"Women and Information Technologies:
Creating a Cyberspace of Our Own." In H. Jeanie Taylor, Cheris Kramarae, and Maureen Ebben, eds. 1993. Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship. University of Illinois, Center for Advanced Study [University of Illinois, Urbana.]
Given the historical relationship of women to male power and technology, the issues related specifically to women's entry into the information revolution need to be identified and evaluated. In this essay we focus on some of the key problematic issues faced by women as we try to establish our rightful place within the com- plex nexus of new information technologies. We've learned that once policy paths have been taken with new technologies, visible controversy and serious debates over social goals become very difficult, with critical voices being heard as irrational and irritating.
Although knowledge of information technology systems is now required for much academic work, examination of computer use reveals a great disparity between women and men. In part this is because there are not as many women in science fields, which make heavy use of the new technologies. In part the gap exists because girls and women do not receive as much training in and experience with computers in primary and secondary education, and this pattern continues in higher education. (1) There are race and class inequities as well in the use of computers. (2) On most campuses the science and technology information and policy-making groups are composed primarily of men. Although women are not usually deliberately excluded, many have been reluctant to raise concerns when they realize that few others in the group have had similar experiences with sex stratification, technology, and campus organizational structure and change.
Our challenge to the university is that women's voices not only be allowed, but be encouraged and listened to, during this time of rapid technological change. If the faculty and administration are really concerned about their stated goals of providing meaningful education to students from a variety of backgrounds, the material in this publication will be of interest. Understanding the issues presented here requires an interest in holistic approaches to the sociology of "scholar ship" and the willingness to ask not how universities can help women overcome "deficiencies" in their education, but rather how universities are biased against women.
Although many have extolled the democratizing and emancipatory virtues of various forms of information technologies, we do not necessarily share this unabashed enthusiasm. Cognizant as we are of women's subordinate place vis-a-vis male technologies, our feeling can best be described as cautious optimism. That is, we acknowledge the powerful potential of new information technologies, but we are also painfully aware that many of these potentials have yet to be fully realized for women. This essay seeks to address this gap by identifying some of the important issues for women as we enter this new era. As members of a research and educational community, we believe that institutions of higher learning have a special responsibility to ensure equity of instructional quality for all. Our discussion focuses on four key areas: 1) problems of access and the difficulties encountered by women working in the various electronic forums; 2) shortcomings of mainstream information technology training methods; 3) paradoxes of the promises versus the actuality of information technology use in education; and 4) the changing face of electronic publishing.
1). ln 1990, only 13% of U.S. computer science doctorates were awarded to women The same year, less than 8% of all computer science professors in the U.S. were female (Ellen Spertus, 1992) For discussions of the reasons girls are dropping out of science and math in their early years even though they do well in it, and for descriptions of the very chilly climate for women in computer science, see Karen Frenkel, 1990; Nancy Leveson, 1989, and Amy Pearl et al., 1990.
2). Women are overrepresented on the global production lines of the computer industry, but are sever- ely underrepresented in the top managerial positions (Ellen Spertus, 1991).
"Men and Women on Electronic Networks:
A Conversation or a Monologue?" In H. Jeanie Taylor, Cheris Kramarae, and Maureen Ebben, eds. 1993. Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship. University of Illinois, Center for Advanced Study [University of Illinois, Urbana.]
The promises of the new technologies are enticing: Electronic networks provide low-cost communication systems which enable an increasing number of people (in the wealthier countries) who have access to them to cross barriers of space, time and social categories. These popular networks are composed of computer tools and long-distance telecommunication lines to provide high-speed information exchange, linking individuals and groups. The examples of the benefits to many people using the networks are growing.(1)
For example, women and other marginalized people in many places and occupations are using the electronic networks to maintain easy, quick connections to kindred souls, with shared interests, nearby or far away. Rural students and teachers in the midwest USA state of Montana are linking their computerized bulletin board and electronic mail system (called Big Sky Telegraph) with Internet - an international computer networking service, enabling, at least theoretically, these individuals to communicate and share ideas with thousands of communities all over the world. Judy Smith, project director of Women's Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD) center in Missoula, Montana, uses Big Sky Telegraph to "message" other women's centers, coordinating efforts to attend key legislative meetings (Evan Brown 1991). Women participating in the Women's Studies network are exchanging concerns, information, and action suggestions. SeniorNet, a small research project in the U.S., has provided the opportunity for at least a few elders to "talk" (2) across geographical areas about such topics as health and fitness, gardening, and recreation (Richard Adler 1988). In 1989 students from China studying abroad used computer bulletin boards and electronic mail to share their worries, anger, and information about the revolution and the efforts to suppress it in their homeland.
