Computer underground Digest Wed Apr 28 1993 Volume 5 : Issue 31
Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)
Archivist: Brendan Kehoe
Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth
Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala
Cyop Editor: Etaoin Shrdlu, Senior
CONTENTS, #5.31 (Apr 28 1993)
File 1--Response to 'Gender on the Nets' (Re CuD #5.29)
File 2--Re: Gender on the Nets (Re CuD 5.29)
File 3--Re: Sexual Bias on the Net (Re Cud 5.29)
File 4--A Female Response to the Gender Question in Cyberspace
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Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 10:02:35 CDT
From: rio!canary!chris@UUNET.UU.NET(Chris Johnson)
Subject: File 1--Response to 'Gender on the Nets' (Re CuD #5.29)
In response to Mike Holderness's post in CuD 5.29:
> I am told that there were a large number of responses to my
> piece, and that many took exception to my humorous quotation of
> the lite Xmas _Economist_ piece, which described the Internet as
> a "conspiracy" alongside the Masons, Opus Dei and such. The only
> responses which I have actually seen were those from Larry
> Landwehr and the response to this from Jim Thomas, who invited me
> to respond.
> I began drafting a net-style response to Larry, with quotes:
> > ... just like in a conversation with a religious zealot, the
> > feminist dogma just had to surface ...
> -Oh dear, I thought, reading this. The "men-are-persecuted-
> by-feminists" dogma, so tediously common on the Net, just had to
> This exercise in turn became tedious.
Oh, woe is you, Mike -- forced to make a tedious response to a well
thought out criticism by Larry Landwehr.
Frankly, I don't think Mr. "M. Holderness" deserves to earn another
farthing (pound, dollar, whatever) for writing _if_ his response to
criticism is to respond by using the technique of labeling his
opponent as yet another example of something "so tediously common on
the Net". Just because Larry is male, and just because his response
was on the Net to Mike's article on the Net, Larry's opinion is
nothing but tedious dogma? Then I'd have to say your writing is only
so much whining, Mr. Holderness. And get a life. Obviously, neither
should be true.
I thought the LTES article was interesting and thought provoking, and
I also thought it was seriously flawed by feminist dogma. Actually, I
thought a different phrase than 'dogma', but that will suffice for
So most of the users of the Net are male. Is it any surprise? Most
of the computer literate of the world are male, most of the technical
people of the world are male, most of the scientists are male,
presumably the higher average incomes are those earned by males, most
of the sciences, maths and engineering university students are male.
Where do you suppose most people get their access to the Net? What
background gives people the most ability to use the Net? Do you
suppose there are more computers in the Fine Arts colleges around the
world or in the engineering and engineering schools?
I'm sorry, but blaming the Net for the social and cultural mores and
conventions of countries around the world, in any fashion or amount,
just doesn't make sense. Yes, perhaps the Net can lead or enable a
different set of conventions and standards. But it will be a
difficult and uphill battle. Looking for conspiracies when something
is merely reflecting the culture that spawned it seems fruitless.
Why aren't there more women in the sciences and engineering programs
at universities? It was extremely lopsided when I was student
--perhaps 95% male. It made me feel pretty strange. I always wanted
to see more women involved. That's only one, although large, facet of
the problem of male domination of the Net.
There could be some obscure psychological reasons for it -- maybe
women being used to communicating on a more personal and emotional
basis prefer voice and in-person contact, whereas men used to hiding
their emotions and detaching themselves personally from conversations
find electronic communication to be welcome relief from having to put
on a face all the time. And the whys and wherefores of those
behaviors are hotly debated in many circles today, right down to
nature versus nurture, so I'd prefer to avoid even getting into it
In summary, I valued the LTES article for being thought provoking but
eventually ignored much of its reasoning as being feminist axe
grinding. I valued Larry's criticism for bringing to light the
insulting messages sent to males and for warning of how continued
support of this vein of reasoning could well lead to the end of the
anarchic free nature of the Net, but I also suspect his reaction was a
bit paranoiac (at least I sure hope so!).
Not copyright 1993 by: Chris (just guess my gender -- want to bet
first?) Johnson Because it's worth the electrons it was written with,
spread them where you will.
