transphobia.

Experiences of women and girls with intersectional identities

Women’s experiences of abuse and discrimination go beyond gender alone. Intersectional misogyny refers to the ways in which women experience compounded forms of discrimination based on factors such as race or ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or disability.

Misogynistic speech can target a subset of women who belong to historically or contemporarily oppressed groups. As such, it can vilify, degrade, discriminate against, malign, and disparage women and girls.1

When misogyny is intertwined with other forms of hateful ideologies, such as racism, the harm inflicted on women with multiple intersecting identities becomes more intensified.

The studies, reports, and surveys we looked at contribute various pieces to the puzzle and help create a broader understanding of the extent of this issue.

Online hate in New Zealand

Hate online is a serious concern for many New Zealanders. In a 2018 report2 by Netsafe on online hate, it was revealed that one in 10 New Zealanders experienced hate online and three in 10 encountered hateful content in 2017. Those who were exposed to online hate believed that they were most frequently targeted due to their religion (24%), followed by appearance, political views and race (20% each). However, this perception varied slightly between male and female participants. While male respondents believed they were targeted mainly because of their religion, race, political views, and ethnicity, female respondents agreed on religion, but emphasised gender (13%) and age (10%) significantly more than male participants (4% each).

According to the 2018 Netsafe survey,2 online hate was more prevalent among minority ethnic groups, particularly Asians, followed by those who identified themselves within the ‘other’ ethnicity category, then Māori, and Pacific participants.

The report also found that LGBTQI+ people experienced higher rates of online hate and abuse and that nearly two in 10 (19%) New Zealand teenagers had received an unwanted digital communication that had a negative impact on their daily life. This situation was worse for teenage girls, Māori teenagers and teenagers with a disability.

In another 2019 survey3 conducted by Netsafe across New Zealand, involving 1,161 aged 18 and older, findings indicated an increase in online hate. The survey, representing diverse demographics including 51.7% female respondents and 0.4% gender-diverse individuals, noted that 15% of respondents experienced targeted online hate in the prior year, a rise from 11% in 2018. This increase was high among Muslim respondents, with 52% reporting being targets of online hate following the Christchurch attacks, alongside 32% of Hindu participants.

The results also indicated that respondents identifying as LGBTQI+, those with disabilities, and those from diverse ethnic backgrounds, faced higher rates of online hate in comparison to other groups within the sample. For example, 25% of those with disabilities reported such experiences, a 10% increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, 23% of LGBTQI+ participants indicated having received hateful messages one or more times in the year prior to the survey, slightly down from 26% in 2018. While reports among Asian respondents also decreased from 16% to 11%, those identifying with 'other ethnicity' saw an increase from 14% to 22%.

Additionally, the findings highlighted a rise in reported online hate among Pacific and Māori respondents by 10% and 5%, respectively. In terms of gender, female participants reported a higher exposure to online hate, doubling from 8% in 2018 to 16% in 2019.

According to the Netsafe report, the primary perceived reasons for being targeted included religion and political views, each cited by 23% of respondents—a slight change from 2018. Gender-based targeting was cited by 30% of female respondents as a reason for their online hate exposure, compared to 11% of male respondents. For respondents who identified as gender-diverse, sexual orientation was the most common reason for exposure to online hate for 66% of them.

A 2018 study4 on online hate carried out by ActionStation included surveying 618 Māori, Pacific, and Asian participants and considered factors like age, gender, and ethnicity in the results. The survey revealed that approximately one in three Māori (33%), one in five Asian (25%), and one in five Pacific (21%) individuals faced such abuse and harassment. Additionally, the survey highlighted that around one in four Māori (26%), one in three Asian (33%), and one in three Pacific (34%) individuals reported a decline in self-esteem or confidence due to online harassment.

Similarly, nearly two in 10 Māori (19%) and Pacific (18%) individuals, along with one in three Asian participants (34%), expressed feeling powerless to respond to the abuse. Many respondents who experienced harassment altered their online behaviour in response. For example, 14% of Māori participants refrained from sharing content expressing their views. The abuse was most frequently reported on Facebook, which was the predominant social network used by the surveyed individuals.

Pandemics: Covid-19 impact

During the pandemic, online abuse spiked, especially for Black women, non-binary people, and women from minority backgrounds. Glitch and the End Violence Against Women Coalition conducted a survey5 in 2020 of 484 women and non-binary respondents to investigate gender-based and intersectional online abuse during the pandemic in the UK.

Their findings showed that 38% of respondents felt targeted more during this time. Most of this abuse happened on mainstream social media platforms: 65% on Twitter (now X), 27% on Facebook, and 18% on Instagram. As for the source of abuse, respondents reported that 84% of it came from strangers, while some respondents faced abuse from acquaintances (16%), partners or exes (10%), or workmates (9%).

The main reported reason for this abuse was gender, at 48%. Other reasons included gender identity and sexual orientation (21%), ethnicity (18%), religion (10%), and disability (7%).

This abuse changed how people acted online. 77% altered their online habits, and 72% felt wary of using social media. These feelings were even stronger for women and non-binary people of colour, with 87.5% changing their habits and 78% feeling wary. 83% felt their abuse complaints went unheard. This was even worse for Black and minority women and non-binary people, at 94%.

The pandemic's role in amplifying this crisis is further supported by global data. A 2020 study6 from African Women in Media supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which surveyed 108 women journalists from five African countries, found that 63.4% of respondents thought online harassment had increased in the context of Covid-19.

Their findings are echoed by another recent global survey7 conducted by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, which surveyed 1,406 English-speaking journalists, editors, CEOs and news workers in 125 countries. 53% of respondents identified as women. While 20% of respondents said their experience of online abuse, harassment, threats or attacks was “much worse than usual”, when asked to rate the incidence of online harassment during the pandemic, 16% of women journalists who responded to the question said that it was “much worse” than before Covid-19.8

Gap: There is a lack of available research from New Zealand measuring the impact of the pandemic on women in general and women with intersecting identities, particularly regarding their experiences with abuse, harassment, violence, or misogyny online.

Further reading

Studies and reports: Intersectionality and misogyny