In general, these networks are available to people who work for organizations with investments in computers and their promises (3). Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler report that these new forms of communication are changing the ways that large organizations in the "Western" countries function-increasing, they argue, a democratic free exchange of information (Sproull and Kiesler 1991, 13).
If indeed people's uses of these networks are bringing about major changes in organizations, we are particularly interested that women and other marginalized people are included in the conversations about, and on, the nets. We are already seeing problems, including sexual harassment, that work against that equal exchange for all, promised by so many of the experts. Here, we focus on what is happening in the universities, organizations that have a particular interest in freedom of speech, openness, innovation, and the free exchange of ideas. Universities may have more chance to institute change "at home" and thus to influence change in the larger world. Many other large organizations have a greater stake in encouraging a common corporate voice-and thus more interest in silencing dissension in the ranks. We focus on the university because that is where we have xperience and because universities could serve the role of setting an example for not only how to deal with abusive behavior on the networks but also for how to encourage inclusive/collaborative communication. The areas of concern we have with computers and educational settings are many. For example, else where Cheris (1989) has documented the mismatch between the types of educational problems which computer software companies propose to correct and the types of problems which are given attention by women and minorities. Here, we center on problems women are exper iencing on electronic networks, and suggest some guidelines to help minimize the problems for women and "minorities" on the nets.(4)
Increasingly, universities will be judged by whether they have state-of-the-art computing equipment to support staff, students and faculty work. Increasingly, universities will be judged by how they use this equipment. This report suggests some ways to avoid the misuse and abuse of the new electronic technologies that are transforming universities but often into patterns that replicate or intensify previous problems. While we write here only about the networks that are used daily by millions of faculty, staff and students on campuses across the nation (and around the world, we, along with the other participants of the Women, Information Technology and Scholarship (WITS) colloquium at the University of Illinois,(5) have related concerns about the uses of computers in classroom and in libraries.
The Settings for the New Technologies
The resistance of most universities to change what has been characterized as a "chilly climate" for women and minorities is well documented (Roberta Hall and Bernice Sandler 1982). After several decades of feminist documentation and explanation, even The New York Times has recognized, in a front page story, that bias against girls is "rife" in schools, resulting in "lasting damage" (Susan Chira 1992). (The Times report is based on a A.A.U.W. Report, commissioned by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation which, in turn, is based on work by hundreds of individual women and research groups.) What the report concludes for girls is also accurate for most women at most co-educational universities. Teachers pay less attention to girls than boys. Boys talk more than girls in classrooms. Reports indicate that sexual harassment by peers is increasing. Textbooks still ignore or stereotype women. Girls learn almost nothing in their formal instruction about many issues critical for their lives - such as sexual harassment, violence against women, discrimination, and depression.
At the moment, there's nothing to suggest that the new information technologies on campuses, from which so much is expected, will change this situation.
Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler (1991) and others suggest that people who are peripheral in large organizations (e.g., because of low rank in the hierarchy) do relatively well on the nets. Indicators of race, age, ableism, and physical appearance disappear in "real-time chats" or in messages sent to be stored for later reading. Divisions, Sproull and Kiesler write, disappear. Except one. The signatures on most networks indicate the sex of the writer. As Angela Gunn (1991) argues in her article "Computer Bulletin Boards: Not Just Boy Toy," women are still The Other on most of the computer network systems in the world.
New Technology as Old Social Process
We don't question whether computer discussions could have a liberating influence within the university structure. These are frameworks for communicating that could offer new, inviting changes in the present very gendered structure of academe. Computer conferences "exist on the intellectual margins of most traditional academic discourse communities in a new medium that is as wild and unsettled as any frontier" (Marilyn Cooper and Cynthia L. Selfe 1990). However, if it is treated as a "frontier," to be conquered, subdued, and brought into line, we can be very sure that what we will soon have is more of the same practices which are repressive for women.
