Women’s History Month: A Tale of Hate or Joy?

Come women’s history month, social media is abuzz with positive conversations, supportive feedback and a general acknowledgement of the everyday plight of women. However, it is important to not ignore the negative conversations that also come to a head this time of year. Thus, as we reflect on women’s advancement in March, we have decided to compare the minority (2%) of negative post in 2016 with that of 2017, to see if there has been any change in conversation.

Caption: 2017 Topic Wave. The bright yellow indicates the positive conversations, while the purples relate to negative postings such as “Introduce Men’s History Month” and “Hate Feminism”.

Caption: 2016 Topic Wave. A study of the same time period shows a vast array of different negative conversations. More than 2017. The green spike indicates an anti-abortion debate spike, while the earlier spikes in the month include topics of death and barriers.

Studying topic waves of roughly 12,000 post from each year, a stark difference emerges from the two years. Negative conversations from 2016 are diffused over a vast array of topics. Some include the expected “Introduce Men’s History Month”, but others fall into less common categories. In 2017, the topic of conversation amongst negative post are consolidated into fewer topics, namely “men”, “women”, and “black women”. The reasoning behind this is unclear, but one could deduce it is a product of increasingly having to voice your opinion with a coherent argument that revolves around the core theme of women, instead of simply blurting out hateful sentiments.

But have times really changed? The data is somewhat inconclusive. Yes, almost all posts are positive, but the small minority that are negative continue to be so. Those who claim that feminism is evil in 2016 do the same in 2017. If anything, the data is telling us that people are not changing the way they think; they are simply getting better at voicing their opinion. So what does this mean for the future of negative conversations during Women’s History Month? It depends. While a quick search shows that negative accounts are almost always deactivated, it does not deter future negative commenting. The most the average user can do is flag overtly negative postings and act appropriately online.