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  • Sunday, June 12, 2005


    The Real Point is Women

    Jeez, I sure like to hear myself talk. My original topic for my previous post was supposed to be about women and the ways in which they are often dismissed or insulted in online discussion. I made the point in passing but got sidetracked to the issue of democratic coalition building. See? Even when I'm trying to be a supporter of women I manage to put the focus on me and my opinions. Let's hear it for my pro-feminist expressions of support.

    The whole point was that while Kos reacted dismissively to women's complaints, this isn't an unusual response on his site or, for that matter, many other big-name (male) bloggers' sites. I found this tidbit over on Sampo about a very preliminary analysis of a kos discussion on ethics:
    In recent days there has been a fairly significant flap over a post at DailyKos where Kos basically told feminists to sit down and shut up after they were critical of an arguably sexist ad that ran on the site. Pandagon has a nice assessment of the issue and it's interesting to note that some female readers of DailyKos have set up a satellite blog for discussing issues of gender as they play out not only on DailyKos, but in the Democratic Party as a whole. What interests me about this issue is that there are troubling parallels between Kos' marginalizing behavior in this instance and the marginalization of female participants in a comments thread at DailyKos that I analyzed for Susan Herring's computer mediated discourse analysis course last semester.

    For my study (200kb PDF) I looked at the comments thread associated with Kos' January 17th post on blog ethics. Male participants dominated the discussion, being both more numerous and more frequently responded to than their female counterparts; of the 119 participants, 27 (21%) were identified as female, 80 (67%) were male, and 12 (10%) were of unknown or indeterminate gender. Though 51% of the comments made by male participants (79 out of 154 comments) were responded to, only 28% of the comments by women elicited a response (16 out of 56). What was most interesting was that there was no apparent cause for this disparity in the comments themselves.

    Males and females made humorous or provocative comments at roughly the same rate, for example, and when they were responded to the "quality" of those responses was similar (i.e. a flame from a woman is as likely to receive a flame in response as a flame from a male)... but they weren't responded to at the same rate. The literature related to this kind of analysis shows that men tend to adopt a combative conversational approach in forums like DailyKos and that female participants in male-dominated forums often adopt male norms, so what we see here is that, on DailyKos, playing by the same rules doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get the same response... or any response at all.

    So, as this quote says, even when women essentially adopt the tactics of men, they get significantly less response. And the men all seem to wonder why women seem frustrated and pissed about the dialog.

    [Oo, lovely update: Go see this post on I Blame The Patriarchy. (One of the best blog names I've ever seen, bar none.)]

    [Update 2: Lance Mannion has a great summary of this particular issue.

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