the status of the net
A main theme in wired_women was that although the MUDs chatrooms, etc., are spaces which demand different methods of interaction which might seem to automatically provide an equal playing field, many ended up as hostile environments towards women. The conclusion they came to was that the internet is a tool like any others, and its effects are determined by its users.
Most of the women writing for wired_women seemed to acknowledge the hostility towards women in cyberspace and the computer world. Paulina Borsook speaks about the sexism she encountered writing for WIRED magazine; Susan Clerc talks about women in online fan clubs; Stephanie Brail about online harassment.
Lori Kendall writes about her observations of a couple of MUDs which she participated in for over a year. She writes that "[In MUDs], I must fit in, and the social context into which I must fit in has been largely set by men. It is this social context which must change before MUDs can be truly beneficial spaces for both men and women..... It is important to note that the online environment is not itself a solution. Understandings of gender and the hierarchical arrangements based on these understandings do not simply disappear in forums where we can't see each other. We carry these understandings with us and recreate them online. Therefore, the appearance of more women on MUDs, and online generally, is likely to help only if both women and men make specific efforts to counter the types of stereotypical understandings I have identified." (pp. 222-223)
In "'So Please Stop, Thank You': Girls Online" Michele Evard dealt with a much more even handed environment. She observed a class of fifth-graders, to whom she was teaching a computer course and introducing them to Usenet newsgroups, which online are typically male dominated, as a method for communicating with each other about their projects. She noticed that boys and girls interacted in the newsgroup differently than they did in the classroom, and that gendered conventions that existed in the classroom between these same boys and girls did not work in the same ways in their interactions on the computer. She noted with satisfaction that there was little to no flaming, and that the number of messages contributed by male and female members of the class was split evenly. and that students who tended to be more shy wee more willing to ask questions and to give answers than in the classroom.
She writes, "I believe that part of the reason for this happy occurrence was that all of the children started using the system at about the same time, and at the same age. If the boys had been online for a week before the girls were, it could have felt like a boys activity and the girls may have acted differently- and vice versa. Of course, as we know, most of the early Usenet participants were male."