Gender-targeted abuse and harassment have long made comment sections on the internet borderline unreadable, but those same nasty attitudes have been poisoning the digital well for years in subtler ways. As a recent exposé from FiveThirtyEight shows, online reviews for television shows geared towards women have been artificially lowered by axe-grinding men.
By analyzing a trove of IMDb data, Walt Hickey discovered that among shows more often rated and watched by women, large shares of reviews by men have been extremely low. This has disproportionately tanked their scores: the average 1-to-10 rating for the top 100 shows aimed towards women trails the average for shows aimed towards men by almost a full point. For shows like America’s Next Top Model – which we can attest has a health fanbase across gender – men rated the show almost three points lower than women did. But this is an issue with the aggregate, not the quality of individual shows.
It would be easy to blame this on loud sexists, but we should be blaming the way gender and media are talked about. Those men giving Tyra Banks a 1 have probably been subtly, tacitly conditioned their whole lives to look down on things made for women as inherently inferior or less engaging. So, you know, just factor in decades of systemic sexism when looking at IMDb scores.