Masthead CMC Magazine November 1, 1995 / Page 13


From Fri Sep 29 05:42:36 1995
Date: 29 Sep 1995 10:40:33 +0000
Subject: Your article in June's CMC Mag

I'm just catching up on some of my online reading--
Camille Shandor's article about online sexism being one.
I just wanted to state that I agree with most of what she says. The following 
are some comments, both general and specific, that I would like to make. 
Please feel free to post this to any discussion group to which it may prove 

More often than not I feel I'm beating the proverbial head against a brick 
wall being in many mixed-sex discussion fora but, for the time being, I 
flatly refuse to subscribe to women-only groups. 

This is not through some perceived view of mine that to join such a group 
would admit 'defeat' in some way, but that such groups are often without a 
precise focus so, in my opinion, end up being simply a bunch of women from 
very different backgrounds, with very different interests, carping on about 
how men exclude them from everything and hunting around for possible 
solutions. This may be a horrible generalisation - nevertheless, it is my 
perception of such groups.

Having read a lot of Susan Herring's work I feel the least I can do as one 
woman is to keep plugging away at actively participating in mixed-sex 
discussion lists. I have implemented the odd subtle strategy to stir up 

On one such occasion I disguised my sex when making my first posting to a 
list. This proved quite simple: my email address was set up ; I 
cancelled my usual signature; ended the message with my nickname  
and, being a linguist, carefully phrased my comments to be short, sharp, 
quite positive, critical of the person to whom I was responding and not a 
smiley face in sight! Plenty of healthy discussion ensued.

Surprisingly enough, several male respondents to my posting replied to me 
privately and we entered lengthy discussions.

I followed this up with another posting - usual email address/signature - 
with my full name and my usual 'wordy' style of writing, throwing in a 
smiley for the sheer hell of it. There were 3 other contributions in that 
digest - all from men - and they received a tremendous response. Not a bean 
for me.

It can be argued that perhaps my first posting was worth the response it 
received and the second was totally unworthy. However, I would argue that 
the difference was too great.

Eventually I came clean on the list, posting both sets of comments in the 
same message and inviting the numerous respondents to the first to be 
equally honest and admit whether they would have been so keen to reply to my 
remarks had they known they had been written by a woman. It was refreshing 
to note how many did own up to being biased towards male comments, including 
some women subscribers.

The main outcome of this little exercise is that this particular discussion 
group now has more women subscribers actively participating in the list - an 
increase of some 22% so the list-owner tells me - with significantly more 
notice being taken of these contributions.

My point is this: if women choose to group together to seek some security in 
their own sex or discuss hot topics amongst themselves in private then 
that's their prerogative. However, I would call on more women to chip away 
at this male bastion that is CMC now.

Hope this too provokes some dicussion.



Julie Wilkinson, HCI Research Centre
School of Computing & Mathematics, University of Huddersfield
Tel: +44 (0)1484 472895		Fax: +44 (0)1484 421106
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