What’s in a Tweet? Gender and sexism moderate reactions to antifat sexist humor on Twitter

  • 1 Psychology, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, USA
  • 2 TurkPrime, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, USA
Dara Greenwood
  • Corresponding author
  • Psychology, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie, NY, 12604, USA
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  • Dara Greenwood, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Psychological Science at Vassar College. She is a social/personality psychologist who studies the intersection between entertainment media use and individuals’ emotional well-being and social attitudes. She has a particular interest in gender roles and sexism as well as in the psychology of humor and comedy.
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and Richa Gautam
  • TurkPrime, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY, 11367, USA
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  • Richa Gautam, B.A., graduated from Vassar College in 2016 with degrees in both Psychological Science and Greek and Roman Studies. This research was part of her senior thesis. Since graduation she has worked in clinical research at Weill Cornell, in survey research at TurkPrime, and now works in market research at YouGov.
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Abstract

The present study investigated whether antifat sexist humor (compared to antifat sexist statements or control statements), conveyed via Tweets, would impact perceptions of an overweight female target depicted in a workplace harassment scenario. We examined whether gender, antifat attitudes, and sexism would impact joke perceptions and moderate perceptions of the joke-relevant target. Participants (n = 451) were drawn from MTurk and completed the study online. They were randomly exposed to one of three tweet conditions and then read and responded to the harassment vignette, among filler vignettes, before completing sexism and antifat measures. Antifat attitudes unexpectedly shifted as a function of study prime and were thus not considered as a moderator. Results showed that men high in hostile sexism reported a greater likelihood of retweeting/favoriting antifat sexist jokes than men low on hostile sexism or women high in hostile sexism. Individuals high in hostile sexism in the joke condition found the behavior of the target less appropriate, and the behavior of the ostensible perpetrator more appropriate, than those in the control condition and those low on hostile sexism. Similar findings were obtained for benevolent sexism. Findings underscore the power of social media as a vehicle for disparagement humor and its consequences.

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