[iDC] Where have all the women gone?

molly wright steenson molly at girlwonder.com
Wed Jul 12 01:44:18 EDT 2006

Hi, I'm Molly. I'm most likely the very newest member on this list, having
subscribed yesterday. But I'm a longtime user and leader of email lists and
online community, and I work with (and think a lot) about gender issues,
especially around participation and parity issues. And so I'm doing
something I normally wouldn't do: (1) jumping right into a discussion and
(2) do so when I'm not aware of the list's dynamics. Yet this thread is
about women participating.... and so with caveats, I proceed.

As people here are probably really aware, any list has lurkers and listeners
who may have completely effective participation by not specifically adding
to the conversation. This makes me wonder if this list is having a lurker
issue as well? There is a difference between passivity and
non-participation. Passivity can mean, "I'm listening, I don't have anything
to say right now." On the other hand, how many people usually carry the
conversation? Do these conversations have outlets for other participants, or
are they public discussions that only involve a few. (There are reasons I
have not felt comfortable posting to Nettime, for instance: the
conversations seem to involve a smallish contingent of posters who've been
there much longer than I have... and who are very argumentative when there's
dissent. I don't shy from argument but don't want to be pounced on the first
time I post.)

Allowing more noise, less signal wouldn't be appropriate--and seems to
indicate that perhaps women would post more if we were allowed to post
things that don't contribute to conversation. For obvious reasons, that's
probably not what we're aiming for.

So overall, I wonder why people post or don't--gender regardless--and if
there's a sense that lurking is a problem.  Are there ways to ask questions
when people post, so as to open up things to discussion, and not just state
opinions or information? I don't know how these things happen now, but in
discussion board or comment-based community, these methods increase


On 7/12/06, Ellis Godard <ellis.godard at csun.edu> wrote:
> Trebor asked:
> > Women and men are fairly evenly subscribed here
> > but it is clear that men post more often than women. How can
> > we entice continued, and more extensive participation?
> I'm asking these, not arguing them, and only raise them because it was
> suggested by an implicit assumption in your question, but...
> If women post/participate less often than men, why would you want to
> entice
> them to participate more extensively? Do you want women to behave like
> men?
> Do they need to? Want to? Multiple voices might benefit the group, but
> would
> extensive participation necessarily benefit the participators?
> If someone is socialized to participate less, and/or is within a social or
> technological environment that discourages their participation, are there
> concommittant strengths and strategies that person has that equips them
> for
> effective communication (or communication effective to their needs, wants,
> expectations, contributions, etc.) through less communication, and/or
> resistance or weaknesses that make more extensive communication? Is
> artificial enticement to women (or any peripheral group) to participate
> more
> necessarily to their individual advantage?
> Curious,
> Eg
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