How Black Women Are Creating Harm Reduction Tactics Online

Here are the ways to protect yourself from digital misogynoir

Social media has evolved into a space for community building for Black women and femmes, beginning with the popularity of natural hair blogs. Yet, it has also become a battleground where Black women and femmes face disproportionate levels of harm. This damage, often rooted in misogynoir—a term coined by Moya Bailey in 2008—refers to the intersection of anti-Black racism and misogyny targeted explicitly at Black women, especially evident in US visual and digital culture. 

As an adjunct professor for the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, I have researched and analyzed digital misogynoir and interviewed Black women and femmes to understand better how they are protecting themselves online. I began doing this research because I had experienced digital misogynoir in 2015 and wanted to understand how Black women and femmes protected themselves from it online.  

Despite the availability of reporting mechanisms on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, these measures often fall short of protecting individuals, particularly Black women, from online harassment and trolling. Organizations such as Glitch UK have extensively researched misogynoir in digital spaces. Digital Misogynoir highlights the unchecked dehumanization and violence Black women encounter online, including algorithmic discrimination.

In response to these challenges, Black women and femmes have shown remarkable resilience by leveraging innovative strategies to resist and protect themselves in digital spaces. From my interviews with over 50 individuals, insights were gathered on their experiences with digital misogynoir and the harm reduction tactics they employ. Temi S., 34, United Kingdom., stated during their interview that they “invest a lot of time in curating who I follow and am very proactive in shaping algorithms” as one of the many ways they create harm reduction online. 

They do this as a way to not only limit the number of people who have access to them but to limit how much digital misogynoir they see daily.  Here are some of the strategies that were discussed during the interviews:

Blocking, Muting & Reporting

While acknowledging the limitations of these options, many Black women still utilize blocking, muting, and reporting features to limit interactions with perpetrators of digital misogynoir. Although effectiveness varies, individuals like Jamie M., 26, Illinois, emphasized the importance of actively blocking out harmful voices.

Changing Profile Pictures And Limiting Personal Photos

Some individuals opt to use memes or cartoons as profile pictures and limit the sharing of personal photos to reduce the risk of being targeted due to their identity as Black women. Mae S shared her experience using alternative images to protect her online presence, sometimes even employing a different VPN for added security.

Selective Sharing 

Mindful sharing practices help mitigate risks such as doxxing, where personal information is maliciously disseminated online. By discerning what they share, individuals can protect their privacy and security.

No Rage Engagement

Refraining from engaging with content designed to provoke anger or outrage, known as “rage engagement,” can prevent individuals from being drawn into confrontational situations online. Jessica C., 33, Washington D.C., advocates for reporting and blocking accounts rather than directly engaging with provocative content. She has also started sending screenshots to her group chat with friends to encourage them to report these accounts instead of directly engaging with them. 

Private Accounts For Viral Content

Going private after a tweet or post goes viral can shield individuals from unwanted attention and potential attacks. Mary S., 26, New York, explained her decision to switch to a private account amid escalating online interactions, highlighting the importance of controlling access to one’s online presence.

Identity Protection Services

Utilizing platforms like can help individuals monitor and remove their personal information from the web, reducing the risk of online harassment and identity theft. Brit W., 33, New England,  shared that she uses such services to protect her digital identity.

Educational Resources

Accessing resources like provides valuable information on digital self-defense, including practices like two-factor authentication and strategies for safeguarding online identities. Ravynn S.,30, Virginia, mentioned using this website because it provides information on protecting yourself online.

Despite these proactive measures, the pervasive nature of digital misogynoir takes a toll on Black women’s mental and emotional well-being. Many express feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness in response to witnessing and experiencing digital misogynoir. The dehumanizing treatment of Black women in digital spaces underscores the urgent need for systemic change and greater accountability from social media platforms.

Ultimately, while these harm reduction tactics offer some protection, they are not foolproof solutions. The burden should not solely rest on Black women and femmes to protect themselves against online harm, particularly when systemic issues perpetuate digital misogynoir. Collective action and advocacy for inclusive and equitable digital spaces are essential to combat this pervasive discrimination. Until then, Black women will continue to navigate the complexities of digital spaces with resilience and determination, carving out safe havens amidst the virtual chaos.

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