In Her Own Image?

Metaphors of Empowerment?

Whose Gaze Is It, Anyway?

Taking Back the Site?

Works Cited

Navigating the Image of Woman Online

Taking Back the Site?

As scholars and teachers working with technology, it's important to understand how, in structuring narratives about technology, we may also maintain political and social borders and contribute "to a larger cultural system of differential power that has resulted in the systematic domination and marginalization of certain groups of students, including . . . women [and] non-whites . . ." (Selfe and Selfe, 1994, p. 481). In advocating the type of empowerment that electronic rhetoric has the potential to foster, it is equally important to recognize that within the virtual community, some alleys divert users into spaces which clash with this social and political objective, including but not limited to spaces which objectify women. Some streets suggest an avenue into empowering areas but instead lead users to feel emotionally or intellectually threatened, including the sense of violation a female student feels when a group of male students in her computer-based classroom access online pornography, or the disappointment a female user feels when she joins an all-women's listserv in hopes of finding solidarity but instead finds equally exclusive power relationships.

Thus, we must further complicate the rhetoric of electronic discourse to avoid extreme assessments of empowerment or victimization online, to question our own experiences online and the experiences of our students as we teach in such electronic forums, to be at once supportive and critical of electronic discourse in order to enable an agency, which as Faigley (1992) notes, "resides in the power of connecting with others and building alliances" (p. 199). Ultimately, as Anne Balsamo (1995) contends, "The question is how to empower technological agents so that they work on behalf of the right kind of social change" (p. 156). In our minds the right kind of social change includes expanding online representations of and opportunities for disenfranchised groups, particularly women, so they are not made to feel as if they are either virtual victims or virtual aliens, but virtual citizens.