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 09:44:58 EDT
From: morgan@ENGR.UKY.EDU(Wes Morgan)
Subject: File 2--Re: Gender on the Nets (Re CuD 5.29)
This LTES article was rather interesting. My apologies for the
untimely response; the birth of my daughter interrupted my normal
email/news reading for about 2 weeks. 8)
Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?
>>For these assumptions to be true, you're quite likely either to be a
>>member of an academic institution in a Western industrialized country,
>>or very well-to-do in world terms. You're also likely to be male. And
>>the public area of the news system bears this out. An high proportion
>>of messages -- over 90% in an unrepresentative sample of discussions
>>of physics -- comes from the USA. An even higher proportion (of those
>>with identifiable senders) comes from men.
Never make assumptions about the sender of a particular message. The
Usenet old-timers among us will recall, perhaps painfully, the
infamous Mark Ethan Smith; she created quite a stir in some of the
social newsgroups. With the widespread use of pseudonyms and
nicknames, I'd like to know just how many messages in their study had
truly "identifiable" senders. With the advent of anonymous servers,
it's becoming even more gender-neutral.........
Before we start aggravating our heartburn over these assertions, let's
ask a rather simple question that, apparently, wasn't considered by
the LTES author(s). Does the gender balance of the net reflect the
gender balance of the corporate/educational structures behind it? If
only XX% of Microsoft's net-enabled employees are women, it seems
logical that roughly XX% of the Usenet postings from Microsoft will be
from women. If only YY% of bigshot.com's technical staff is women,
would we be surprised to find that YY% of bigshot.com's postings were
authored by women?
In and of itself, an authorship sample of Usenet articles means very
little. If the gender profile of a site's postings corresponds to the
gender profile of its employees, that would seem to be a Good Thing,
since it indicates that the site is extending net privileges to
in a fair manner.
>>"Women in science worry that these 'private' network exchanges of
>>research results serve to reinforce the 'Old Boy Network' in
>>scientific research circles, especially given the overwhelmingly male
>>demographics of e-mail and news-group users," says Ruth Ginzberg,
>>Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University in the US.
"'private' network exchanges?" How did we move from the anyone-can-do-
anything-they-darn-well-please anarchy of Usenet to 'private' network
exchanges? I've *never* heard the word 'private' applied to Usenet; I
suspect that Dr. Ginzberg has been either misinformed or misquoted.
If we consider email, I wonder how statistics were gathered to support
this assertion, since only the most unethical sysadmin would release
such data to the outside world. I, for one, would *never* give away
copies of *my* mailer logs.
>>Why should there be this preponderance of men?
Are we missing a more basic answer? If the percentage of net use by
women corresponds to the percentage of women in technical fields, the
problem does NOT lie within the net. I think someone's looking for
>>Sarah Plumeridge is
>>research assistant on a project to study women's use of computers at
>>the University of East London. She comments that "A lot of research
>>suggests that women prefer computing when it's for use, as a tool,
>>when it's not taught as an abstract science." It's clear from the tone
>>of messages in the public news-groups that the _boys_ see them as a
I wonder what selection of newsgroups was used as the rationale for this
comment. I strongly urge Ms. Plumeridge to examine newsgroups such as
comp.unix.admin, comp.sys.att, alt.comp.acad-freedom.talk, and comp.sys.hp;
she won't find a 'playground' attitude there.
I wonder if any of these people realize just how many newsgroups there
are. The site on which I read Usenet carries, at last count, 1021 news-
groups; they range from the sewers of alt.* to the carefully moderated
groups like sci.military. I suspect that these researchers spent a lot
of time in alt, rec, and soc; they seem to have ignored the sci.* and
>>There are more serious issues too. Cheris Kramerae of the Department
>>of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana is,
>>working on the issue of sexual harassment on "the net". This happens
>>in very specific ways - men sending abusive messages to women, often
>>having obtained their electronic addresses from the electronic
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the rather obvious point in
the above paragraph. Notice that the "abusive messages" were received
*after* the women posted to the "electronic 'personals column.'"
