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Women and Web

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (9:09 PM)

Ever since we read Poster, I’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about women and the internet.  ”The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space, body and mind, subject and object, gender,Read more

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Ever since we read Poster, I’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about women and the internet.  ”The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space, body and mind, subject and object, gender, race, and class” (51).  Yes, I used that quote in an earlier blog post.  No, I don’t feel bad using it again.  Because when I read that quote, and, I hope, when some of you read that quote, I asked myself if Mark Poster and I could possibly be talking about the same internet.  Because I look at the internet, and I see a place that can make it pretty difficult to be a woman, and I think Quinn Norton and Amanda Hess’s articles can back that up, though they look at the issue entirely differently.

Phase 1 of the project, the idea of which I expect to continue into Phase 2, has largely been case study driven.  Some posts are longer, exploring questions of feminist theory or articles from class, and tying them into things I personally have come across on the internet.  Some are short, almost serving like a pinboard for snapshots of the larger picture.

The theoretical framework of my project is largely based in feminist theory — questions about rape culture and patriarchy — and especially how these things can become magnified in a simultaneously hyperconnected and yet more anonymous medium.  However, underlying this whole discussion is a reliance on Turner’s work in Counterculture to Cyberculture, because, like he rejects idea that the New Communalist communes really reflected a change in gender roles or cultural ideals, so it seems that the digital culture has not provided the escape from those things either.

Phase 2 aims to look more at solutions than Phase 1′s case studies do — we know there are problems with the way women on some sites are treated some times, but are there safe spaces on the internet?  Are there moves being made to open the community up?  There are women in Anonymous and on 4chan and Reddit: how do they navigate the system, and can we learn something from that?

Phase 2 will also look at intersectionality, because as Flavia Dzodan so eloquently put it: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”  It’s all well and fine to talk about women on the internet, but without talking about how all those other dimensions Poster mentions at the end of his quote change the way women experience online communities, it will be wholly incomplete.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it [I don't actually know if it's optional, you'd have to ask the professor about that one], is to answer the following questions either in the comments or in an email (rachel.hall@richmond.edu), if you’re uncomfortable posting them in public.

  1. When you get on the internet, what are the first five things you do or sites you go to?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being incredibly unsafe/uncomfortable and 10 being very safe/comfortable), how do you feel on those sites?
  3. Have you ever been on a website that made you feel unsafe or uncomfortable?  What content drove that reaction, if so?
  4. Do you regularly go on Reddit, 4chan, or online forums?

Bonus round — Not at the same level as the previous questions [so don't feel obligated], but more for funzies, because they’re more exploratory/interactive.

  1. Go to Reddit.com and click through the front page or any of the sub-reddits or threads.  What’s the first thing you see that makes you uncomfortable?  If your answer to this is “nothing,” congratulations, you are now a Redditor.
  2. Check out my project blog, womenandweb.wordpress.com!

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It’s Just a “Boyish Hoax” Ladies, Relax!

// Posted by on 03/24/2014 (6:53 PM)

After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly… Read more

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After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly is in our current society.  In our digital age, it is far more likely for individuals to feel comfortable expressing themselves more freely than they normally would in face-to-face conversation.  This is, simply put, because we are able to hide behind a screen.  We do not feel the direct affect our words have on others, have control over who sees what we post, and do not have to take the risking our confidence.  Although this ability for open expression does yield various positive results, it is also poses very serious threats to individuals’ emotional and physical safety.  Where do we draw the line?  When is a threat made online taken as seriously as one made in person?  Whose responsible for this content and what shall be the repercussions for it?

One set of statistics in Hess’ article really stood out to me: Feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day while Masculine names received 3.7.  Similarly, she references a survey that Pew conducted gathering data from 2000 to  2005 which showed the percentage of internet users who participated in online chats and discussion groups.  Participants dropped from 28 percent to 17 percent, “‘entirely because of women’s fall off in participation’” (Hess).  After receiving both morbid death and terrifying rape threats, it is understandable why a woman would turn away from the Internet- delete her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Should women really be so uncomfortable to the point where they have to do so?  Where they feel there is no other option than to “digitally disappear”?  This position women often face does not seem fair to me.  The use of the internet will only continue to expand and women should not have to choose between using the Internet and feeling safe.  The Internet is a crucial resource for work and social communication between family and friends.

A big part of this dilemma is the lack of law enforcement in regards to digital threats.  Hess discusses the experiences of numerous women who had been continuously threatened on the Internet.  Even after consulting the police, however, the situations largely remained unresolved.  As Hess asserts, “the Internet is a global network, but when you pick up the phone to report an online threat, you end up face-to-face with a cop who patrols a comparatively puny jurisdiction” (Hess).  With police dismissing online threats as non-immediate and therefore not serious, women are left alone with no real resolution or justice.  With this common pattern of police response, it seems as though they are suggesting that women should take online threats lightly.  Obviously, a woman can experience harassment anywhere, not just on the Internet, however, as our society continues to increasingly depend on the Internet, it is no longer something we can overlook.  Today, harassers are able to remain anonymous and target women for no reason whatsoever.  Who is to tell women that their fear and anxiety is not real?  Why is the seemly discrete message seen to be, just forget about it and move on?  Something is fundamentally wrong with this picture…

The Internet is not a safe place, and even less safe of one for women.  Although there have been various efforts to prevent online harassment and bullying, there are no laws that allow women to bring claims against individuals.  This is because the Internet is not an official workplace, but a never-ending universe that lacks individual accountability.  Even if multiple users attack an individual, there is no way to group them into one and take action.  The Internet allows a sense of mobility and liberation that causes—even encourages— individuals to say whatever they want to without any repercussions.  Although I understand the challenges of holding anonymous screen names accountable for their words, I think that it is something that needs more focus as it will only continue to have an effects on our society, on an individual level and on a larger scale.  The Internet has become real life and we need to start treating it accordingly.


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It’s Hard Being a Girl on the Internet

// Posted by on 02/09/2014 (10:51 AM)

One thing that really struck me about Mark Poster’s Information Please was a quote from his chapter on the “Information Empire.”  In it, he argued that

The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space,

Read more

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One thing that really struck me about Mark Poster’s Information Please was a quote from his chapter on the “Information Empire.”  In it, he argued that

The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space, body and mind, subject and object, gender, race, and class (51).

This idea seemed to hold up to the ideas that the New Communalists had about many of their communes: that these structures could exist outside of current cultural norms and create a safe and welcome space.  But, like Turner noted that many of these communes returned to existing social hierarchies and gender roles, I have to wonder if Poster might be falsely over-idealizing the neutralizing power of information technologies.

Particularly, I wonder if networked computing has done all that much in terms of subverting our ideas about gender.  Certainly, it provides a space to bring about discussions of gender, but the internet is rampant with a “Tits or GTFO” mentality when it comes to women in what is largely considered a male’s playground.

Digital America actually just ran a piece about women in gaming, and I can attest to the fact that YouTube is not particularly welcoming to female content creators outside of certain realms (beauty and lifestyle videos).  Emily, the host of the Brain Scoop on YouTube, actually made a video about the lack of women with science and math based YouTube channels, and about how she is treated as a female content creator.  You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRNt7ZLY0Kc

So what do you all think?  In particular, I’d be interested to hear Kevin’s point of view, since he’s the only non-female in our class.  Is it really that hard being a girl on the internet?  Or is Poster more right than I’m giving him credit for?


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