In cyberspace, gender is completely performative. It is a place where people interact without bodies. In her essay in wired_women, "MUDder? I hardly know ëer!?: Adventures of a Feminist MUDder", Lori Kendall speaks about how genders are negotiated on MUDs.
In the MUDs that Kendall observed, she noticed certain trends in the way people were treated according to the gender they presented. "Women" tended to get more attention, female newcomers get more help, were solicited much more often, and were more subject to flames. Some resented the treatment resulting from an online female persona; some enjoyed the attention, and listed it as a reason to be "female" online.
In the MUDs, if one did not like the way you were being treated because of your gender, it was quite possible to sign on as a different user with a different gender. In this new environment, old methods of enforcing sexism become obsolete- which is not the same as saying that sexism itself becomes obsolete. As a result of the fact ease which with one could change ones gender, Kendall writes that "gender becomes almost a stance of relationship to a MUD- a way to designate ones desired treatment, rather than a statement of identity."
Cyberspace would seem to be the ultimate space in which one is judged in no respect by ones body, but perhaps by an imagined body. In this space, it becomes increasingly clear that all gender is performative; Drag is prevalent; it is common for people to sign on as different genders. However, are these gender performances subversive? Do they change the way people think about gender.
In the MUDs Lori Kendall observed, this wasnít necessarily true. On the other hand, the performance was not always acknowledged, and imitations were not always subversive.
Gender stereotypes continued to operate for whatever gender one signed on as. In Kendallís piece, denaturalization of gender on MUDs seemed to operate as a way in which sexism could accommodate blatant attacks to legitimacy and truth, and still hold onto some reality by establishing only a partial claim to real sexed bodies.
The fact that no one could verify anyone's gender did not insure that MUDs were equally receptive to ërealí men and women, regardless of the gender they presented online. Kendall observed that typically female behavior that is rewarded or expected in women in this society, such as passivity, and a tendency to defer when speaking or writing to others, were interpreted as stupidity online. MUDs could also offer a hostile environment to women. General trends of conversation were often alienating or offensive to women. In this way, more men might find respect in MUDs than women accounting for the discrepancy in numbers.