Within Usenet, the 'personals column' is alt.personals, which is used
almost exclusively as a dating/encounter service. Let's compare this
with other, more traditional media. Do women who post personals in
the newspaper receive a certain amount of harassing replies? Do women
who write their number on the bathroom wall (I've known a few who did)
really expect NOT to receive some harassing replies?
Let's get real, Ms. Kramerae; *anyone*, male or female, who posts to
Usenet (and especially to newsgroups like alt.personals) should be
prepared to receive a certain number of 'nastygrams' in reply. Heck,
I've received pornographic images, obscene letters, and the like, and
I don't post to (or even READ) the sexual (or feminist) discussion
groups. Now, if someone merely picked addresses out of other
news-groups and started dropping harassing email in their mailboxes,
*that* would be a valid concern; however, I only know of *two* such
incidents in my 10+ years of participation in Usenet. If anyone has
concrete examples of widespread behavior of this type, I'd like to see
>>There is also the problem of socially retarded
>>students abusing the system to distribute digitized pornographic
>>images: the direct equivalent of the calendar on the workshop wall.
I'm not defending the alt.binaries.pictures.* crowd (again, I don't
even read those newsgroups), but there's one important difference.
When an image comes across Usenet, it is NOT immediately viewable;
the end user must manipulate the raw data before viewing is possible.
If you are basing your complaint on the mere presence of the material,
I would compare it to Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and other traditional
media; are you as upset about the Playboy down at the convenience store
as you seem to be about alt.binaries.pictures.*?
>>Kramerae concludes, however, that "Obviously it is not the technology
>>but the policies which are presenting particular problems for women."
Uh huh.......and I suppose that the 'pornography' that happens to
con-centrate on men is posted only by male homosexuals, right?
When discussing policies, it's important to remember that the
"Internet" encompasses the world. If you can create a policy that
reconciles the cultures of nations like the USA, France, Kuwait,
Japan, Israel, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, I'd *love* to see it. If
you can create a policy that respects the Western, Middle Eastern, and
Oriental cultural perspectives about women, you're in the wrong
business; you should be working for the UN. 8)
>>Kahn's list is, then, exactly an invisible college. Given the vast
>>space occupied by anti-feminist men in the open news-groups which are
>>supposed to discuss feminism, it can only operate if it remains
>>private and by invitation.
Actually, soc.feminism (the premier newsgroup for discussion of
feminism) is a *moderated* newsgroup. In fact, several people have
recently argued that the moderators are biased against *men*. The
"femail" mailing list is moderated; in addition, it *requires* that
subscribers reveal their gender. (supposedly, this is for "records and
statistics only") Membership in the "sappho" mailing list, a support
group for gay and bisexual women, is restricted to women.
The noise issue is basically irrelevant. Many, if not most,
newsreaders support 'killfiles', which allow the user to drop articles
with subjects or authors they don't like into the bit bucket. For
instance, a simple "/email@example.com/h:j", placed in a global
killfile for the rn news-reader, would kill every article I post;
you'd never have to see my postings again.
Remember, the networked world is an anarchy. If you don't like a
newsgroup, start your own! Every newsgroup in Usenet started with
someone who said "I want this"; that person started a discussion,
collected votes, and (if the vote was affirmative) saw the newsgroup
created. (alt.* is an exception; any news admin or news-savvy user
can create an alt.* newsgroup, but they usually suffer from low
distribution as a result) Anyone can propose (and run a vote for) a
new newsgroup; if you want to create a moderated newsgroup, go for it!
Some newsgroups started as 'wide open', but later were voted into
moderation; feel free to start a discussion to moderate your favorite
group. If you want a private mailing list, start it up; that's what
the femail and sappho moderators did. If you want an invitation-only
mailing list, just set it up; I am a member of one such list. Of
course, there are probably many such lists; by definition, we wouldn't
know of their existence.
Remember, too, that the "Internet" is not simply "professional people
and students." The "Internet" encompasses everything from Cray
supercomputers with fiber optic lines to PCs and PDP-11s in
individual's homes with 1200 baud modems. Ambitious programs are
placing K-12 students on the net in ever-growing numbers, and sites
such as the Cleveland Free-Net are open to (literally) anyone who can
reach them by telephone. If you assume that all net.users are
physically/emotionally/intellectually mature, you are making a grave
error that can (and, in my opinion, will) invalidate most of your
Without hard data and specific discussion of that data, this article
seems to be little more than hyperbole.