Despite all the potential the nets have for equalizing the influence of participants, we have evidence that women are experiencing on the nets much of the same kinds of trouble we experience in other conversations (see Barrie Thorne et al. 1985; Karen Foss and Sonja Foss 1991; Miller and Swift 1989). If university administrators are really interested in providing a welcoming, comfortable climate for women in the office, classroom and research lab, then they can usefully turn attention now to the nets, as these are increasingly the places where education, of many kinds, happens. In fact, the problems that women experience in other conversations may be intensified on the nets. Beth Kevies, a user-services consultant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that "People do things on computers that they wouldn't dream of doing on any other medium." Obscenities, racial slurs and vicious personal attacks are recorded from people who might not say such things in face-to-face interaction (quoted in David Wilson 1991).(6)
Of course, not all conversations on electronic networks are the same.(7) The most public conversations take place on network bulletin boards, such as Usenet, the Unix-based bulletin board network, which can be accessed by any system connected to the Internet with the proper operating system. (In the U.S., there are an estimated 60,000 public access bulletin boards and an estimated 10 million people who are regualar callers to these public access bulletin board services.) Less public are the mailing lists, which are postings sent via the network to a specific mailing list of people. The most private electronic conversations take place through private electronic mail (although as with phone conversations, electronic conversations can be "listened in on"). We suspect that the kind and extent of problems experienced by women and other minorities on these networks will vary depending on how public the forum and how cohesive the community of users. Bulletin boards as "open networks" have the most potential for abusive behavior. Lists are likely to retain more sense of community and sense of purpose, but exclusion from the conversation is more likely to have career repercussions for marginal groups. Private e-mail is similar to communication by telephone or letter, but the absence of aural cues and the speed of transmission may cause problems for communication.
Some specific problems:
1. In almost any "open" network, men monopolize the talk.(8) The reasons are probably several. Young men may have more time to spend in front of their computers. Men, in general, are accustomed to talking more than women do in public conversations of various sorts (see annotated bibliography in Thorne et al. 1985). If the topics women raise are seldom taken up by men on the network, women may become less interested in network talk or feel that their issues are not very important. As Cynthia Selfe (1992) writes, students who are already assertive about their verbal group input, often because they enjoy a confidence born of rivilege, feel freer to take more verbal space. WITS participant Ramona Curry notes that network members who want to take more time to think about responses or don't want to take up too much of others' time may find that discussions sweep by them.
Even open nets where the topic is women's issues are, we have found, over-run by men. For example, on this campus, we've checked the network called soc. women and have noticed that some days only men have posted messages. On a national soc. women board, dominated by comments from men, one woman noted that even the women-only boards are not respected by men who cross-post to the women, from other boards.(9)
The moderators of the newsgroup soc.feminism have noted that the men and women posting often have protracted disagreements on gender neutral language, on the actual statistics on spouse-beating in comparing which sex is "worse off," and in the propriety of "women only" events. These arguments have led many women to complain that soc. feminism is "too hostile" for women.
Women's topics and concerns are often not considered or taken seriously. Further, the "conversations" which take place may assume a degree of homogeneity which does not reflect the reality of the particular net.(10)
These should be concerns of anyone interested in collaboration and democracy. However, working toward gender equality in conversation, in any setting, has not yet been made an important goal in most institutions.
2. Sexual harassment on the nets is a problem being reported by many women at many sites. The forms of sexual harassment vary. In some cases, women on the nets experience the types of sexist jokes and limericks which were once a part of many classroom lectures, but now are increasingly discouraged by university administrators.(11) In other cases, women's complaints about the harassment they experience lead to hostile comments about the women.(12) Women who wish to be respected scholars (which means avoiding being known as a troublemaker, or as someone who questions the actions of respected men in the field) will be very hesitant about publicly pointing to sexist behavior. This silencing has serious consequences for interaction on individual nets, for disciplines and for the academy in general.
