[iDC] Where have all the women gone?

Sarah Kanouse sarahk at readysubjects.org
Wed Jul 12 21:51:37 EDT 2006

Hello all,

I've been a lurking woman (sounds so terribly sinister--maybe  
'observing' is better?) on iDC since it was a few months old.  The  
list is tremendously important to me and is one way I remain  
connected to discourse beyond my local setting (a very small town and  
regional state university).   Thus far that participation has meant  
observing (yes, Laura, that is a form of participating, I hope!) and  
bringing the posts here into dialogue with colleagues, students, and  
friends in an offline environment which I imagine to differ a good  
deal from the offline environments of those who post regularly.

Real, material differences in the offline environments of list  
members might well be the key difference between those who post and  
those who observe.  Eric is absolutely correct when he says that men  
need to modify their online behavior as a concrete manifestation of  
anti-sexist practice, but in the end that is not enough.  We've heard  
from several women about their own time binds, and Laura Sillars's  
drift through Google revealed what we already know: that the 'lack'  
of women's active participation on iDC is echoed in many other  
forums, on and offline.  Maybe this isn't a question of feeling  
welcome vs. intimidated; it's a question of time, life and  
economics.    While iDC is not exclusively populated by academics,  
academia poses an instructive example.  All of us already know, for  

1) Women are over-represented at community colleges, second-tier  
universities, and in adjunct and non-tenure-track positions with much  
higher teaching obligations  ("Gender Inequity in Academia," http:// 

2) Women and other minorities in academia tend to be overburdened by  
service and advising work. ("So Many Committees, So Little Time," The  
Chronicle of Higher Education, 2004)

3) Women who have babies are substantially _less_ likely to get  
tenure than either men who have babies or women who do not, while men  
who have babies are slightly _more_ likely to get tenure than men who  
do not. ("Do Babies Matter?: The Effect of Family Formation on the  
Lifelong Careers of Academic Men and Women" http://www.aaup.org/ 

4) Women in heterosexual relationships continue to do the bulk of the  
housework, and while well-educated and gender-egalitarian men do  
somewhat more housework, they are also much more likely to overreport  
what they do. ("Wives' and Husbands' Housework Reporting," Gender and  
Society 1998)

I often find myself frustrated with 'solutions' to gender (and  
racial) imbalance that focus primarily on changing individual's  
behaviors to address perceptual issues (e.g. is this a "male" space?   
can we make it a female-friendly space? etc).  This course of  
argument seems to internalize or at least not call into question the  
(sexist) equation of women and emotion such that all 'problems' with  
women can be dealt with soft changes--language, affect, and  
perception--rather than through institutional change or changes in  
behavior more substantive than stylistic.  Working to make the  
institutions we inhabit offline more 'woman-friendly' may accomplish  
more to increase women's online participation than changing one's  
tone of voice.



On Jul 12, 2006, at 12:32 PM, Eric Goldhagen wrote:

>> 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?
> I think you are asking the wrong questions.
> I don't think that women should have to be more like men to  
> participate in online communities and discussions. But I do believe  
> that men (and others that tend to dominate the discussions) need to  
> moderate their own behavior to make these online communities and  
> lists comfortable for women and others that tend to participate  
> differently.
> I'd be very interested in seeing a discussion of what those  
> different communication styles look like in reality and from that  
> discuss how lists can create the space necessary for those other  
> dynamics to exist.
> --Eric
> -- 
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