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1993 23:13:23 -0600 (CDT)
From: Louis Giliberto
Subject: File 3--Re: Sexual Bias on the Net (Re CuD 5.29)
In CuD 5.29 the gender issues on the internet came up again, and some
of the statements made truly amazed me. It seemed to me to be a case
of not being able to see past one's nose. The "statistically skewed"
data samples were not just skewed, they were intolerable for a lot
of reasons. I'd like to point out some problems with the comments that
imply or state gender bias on the net.
In the first section the CuD editors bring up this point:
>1. DOES THE NET POTENTIALLY CIRCUMVENT CONVENTIONAL PUBLISHING TO THE
> DETRIMENT OF WOMEN?
Part of the conclusion the editors reached was this:
>There is abundant research
>indicating that although women are under-represented in
>academically-oriented journals, this under-representation appears to
>be the result of factors in academia rather than the consequence of
>significant gender bias in editorial gate-keeping procedures.
In other words, the alleged under-representation of women in
academically-oriented journals is a *symptom* of a problem with
academia, and not a problem of gender bias in allowing access to
Why does this same argument not apply to the "Net"? I believe it
should. If it does, then obviously the author of the original article
should not be scanning the sci.* categories for male/female names.
Any person who can see knows that the majority of people involved in
scientific interests are males. I submit the lack of female presence
in the sci.* categories and any other categories the author claims are
a *by-product* of gender distribution in careers and not any type of
bias created by USENET, discussion/speaking/typing techniques, etc. I
suggest the author do the same "statistical sample" on rec.crafts.misc
and he will see the opposite bias: far more women posting than men.
Again, I'm not stating that this gender distribution is fair or
tolerable, or that it's unfair or intolerable, just that it is not
coming from the "Net" itself. It is coming from society and appears
on the Net. My point is to refute any type of claim that the Net
imposes a gender bias.
However, I might like to interject one sentence here on gender bias in
general: isn't it just possible that women are more attracted to
rec.crafts.misc than men? Isn't it just possible that men are more
attracted to the science industries than women? On a recent GRE
distribution, there were by a great majority more women taking the
subject exam in psychology than men. Does this imply a gender-bias
toward men in the field of psychology? By the arguments commonly
used, it should. In most cases, any type of non-uniform distribution
causes cries of sexual discrimination. Of course sexual
discrimination exists, I'm sorry to say. However, a non-uniform
distribution is not conclusive evidence of sexual discrimination,
gender bias, or what have you. It is a symptom of it, but there are
other factors to consider as well.
I would also like to quote another portion of the editors' text which
I strongly agree with:
>The fact that we might answer the first two questions negatively does
>not mean that male dominance does not exist on the Nets. Nor does the
>absence of significant impact in some areas mean that there is no
>significant impact in others that ultimately makes the Net less
>hospitable for women than men.
I could not have said it better myself. But I must contend with
the editors' quote from the BAWIT paper:
> The experiences of women online are both personal and
> political. To a certain extent, their causes are rooted in
> the physical world --economics and social conditioning
> contribute to the limited numbers of women online.
It couldn't perhaps have anything to do with the fact that the male
and female psyche differ and that a sterile interface such as an ASCII
terminal is more appealing to the male psyche while a face-to-face
discussion might appeal more to the female psyche?
Damn, I wish I could remember where I saw this study, but there was
a study where all they did was ask people to sit down at a table. By
an overwhelming percentage, women sat next to each other, while men
sat across from each other. The conclusion of this study was that
women prefer closer contact and tolerate a greater infringement of
their "personal space" than males. Reasons? Some people might say
"social conditioning", others might say it's a latent trait left over
from humankind's nomadic periods where the women reared the children
and were thus forced to tolerate a closeness while the men were
hunting and fighting and were thus forced to be more protective of
their personal space.
I would say it's just how men and women are -- deal with it.
As a corollary, the same study showed that when men and women were in
the room together and asked to sit, they grouped together in gender
clumps. I.e., the men tended to sit with men, and the women tended to
sit with women. That may further explain the clumping that I described
earlier when I suggested he try rec.crafts.misc, and why women are
predominant in psychology: people like to be around things they can
relate to, and often the easiest thing to relate to is that which is
most like yourself.
