04 Sep

Why so much anger towards women?’: 1st debate fosters gender discussion on Twitter

by Sul 21

Por Duda Romagna

Updated 21 de October, 2022 at 10:59 am

On Sunday (28), the first debate of 2022 between the candidates for the presidency took place, broadcast simultaneously on TV Bandeirantes and TV Cultura, and on online channels of Folha de S. Paulo and UOL. Besides the expected clash between the presidential candidates, the moment was marked by the direct verbal aggression of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), candidate for reelection, against journalist Vera Magalhães. Other less explicit situations, but representative of gender inequality also permeated the debate, such as when, when given the choice between Ciro Gomes (PDT), Simone Tebet (MDB), and Soraya Thronicke (União Brasil), Bolsonaro chose the only man to talk about politics to women.

Since 9 pm, when the broadcast started, there has been a lot of movement on social networks, especially on Twitter. According to data obtained by the report through the social media monitoring platform Trendsmap, by 9 p.m. the next day, 218,300 tweets were published mentioning Bolsonaro and the words “woman” or “women.” At 10:50 PM, at the exact moment when Bolsonaro was responding to candidate Simone Tebet (MDB), a peak of 2,200 posts per minute was recorded.

Tebet accused the president of defending murderers and rapists by asking “why so much anger towards women?”. “Which rapist? You accuse me without proof. Why do you make such a cheap accusation as if I don’t like women? People don’t buy it anymore. Enough with the victimism. I have passed more than 60 laws favorable to women. Most women love me”, Bolsonaro replied.

The president’s statement, however, is not supported by the polls. The latest Datafolha survey, from Friday (2), indicates that he has 29% among this slice of the electorate, while Lula reaches 48%.

Raquel Recuero, a researcher at the Media, Discourse and Social Network Analysis Lab at the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), understands that social networks are already an integral part of viewers’ routines, and that they often guide discourse outside of them. “The fact that people use social networks as a second screen is important, they are watching the debate and at the same time they are commenting on these platforms, so they end up showing in some way what is being important, what people are actually debating. In this case it wasn’t just something of the people watching, but the candidates themselves also raised this issue,” she points out.


Discussion about Bolsonaro’s attitude towards women peaked during the debate

Between 9pm on Sunday (28) and 8:59pm on Monday (29), 218,300 tweets were posted combining the words “woman,” or “women,” and “Bolsonaro,” and according to user registrations, 57% of the tweets were made by men and 43% by women. Retweets, when users share a post from another person, account for 84% of all posts. According to the platform’s estimate, two days before the debate, on the 26th, only 5,900 tweets were published citing the word combination. Two days later, on the 30th, there were 36,100 posts, an increase of more than 500%.

The most used hashtags were: #soumulherevotobolsonaro (I am a woman and vote for Bolsonaro), #mulherescombolsonaro (Women with Bolsonaro), #senadoradobolsonaro (Bolsonaro’s senator), #bolsonaronoprimeiroturno (Bolsonaro in the first round), #forabolsonaro (No more Bolsonaro), #lulaeoptjano1ºturno (Lula and PT already in the 1st round), #lulano1ºturno (Lula in 1st round), #bolsonarovenceuodebate (Bolsonaro won the debate) and #lulapresidente13 (Lula president 13).

For Sabrina Almeida, researcher at the School of Communication, Media and Information at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV ECMI), Twitter is a network that reflects the topics that gain visibility in the public debate. “In this period of proximity to the election, Twitter and the other digital social networks are sources that give indications of how the public intervenes and perceives issues of public, political, and social interest,” she explains.

Vera Magalhães addressed a question to candidate Ciro Gomes (PDT) about the drop in vaccination coverage numbers in Brazil and the misinformation about vaccines spread by the president himself. Commenting on the issue, Bolsonaro ran away from the topic and attacked the TV Cultura journalist. “I think you sleep thinking about me. You have some passion in me. You cannot take sides in a debate like this. Making untrue accusations about me. You are a disgrace to Brazilian journalism,” he said.

To Tebet, he said she was “a disgrace in the Federal Senate”. “And no, I’m not attacking women, don’t start with this victimization story”, he finished.

Bolsonaro’s aggression against Vera Magalhaes was first criticized by women candidates. Soraya Thronicke (União Brasil), unknown to a large part of the electorate, gained prominence by stating: “When I see what happened to Vera, I really get extremely upset. When men are tchutchuca with other men, but come at us [women] like a tiger, I get extremely upset”, she said.

Bolsonaro and Ciro also had a moment of exchanged attacks that represents the kind of approach to gender issues that is frequent in national politics. When the current president chose Ciro Gomes to speak and questioned what he would do “to expand” his government’s policies for women, the candidate for PDT noted that Bolsonaro “does not respect and does not value women” and recalled Bolsonaro’s line about his only daughter being the result of “a weakness” after four male children. In his turn to respond, instead of apologizing or offering proposals, Bolsonaro recalled that in 2002, Ciro Gomes said that the most important mission of his then wife, actress Patrícia Pillar, was to “sleep” with him.

For Viviane Gonçalves, professor of Political Science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil is experiencing a moment of convergence between the influence of television and the ascendancy of the Internet among the electorate. The survey on the use of Information and Communication Technologies in Brazilian Domiciles (TIC Domicílios) for 2021, released by the Regional Center for Studies for the Development of the Information Society (Cetic.br), showed that 81.5% of Brazilian households had Internet access.

“As much as the country is still very much marked and influenced by the information brought by TV, thinking about the free political electoral time, we see that social networks, by the very culture of communication that we have at this moment, are very important. It is precisely by showing their importance that not only verified profiles, from newspapers and communication vehicles in general, gain visibility in these debates and have a greater engagement, on the contrary, they are common and anonymous people, such as supporters of candidates, who generally manage to have this discussion and gain a repercussion there in that digital environment.”

Viviane also explains that, although the internet seems a more democratic space, the presence of more male opinions is a reflection of society. “What are we structurally guided by? There is a social construction that places women much more as those who need to think a lot about what they are going to do, in order not to be ridiculed, not to be labeled as crazy; men are placed much more as prone and educated, even graduated, to express opinions. It is as if they were given a stamp of approval to position themselves. Women need to feel comfortable expressing themselves, and it’s not because we’re in a non-physical world that it becomes easier.”

The Digital Democracy Room at FGV ECMI is an initiative to monitor and analyze the public debate on the internet. Currently, it has partnerships to help monitor politics on the networks in Brazil and in Latin America. This content was produced by the partner Sul 21.