Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Slight update on "What's in a name?"

After posting my musings on the gendered ways people (probably men) treat (probably) women in comments threads on political blogs I've had the happy experience of getting into a couple of (minor) stoushes with (probably) blokes over at the standard. I guess I spoke too soon. Still - it's never too late for a volte-face. I say "(probably) blokes" because of their names, the things they said and the aggressive way they behaved, but there's no way of knowing if my assumptions are correct, which makes the argument a bit vexed. If you really want to see the threads go here and here and sift through. The other complicating factor about comments at the standard (or any polly blog) is the fact that they tend to be interpreted according to the writers' left or right political affiliations, and in terms of stoushing, this is far more important than one's gender in terms of who's likely to support your comments and who's likely to get stuck in.

I do continue to think however, that there are online spaces in which women don't always feel comfortable to contribute. Recent second-hand reportage from bloggers I know off-line has suggested that there are women who've been forced out of their OWN internet spaces or silenced in others through intimidation from people who, if they aren't men, certainly purport to be and also seem to act that way (if anyone can be said to "act" when all they're able to do is write text). And there are definitely blogs which are openly misogynist in tone (the aforementioned whaleoil.co.nz for example) as well as blogs which address topics more usually enjoyed by a particular gender and are thusly populated.

I've also had experiences on blogs where a (probably) guy will raise an issue to do with women, I'll weigh in as a woman, but the comment thread just continues on as if I hadn't said anything. Maybe I'm just being sensitive - it's not like the fact of my being female is necessarily going to make my point interesting to the other commenters (usually the reverse in fact) - but it feels slightly weird. Has anyone else experienced something like this?

And can an internet space (of any kind, not just a blog) be "gendered"? Like - are there places you go which you consider to be "male" and spaces which are "female" or any one of a number of other types of gender? And if so - how do you know what kind of a space you're in? And how do you behave in response? And if that's all bollocks, then why? Your answers please...

(Hat-tips for the ideas in this post to: ._., Lynn, Ari, anonymous, Robert, veronica mitchell, Ruth and ex-expat. Thanks guys - you rock. Please keep coming back!)

Update to the update: The report and debate going on over at In a strange land right now have reminded me that gender is the most obvious aspect of what a friend likes to call my "identity politics" because I'm not marked out from the norm any other way. Debates about how different social identities (class, race, ethnicity) intersect just won't die and it's because there are still power differences experienced in relation to them and all kinds of other social issues tied in. If gender is less of an issue for you than another aspect of your identity while on the net it'd be great if you'd share this.

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