3. The climate of the nets may exclude many women and minorities from participating fully in the conversation. Men tend to use more assertive behavior than women. In addition to sending more messages, and introducing more new topics than do women, men tend to disagree more frequently with others. (See Cynthia L. Selfe and Paul R. Meyer 1990 for one valuable study; more research is needed on this.) Flaming (sending of "hot-tempered" messages) is a issue which has received some attention by people on the nets. Yet, seldom is sex-related behavior on the nets discussed, and seldom the impact of this kind of dominant behavior on women's participation.
4. We can expect an increase in high-tech titillation. Penthouse, with a circulation of 1.5 million, is one of the first mass media publications to become available electronically (Deirdre Carmody 1991). The widespread interest in mass media pornography has always had implications for universities. For example, women students at universities across the country are increasingly daring to complain about Playboy-type posters in professors' offices and in research labs, concerned about what the posters convey about the professors' attitudes toward women. Only recently have university administrators at many universities shown concern about these practices (and then usually only after women complain, often after they have changed courses or majors). Women scholars on campuses are also concerned about related electronic practices. University nets have been used to transmit pornography. At times this has been blatant, as when USENET at the University of Washington carried electronically-transferred digitized pornographic pictures (Elaine Richardson 1991). In this case, the "sexually explicit drawings and photographs" were distributed to selected faculty members and students by the director of the university's Microcomputer Evaluation Center (Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 13, 1991, A22).
Many of us have received unrequested body-parts "visuals" (e.g. "breasts" composed of computer keyboard letters and punctuation marks).
Implications for University Policy
Universities have the unique opportunity at this moment, to change the structure of interaction on campuses. Without new policies guiding the use of these public nets, we will be losing a chance to plan new structures to benefit everyone in the university. Policies will need to deal not only with freedom of speech but also the protection of women and minorities on campus. (At times in the U.S. the First Amendment is discussed as if it is the Only Law of the Land. The laws provide for a variety of protections.) Computer networks provide a forum for many kinds of debates. University policy could encourage open debate for everyone, even including women. But this will entail revisions in policies and behavior. A few suggestions to begin discussions:
1. Women-only forums for speech. The literature is clear: men are more interested in having mixed-sex conversations than women are. Women are more likely to give men plenty of time, space, consideration than vice versa. Separatism is not necessarily what women want for their discussions, but until gender equality becomes a reality in a wide variety of settings, women need both access to the public networks and some safe forums for their conversations. (In case some reader believes that only "those radical feminists" want women - only forums, he should know that women-only nets are found in all kinds of places, including a fundamentalist - Christian board [Gunn 1991].) On womenonly nets, the talk is more candid and the topics, unlike those on "regular" boards, are controlled by women.(13) Since impostors are present, perhaps prevalent, on the nets, university policies should have a policy to deal with those who gain trust and confidences by presenting themselves as other than they are, sometimes with devastating results to those who trusted (Lindsy Van Gelder 1985).
2. Training, including instruction in the issues above, for the moderators, those people who decide what is allowed on the nets and who have the right to censor material they don't think belongs on the networks. The moderators would learn about the issues introduced above, and about ways of dealing with people who express disrespect for others on the nets.
3. Warnings for new participants and reminders for long-time participants. We could make a part of the responsibilities of organizers and "owners" of networks the warning of users that the networks are not totally private or safe. Deborah Heath, on the Electronic Salon, pointed out: "The informal mode of most communiques, the rapidity of response, and that fact that many of us can send and receive messages within the familiar surroundings of home all work to create, it seems to me, a sense of intimacy or connectedness with others in a discussion group. But ... this "safe" intimacy is partial and to some extent illusory." Unknown others, with more interest in playing games with the systems than in ensuring confidential discussions, can, for example, "listen in," and can send "fake messages" with false names and addresses.
4. A grievance procedure for complaints of sexual harassment on the nets. This should be part of the sexual harassment policy of any institution that sponsors (or allows) elec- tronic network communication. Users should be told that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, the prohibited behaviors should be defined, and punishments should be spelled out. Users should be given details on how, when and where they can complain about harassment. The policy should also take a strong, explicitly detailed stand against retaliation; otherwise many people experiencing harassment will fear reporting it. (See William Petrocelli and Barbara Kate Repa, 1992, for excellent information on how effective policies can be written and enforced.)