Either way, the conclusions of this study, if it's still out there
somewhere, would explain why males are more predominate on the Net than
females. A non-contact form of expression seems to appeal more to males
> Additionally, online environments are largely determined by
> the viewpoints of their users and programmers, still
> predominately white men (p. 1).
This statement is most inflammatory. It is segregating thought on the
basis of sex and race. The environment is determined by the viewpoints
of their users and programmers. True. I agree without a doubt.
However, isn't it sexist, racist, and prejudiced to say that white men
think a certain way? I don't think so since that would easily explain
why there is a predominance of males in engineering and a predominance
of females in nursing, but the "politically correct" opinion would
be that you cannot say that one person thinks a certain way because
of his race, sex, etc. The logic here is unbelievably absent. The statement
is contradictory and hypocritical.
>None of this would necessarily prevent women's access to on-line
>communication, nor is anybody (to my knowledge) claiming it does. The
>value of the BAWIT paper is that it reminds us that access cannot be
>automatically assumed to be equal for everybody, and that the barriers
>to access may be subtle and complex.
So, assuming this is true, what's your point still? I thought the
topic was gender bias on the net with the net as the cause. I.e.,
some type of filtration (either consciously or unconsciously) that
was inherent in the net. As I stated, there is no problem with the net.
If there is a problem, it is with society.
>Illinois/Urbana-Champaign) conducted a small study on African-American
>educators for use in training adults to communicate over networks.
>Contrary to her initial expectations, she found that women may feel
>more "equal" in communicating electronically. She concluded:
> .....Clearly, for many women, face-to-face communication
> could find them at a disadvantage, if they feel less
> powerful or verbally skilled or even feel physically weaker
> and smaller. In fact, they may embrace e-mail even more
> enthusiastically than the men, because it is such an
Clearly, I have to throw this away completely. The net for the most
part is not used for professional communications. The net is used
for personal communications of a recreational/hobbyist form. There
are no professional papers published in sci.*. There is informal
discussion, and the other study I mentioned showed that in *informal*
situations women prefer closer contact with those they are speaking
to than men. This study was done on using a network in a completely
different environment. Further, e-mail is addressed to one person
while a USENET post is addressed to many. The bias may be due to the
fact that men embrace greater exposure more than women. Women may
prefer a one-on-one communication rather than blabbing to the world
like men seem to do (proof that women are smarter than men in many
It would be interesting to do a study where all posts are tallied,
and see what percentage of posting is e-mail and what is public on
a per-gender basis. If females send e-mail most of the time, and
males publicly post most of the time, the reason may not be that
it is an "equalizer", but that females prefer intimate conversation
while males prefer to address a group. Other mediums such as IRC
should not be ignored, but tallied separate since it is not equivalent
to e-mail or USENET; it would rather show the initiative on a per-gender
basis to participate in live conversation on an electronic medium.
Now, for harassment, I don't even want to touch the issue since it's
such a ticking bomb, but I would like to make one point:
>When I first began using an electronic network about 1981, I had a
>gender-neutral logon ID. Before I learned how to set "no-break," I was
>habitually plagued late at night by young testosterone-laden males who
>broke in wanting to know if I were an "M or F?" When I flashed "M,"
>the sender departed, only to be replaced by another flasher with the
>same question. Only once was the sender a female, as she later
>revealed in person. On those occasions when I was feeling malicious,
>I would send back an "F." I was amazed at the simplicity and
>coarseness of the pickup lines. In discussing this with female
Is a pickup line harassment? If you offer to buy someone a drink,
they say no, and you walk away, is that harassment? If a flasher
flashes you on the train platform, is that harassment or lewd
behavior? To me, harassment is a *continual* approaching of someone
that does not wish to be approached (in a sexual manner or otherwise).
The editors do not mention if they really were harassed or approached
with graphic statements. There is a big difference. I can offend
someone by saying "I want to live in your trousers" (Courtesy of Prince
Charles), but I can just as easily offend someone by saying "I hope
you hit a gas truck and taste your own blood" (Courtesy of Sam Kinison).
