Friday, March 11, 2005

Now women can chat about their laundry. . ONLINE!

I do hope that I greatly misread this article because I was given the impression that women are frightened of computers, math and science and the only use computers have for them is to connect them in a chat format. I for one am fresh out of college and have rarely used chat programs, I don't spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone yet I would spend hours on the internet. I have never once felt that computers are gendered in any direction and I happily used them--even if they were in "dimly-lit areas" that are apparently unacceptable to women. And as for online harassment. . . ? I don't even know what that could be. I do hope that I missed her point because if I got it I'm rather disgusted. Does anyone else feel that the internet has to be made useful for women and that it isn't now? Has anyone ever gotten the feeling that it is unapproachable to women? I can't exactly agree or disagree that the computer sciences aren't exactly welcoming to women as I have never pursued something like that and I attended a women's school as an undergrad and we could feel free to do whatever we wanted. Perhaps I just lucked out and the world is not at all how I see it now.


  1. Lawrence Summers would be proud.

    Computers-as-unfriendly-to-Women isn't really born out by any current data, but certainly there was a stronger gender gap in Internet usage just a few years ago than there is now.

    Back when I first went online, in the late 80s, it was all men, and women were a rare and novel thing. By the early 90s, there was maybe a 3-1 men-to-women ratio among our little pre-web online group in Santa Cruz, and while the women were mostly welcome, there was plenty of people and online places that I would call unfriendly to women (and any progressive, or at least polite, men.) The MUDDs and newsgroups were prided on their unfriendliness, and putting aside geek stereotypes for a bit, an "online place to do laundry" was pretty close to the sort of thing they felt would happen if womenfolk got ahold of their "live out your JRR Tolkien fantasies" online world.

  2. To answer your question: Does anyone else feel that the internet has to be made useful for women and that it isn't now?--- I sure don't. Content online is so varied, from dog show news to chemical formulas, that any argument that content has to be gendered just doesn't hold up. Personally, I have always found that women are more creative information searchers, are less inclined to hang around sifting through useless data, and are better organized when applying information resources. That may sound sexist, but that's just my experience. So maybe there is no BLOCK or type of content that appeals to women because we use everything!

  3. In response to your questions, does the Internet seem less useful for women? The answer truly depends on the woman and her interests. But I have to acknowledge that my Inernet use has become more focused over the years. With so many other priorities in life, my time on-line is limited and I go on-line with a specific purpose in mind (find a information/report for work, post to the class discussion, pay bills, etc.). In my less hectic days, I would surf the net and see what I could find. Now I go to my bookmarks and log off. I would dare say I am missing some wonderful opportunities to explore, but maybe when I have less going on in life.

  4. You posted this while I was working on my long "Pretty Computers" post, above.

    As Eric says, the online world was very different ten years ago when this article was written. I was on some local BBSes that had a lot of female users, but Usenet, the Web, and the different online games were male-dominated and could be really hostile and sexist. The Light article mentions that alt.feminism had far more male than female posters, but it doesn't say that the group at that time (I don't know if it's changed) was primarily devoted to men CRITICIZING feminism and women in general. It was a place to go if you wanted to see what horribly sexist stuff people had to say (I remember people arguing that women shouldn't have the vote!), not a place for discussion of feminism or women's issues.

    Now the presence of women online isn't so unusual, and there is much more varied content. Ten years ago the Web skewed a lot more heavily towards "Star Trek" fansites, and good luck to you in finding anything else!

  5. By the way, which women's college were you at? I'm a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College in VA.

  6. I actually went to Barnard College in NYC. And I loved the women's college thing. LOVED IT. Especially because I was a woman in the sciences where I was amongst my peers and everyone was supportive and in the same boat. I think I'm finally realizing just how cool of a learning environment it was now that I'm taking physics here. Most of the class is men, not overwhelmingly so but it it, and the discuss section seems to be dominated, not obnoxiously so but it is, by men. I highly recommend single sex education!