5. Periodic reports, to a central body, on the number and types of complaints and action taken. These reports could also include assessment of the conversations on the netsnumber and length of postings, control of topics, by women and men. They could also include a yearly profile of the subscribers and the participants, so net users could find out who was participating and who was silently listening in. The reports and assessments would differ depending upon the makeup and issues of the network. Some models are available. For example, one national network community [discussing aspects of the research field Computers and Writing] decided to try a period of 20 days during which participants used real names and 20 days during which participants could use their real name or a pseudonym. The researchers (Cynthia L Selfe and Paul R. Meyer 1991) who decided to analyze the interaction during those days found that messages were sent by 18 men and 15 women from 16 states. Men contributed twice as many messages and 40 percent more words; high-profile (determined in part by publications) members contributed more than twice the number of messages and words than did low-profile members. Participation among both women and men increased during the pseudonym-optional period. While the option of using pseudonyms seemed to have a particular appeal for women, it did not result in any restructuring of conference power relationships. Perhaps of most importance, the experiment prompted more explicit attention and discussion of power issues.
6. Clarification of what will be considered "offensive" messages. (Who will decide whether something is "repugnant and objectionable"?) Universities concerned about the prevailing "chilly climates" for women on campus could organize guidelines for behavior that show particular concern with the problems which women and "minorities" often experience in conversations with others. The guide- lines offered by Howard Rosenbaum and Gregory Newby (1990) might be used as an aid in establishing the agreed-upon etiquette of network communications. Other useful examples are available from some of the nets, such as DorothyL, a network discussion group, organized by a group of women librarians, for lovers of the mystery genre. (They considered limiting Dorothy [named after Dorothy L. Sayers, the writer of mysteries] to women participants, but realized that it was likely that "men would sneak on with anonymous [identifications] to join in DOROTHY's energizing discussions".) Among the directions they include is "Be tolerant of newcomers. Do not abuse new users of computer networks for their ignorance-be patient..."
7. Explicit explanations about who determines who can create a network bulletin board on what topics. (14) The person in charge of approving and setting up new bulletin boards and newsgroups generally uses his [sic] own judgment. One such person on a university campus states: "I have to make continuing choices based on what provides the best value to the University community....My general theory is that if a group has some value to myself or [the computer center], I'll create it soon after the newsgroup is posted once it shows signs of life."
8. Explicit discussion of the differing access to networks, both inside and outside academe. Men are overwhelmingly the primary users of the nets inside and outside academe. Many male students expect to use them in jobs outside the academy, and are asking about access in job interviews. What are the implications of this differential use for women's jobs of the future? We know that women, in very low-paying and physically-debilitating jobs, are making the computer chips that middle-class men are using for recreation communication and job fulfillment. What is happening with the sex hierarchies in academe is not divorced from the sex hierarchies world-wide. The increasing number of city Freenets (free to users, supported by community individuals, groups and/or businesses) do not solve all access problems. Some people can afford modems for home use; others can't afford the bus fare to get to the modems in the libraries or other public places. Also, women, especially older women, often trained to think that they will break machinery, may not feel as comfortable using the networks unless special efforts are made to involve them in the Freenet programs.
* * *
Even these initial relatively minor responses from the academy would not be simple matters. As WS research has made very clear, universities (and most other institutions) have taught sex discrimination, if not explicitly at least very well. The rhetoric about the importance of diversity and equality in universities has been in place for some time, but equity practices have been very slow in following. Now, with the so-called electronic-information revolution in the "West," we have a wonderful opportunity for some administrators, staff, faculty and students to take specific actions which could have an edifying influence on every member of academia - and many others.
We have worked with Maureen Ebben during the first year of the WITS colloquium. We appreciate the discussions with her which have contributed to this paper. We also appreciate the comments of WITS woman Jenny Barrett; Sarah Douglas at the University of Oregon; and those of the participants in the Electronic Salon of the Gender Symposium at Lewis and Clark College, April 1992.
Adler, Richard. 1988. Seniornet: Toward a national community of computer-using seniors. Forum Report #5, Aspen Institute Project on Enhancing the Social Benefits of New Electronic Technologies, Aspen Institute, New York, NY 10023.
Brown, Evan. 1991. On line in the Big Sky. Missoula Independent, November 14, p. 10.
Carmody, Deirdre. 1991. New president at Penthouse looks beyond printed page. The New York Times Dec. 1, C1, C8.
Chira, Susan. 1992. Bias against girls is found rife in schools, with lasting damage. The New York Times, February 12, A1, A10.
Cooper, Marilyn M. and Cynthia L. Selfe. 1990. Computer conferences and learning: Authority, resistance, and internally persuasive discourse. College English, 52:8 (December), 847-869.
Foss, Karen and Foss, Sonja. 1991. Women Speak: The Eloquence of Women's Lives. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.
Gunn, Angela. 1991. Computer bulletin boards not just boy toy. New Directions for Women. Nov-Dec. p. 7.
Hall, Roberta M. and Bernice Sandler. 1982. The classroom climate: A chilly one for Women. Project on the Status and Education of Women. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges.
Kramarae, Cheris. 1989. "Computers, communication and education: Science fiction and fantasies." Conference on Rhetoric and Technology. Michigan Technological University, October.
Miller, Casey and Kate Swift. 1989. Words and Women: New Language in New Times. 2nd ed. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
Petrocelli, William, and Barbara Kate Repa. 1992. Sexual Harassment on the Job. Berkeley: Nolo Press.
Richardson, Elaine. 1991. U. Washington deletes erotica from computer network. The Daily Illini, October 31, 4.
Rosenbaum, Howard, and Gregory B. Newby. 1990. An emerging form of human communication: Computer networking. ASIS '90: Proceedings of the 53rd ASIS Annual Meeting 1990, v. 27, Toronto, Ontario, Nov. 4-8.
Selfe, Cynthia L. 1992. Computer-based conversations and the changing nature of collaboration. In Janis Forman, ed. New visions of collaborative writing. Portsmouth, N. H.: Boynton/Cook, 1992. 147-169.
Selfe, Cynthia and Paul R. Meyer. 1991. Testing claims for on-line conferences. Written Communication 8:2 (April), 162-192.
Smith, Judy and Ellen Balka. 1988. Chatting on a feminist computer network. In Cheris Kramarae, ed. Technology and Women's Voices. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul/ Methuen, 82-97.
Sproull, Lee and Sara Kiesler. 1991. Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Thorne, Barrie, Cheris Kramarae, and Nancy Henley, eds. Language, Gender and Society. Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House, 1985.
Van Gelder, Lindsy. 1985. The strange case of the electronic lover. Ms. October, 94-104, 117, 123, 124.
Wilson, David L. 1991. Computer-related ethical problems are focus of conference on values. The Chronicle of Higher Education September 4, A31.
1) A woman from Estonia points out that this discussion presumes that users live in a democracy where basically people consider access to the nets a right or privilege. In some societies networks could become a requirement or duty, and could be used to separate people rather than link them.
2) Participants at the Gender, Technology and Ethics June 1-3, 1992, in Lulea, Sweden, where a version of this paper was presented, pointed out that using talk terminology may affect the way we conceptualize words on the network. Judy Smith and Ellen Balka (1988) use the term "chatting" and deliberately do not reread or rewrite to correct spelling or grammar errors in messages, in order to deli- berately maintain an informality which invites people of many educational levels and interests to enter into a discussion.
3) We are focusing on seemingly volunteer uses of networks. Of course, in many organizations electronic networks are used to distribute company messages and employees are required to read them.
4) A few of the problems are also being addressed by the Ethics Case Studies, sponsored by Educational Uses of Information Technology, a program of EDUCOM, which is a consortium of more than 600 colleges and universities concerned about computing. The director of the Ethics study is Sarah P. Webster, assistant professor of computer applications at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She says that ethical problems reported range from "students using a computer network to threaten or harass someone, to a department chairman's ordering faculty members to participate in software theft, to university officials' breaking into professors' computer files" (David L. Wilson 1991).
5) WITS is a faculty and administration colloquium, meeting two or three times a month and sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Cheris Kramarae and Jeanie Taylor are co-organizers of the colloquium. Maureen Ebben is the research assistant for the project.
6) We have many examples from networks of women's concern with this problem. On a sociology network we found discussion of whether those who use concealing nicknames rather than their real names in making comments about affirmative action should even be replied to, and whether those who "flame" (i.e., send "hot tempered" messages) should be "flamed back."
