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This study investigated gender-based violence targeting high-profile women in virtual environments through the case of women’s tennis. Using a netnographic approach and the lens of third-wave feminism, 2 popular social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) were analyzed to examine social commentary and fan interaction surrounding the top-5-seeded female tennis players during the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Athletes were exposed to violent interactions in a number of ways. Four themes were identified through data analysis: threats of physical violence, sexualization that focused on the female physical appearance, sexualization that expressed desire and/or proposed physical or sexual contact, and sexualization that was vile, explicit, and threateningly violent in a sexual or misogynistic manner. Findings demonstrate how social media provides a space for unregulated gender-based cyberhate targeting high-profile women in their workplace in a way that traditional sport media does not.
Kavanagh is with the Dept. of Sport and Event Management, Bournemouth University, Poole, United Kingdom. Litchfield and Osborne are with the School of Exercise Science, Sport and Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia.