Chapter 7: Girls and online drama: Aggression, surveillance or entertainment? – Priscilla M. Regan and Diana L. Sweet


Regan and Sweet explore the nature of online stereotypes in greater detail by examining the ways that eGirls participants mobilized the term “drama” to describe the kinds of conflicts they experience on social media. They suggest that discussions of drama are closely linked to “mean girl” discourses that pathologize feminine social aggression and implicitly treat male aggression as neutral. Policy interventions using this lens accordingly over-regulate girls. However, eGirls participants also talked about drama as a form of highly gendered peer surveillance; whereas boys’ behaviours were generally overlooked or accepted as neutral, girls were closely monitored to ensure that their behaviour conformed to gendered norms. In addition, eGirls participants talked about drama as an enjoyable form of entertainment, where stereotypical performances of gender were attended to for pleasure. Regan and Sweet conclude that policy interventions must attend to these alternative understandings of drama and, rather than punishing girls for social aggression, regulate the companies that own social media. By requiring online companies to provide users with more tools to control the flow of their information online, and by restricting the use of media stereotypes in online advertising, policymakers could constrain the environmental elements that encourage this kind of conflict.