7) We thank WITS Woman Jenny Barrett for her contribution to this part of the discussion.
8) When a draft of this paper was circulated among participants in the Lewis and Clark College Electronic Salon in April 1992, this point elicited numerous comments. Everyone seemed to have a study which verified our observations. For example, Jane Fraser made the following comments: "Here at OHIO STATE, we recently started osu.women and consensus is that it is working fine, but only as a place for notices of meetings, etc. It is not a place where women can talk because-you guessed it-the men dominate and tend to pick apart word-by-word any woman's posting. We have recently started a private mailing list for women faculty and grad students in engineering-requests to be added will be verified." "Blade X," another participant in the Electronic Salon commented, "Cyberspace is elitist; cyberspace is exclusionary. For all the rhetoric and propaganda of eliminating barriers to participation it still remains the eminent domain of white, middle-class males."
9) From a 1988 soc.women network discussion: Robert N: Lately in my reading of soc.men and soc.women, I've been noticing two phenomena:
-Articles (like this one, in fact: - ) [smiley face] are heavily crossposted between soc.men and soc.women. In a recent batch, all but 5 of 40 articles in soc.men were crossposted to soc.women.
-Various so.women readers complain that men are trying to dominate soc. women, when the group should be a forum for women's perspec- tives. Other readers think that the group should be a discussion of gender issues from anybody's point of view, and complain that they are being shoved out. (These men's arti- cles are often among the articles crossposted to both groups.)
It might be a good idea, then, to create another ... newsgroup ... so that soc.women and soc.men could go more towards being more a forum for the personal perspectives of women or men....
Mary: Go, right ahead, Robert....But you know what? I was here, on the net, the last time this was tried. We had a net.women, and a net. women-only. Guess what? Articles were cross-posted to net-women-only from net.women by men. Net.women-only was NOT respected by men....
10) Deborah Heath, organizer of the April 1992 Lewis and Clark College Electronic Salon remarked: "In the absence of more complete cues about who is in our audience, some of us will assume that all share the same world- view-and-those who occupy privileged or "unmarked" social positions [male or white or straight or English-speaking, etc.] may be even more inclined to presume that their perspective is natural and universal."
11) In 1990 Peg Jennings, on a scientific network, wrote an open letter "to those of you who assume that men are [scientists] and women are whoresÓ after a series of limericks was posted. The discussion which followed was sometimes acrimonious. Some people sending messages said that the author of a particularly offending limerick was a staunch supporter of women in science and that it was a shame that he was being criticized in this way. Some women sent e-mail messages to indi- viduals in the discussion, relating their own experiences of sexism in academe. After dozens of messages on this topic, the moderator decided that the issue of the limericks did not belong on the bulletin board: "[This] mailing list is a private mailing list for the discussion of 'TECHNICAL' issues only." He included the following directive: "Persons who continue this limerick thread will be removed from the list."
12) The woman who first complained about sexist limericks, watched her computer screen as many of the network users commented on her action: A few examples: "If we let [her] get away with this raving attack on an innocent bit of humor, the next thing will be women trying to rewrite the english language, and then rewrite history, abolish mens and womens bathrooms..." "Get a grip... and stop treating men as all alike (simply because you are too blinded by your anger to think." "By being a reactionary to limericks, you give a bad message about women. And that is exactly a cause that I fight. Your open letter is a condescending knee-jerk reaction." "[You contributed] to the stereotype of advocates of non-sexist writing as being brainless flakes."
13) One man who spends a great deal of time on the nets said, in response to discussions of women-only nets, something like this: I spend about four hours a day on the net, talking to my girlfriend, and on the scuba diving bulletin board, etc. ItŐs all there for me. Then I hear you talking about these other nets that I canŐt access-your Handsnet, and dog and cat net or whatever. And I find it really FRIGHTENING that you are out there communicating with each other, and I can't get to it.
For many women, of course, access to nets-and time to use them-is very limited.
14) During the Electronic Salon, "Blade X" commented, "I have yet to see a post by a migrant farm workers or a homeless person. Both groups who are fairly immune to the viruses of feminism and/or communication technology. When dealing with technology, always ask who is invited? and who is excluded?"