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Women’s Football Subculture of Misogyny: The Escalation to Online Gender-Based Violence

Fenton, Alex; Ahmed, Wasim; Hardey, Mariann (Maz); Boardman, Rosy; Kavanagh, Emma

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Alex Fenton

Wasim Ahmed

Rosy Boardman

Emma Kavanagh


Given the worldwide growth of women’s football and its presence on social media, it is essential to explore and understand fan attitudes and culture. This article focuses on how fans react to the increased exposure of women sports professionals on social media by answering the following research questions: ‘How do fans react to women’s football on TikTok in the framing of gender-based violence?’ and ‘How can brands respond to gender-based violence on TikTok?’

This article provides the first empirical social media netnography focusing on British women’s football teams (Manchester United and Burnley) and international fan views towards women professional players on TikTok. We extend this discussion by utilising a netnography in which researchers immersed themselves for seven months in women’s football groups on TikTok to gather and analyse new qualitative data in this context.

We identify the escalation of gender-based violence on social media against women players.. Four key themes emerged from the netnography: 1. Sexism: the place of women in football; 2. Misogyny and hatred of women; 3. Sexualisation of women; 4. Demand for a male-only space. Sexist comments were apparent in all of the TikTok posts containing female football players with some also containing more aggressive misogynistic comments. Other dominant comments sought to reduce women to objects of sexual desire and belittle their professional skills, whereas others were appalled at the presence of female players on the clubs’ official accounts, demanding them to be a male-only space.

The study contributes to the understanding of online fan cultures on complex, video-based platforms such as TikTok. Through literature review and netnography, we identified a problem for football clubs on social media of longstanding, problematic issues of toxic fan comments on social media which is in direct contrast to football club statements on the protection of staff and fans. We propose several potential solutions and critical topics for future research. We also contribute to the literature on gender violence…

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 7, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Oct 11, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 15, 2023
Journal European Sport Management Quarterly
Print ISSN 1618-4742
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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