Masculine Space


Though feminine pockets do exist, such as the Feminist Pedagogy Listserv, Women on the Well, Systers, Geekgirl, and other discussion groups for and about women, the dominance of masculinity is "constantly reinforced in the computer culture and in the images presented in the consumer computing market" (Coyle 43) . In her examination of hacker culture, Netta Gilboa suggests that woman are largely excluded from participation. She says, "Not that many women frequent the underground, and most that do come into it as transients while they are dating a hacker or as press to do a one-time story" (106) . The few women who do participate in this culture are often harassed:  one woman "had her phoned turned off by a hacker she would not have sex with" (107) .

Even in virtual spaces created to focus on women, sexism and patriarchal domination are prevalent. L. Jean Camp explains:

Consider a Usenet newsgroup specifically started to discuss issues about women: soc.women, where the posts by men outnumber women's. On the Internet, as in life, men dominate discussions about woman . . . too often, when women try to create spaces to define ourselves, we are drowned out by the voices of men who cannot sit quietly and listen. (115)  Drawing on Susan Herring's linguistic research on computer-mediated conversation, Laurel Sutton suggests that on-line communication is male-dominated and male-oriented. "Generally, men tend to use strong assertions, self-promotion, authoritative orientation, challenge and sarcasm, while women use apologies, questions, personal orientation and explicit justification in their discourse" (175) . Michele Evard estimated in 1996 that less than ten percent of the public messages posted on Usenet newsgroups are written by women, despite the fact that 36 percent of Internet-accessing accounts belong to women . Though the number of women on-line continues to rise, with some estimations as 50 percent, this increase has not eliminated sexual bias and discrimination.  This reflects our larger society where women make up more than 50 percent of the population, but still suffer harassment and bias.

Also reflecting our larger society, participation in the computer world is segregated according to sex. Women outnumber men in the workforce, but men make up the large majority of high-level administrative positions. Likewise, women are less represented in computer science and engineering, while they are well-represented as users. MIT's department of electrical engineering and computer science conducted a study of female enrollment in 1995 and found that "imbalance does indeed exist. Women at MIT are about half as likely as men to major in EECS. . . . For example, for 1991 S.B. degrees granted, Computer Science had the lowest ratio of women to men of any major at MIT with more than a few students" (Adams ). Women are currently making numerous important contributions to the computer field and in on-line communities, and the proportion of their contributions continues to rise. Currently, however, just as in our larger society, public and professional space on-line remains male-dominated.


Masculine Space | Real and Perceived Differences in Computer Expertise |
Responsibility--Or Lack Thereof | Invisibility: It's ONLY Email | Back to Problems with Virtual Space