Trolling or Harassment, Androcentric or Sexist?

In writing about online life, I’ve found it necessary to distinguish between the behaviors of trolling, hating, and harassing, and the attitudes of androcentrism, sexism, and misogyny. Many writers tend to conflate these terms, especially in the popular press. For example, most any troubling online behavior is called “trolling.” Whitney Phillips rightly objects to this: “Referring to nasty online behaviors as ‘trolling’ frames online antagonism as a game only the aggressor can win.”1 Similarly, I find labeling all dude asshatery as sexist can obscure the cause and solution to one type of problematic behavior.2 Consider the tech leader who exhorted techies (“guys”) to make sure “that your printer, your mom’s printer, [and] my grandma’s printer just work out of the box”; if this could be achieved “then we’ll have less trouble explaining to girls what we actually do.”3 He’d likely become defensive if he was accused of being sexist, though I think he would appreciate that his statements were androcentric and subsequently improve his approach.

I’ve collected a list of these words, roughly grouped into attitudes and behaviors, that merit definition and distinction. I give very brief working definitions, but am looking for germinal uses and online case examples to help delineate what they mean.

  • attitude (in the mind)
    • bias
      • prejudice
        • an opinion about an individual or group that is uninformed (ignorant) or inapplicable (fallacies of composition or ecology/division).
    • bigotry
      • intolerant of dissimilar views
    • *-ism
      • an attitude of inherent superiority ({sex,rac,abl}-ism)
    • mis-*/hate
      • hate
        • intense dislike
      • hate of particular groups (mis-{ogyny, andry})
    • -normative/-centric
      • the presumption of a perspective as normal (hetero-normative,{andro-/gyno-}centric)
  • behavior (effect others)
    • aggression
      • behavior which may harm others
    • bullying
      • repeated and intentional aggression that involves an imbalance of power
    • discrimination
      • prejudicial treatment of groups of people
    • harassing
      • behavior which annoys, intimidates, or causes fear in others
    • hate
      • haters
        • negative speech
      • speech
        • speech which can incite violence or prejudicial action against a protected individual or group.
    • trolling (trolls)
      • speech that is intended to offend or provoke an emotional response (can be insincere)

  1. Whitney Phillips, “Let’s Call ‘Trolling’ What It Really Is,” The Daily Dot, May 10, 2015,

  2. Joseph Reagle, “”Free as in Sexist?”: Free Culture and the Gender Gap,” First Monday 18, no. 1 (January 2013),

  3. Carla Schroder, “Mark Shuttleworth’s Community Has No Women,” Linux Today Blog, September 30, 2009,

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