If I repeatedly make *either* comment that is harassment, using it
once would just show ignorance.
And some people like that type of sexual attention. I don't mean
harassment, I mean being continually approached by the opposite (or same)
sex for dating, romance, a roll in the hay, whatever. Too many young
women are anorexic and bulemic. Why? To improve their outward appearance
to attract men (or women, whichever they prefer). They *want* attention
from men. Same goes for men. They spend a lot of money on health clubs
too, and some take steroids to improve their bulk in order to "impress"
women with their bodies. Granted, this is sick and wrong, but it just proves
that what some people are offended by (constantly being hit on) and view as
harassment, some people are willing to risk their lives and health for.
Hopefully most people are in between and 1) aren't stupid enough to want
someone who would only be attracted to them for their looks, and 2) can
understand that being hit on 500 times by 500 different people isn't the
same as being harassed -- harassment is being continually pestered by
the same person.
>The gender games and fears of harassment seem of sufficient concern
>that some universities cover it in their computer and other policies
To me this says that it generates sufficient concern to the universities'
lawyers that the school may be named in a sexual harassment suit so
to play it safe they have to make it clear they won't be a party to
or protect such actions. It does not show me by itself that a problem
>If there are in fact gender barriers that work to the detriment of
>women, the first step is to recognize that they exist and then to
>identify the ways in which they operate. This is nothing that should
>threaten males. Hard evidence one way or the other would define the
>nature and extent of the problem. If, as many of us believe, there is
>a problem, what then should we do? The next step is simply recognizing
I agree completely, however, the problem, if existent, hasn't been
defined yet. Again, I claim there is nothing wrong with the net or
how it operates. If there is a problem, it is a problem with the
"real world", and as the real world changes, so will the net.
The net is merely a microcosm of the macrocosmic universe. "As above,
so below. As below, so above." Fix the above world, and the "Computer
Underground" will follow. Breed wisdom and tolerance on the net,
and it will carry over to the workplace. But whatever you do, do not
blame the net. The net is an interactive medium, not a gender biased
>are gender-shaped, then communication problems can occur. As often as
>not, the dominant style "wins" and the subordinate style loses--not on
>the bases of content of ideas, but by the overpowering style of one
>way of talking that silences the other.
Hmm. I have a hard time accepting that. Look at the following names
and see who "won" (or is winning) and who "lost" (or is losing) and
see if you can still tell me that the dominant style wins: Jesus Christ,
Adolf Hitler, Ghandi, Josef Stalin, Buddah, Aleister Crowley, Joe McCarthy,
Martin Luther King, etc. Most of the ideas differ greatly, but the most
common thread upon who "won" and who "lost" in the end was who used a dominant
style (of speech and action) and who used a (I disagree with the word
subordinate since I think the real point is active vs. passive, and
passive by no means subordinate) passive approach.
Jesus Christ, Ghandi, Buddah, Aleister Crowley, and Martin Luther King
all used a passive approach and their ideals are more prevelantly accepted
in society of today than Stalin, Hitler, and McCarthy (which are all about
as far as you can get from each other on a political scale) who used
a dominant - oppressive even - approach.
Those with a good idea don't have to yell, if it's that good, they'll be
heard anyhow. If it's a crappy idea, even if it is accepted for a while
due to the sheer racket they make, it will lose in the end after people
think about it for a while. Hopefully the whole "politically correct"
attitude will die out this way.
>So, to Larry I would say: I accept your fears, but I'm not convinced
>that denying the problem is the best solution. Let's take a step back
>and ask women how *they* feel in engaging in online interaction.
To the editors I would say: I'm not convinced there is a problem...at
least with the net. Why not also ask men how they feel in engaging
in online interaction? Did you ever stop to think that maybe the
predominantly male net society doesn't realize there is a lack of
female involvement because they are not paying attention to the gender
of the author, but what the author is saying? Maybe some of the
people crying "net gender bias" should stop counting male and female
and pay attention to what is being said instead. It seems to me
that the people complaining the most are also the ones who complain
that people should judge people for what's inside, not their sex. For
once it seems to be happening, so now why are they suddenly paying
attention to the sex of the poster rather than what is being posted?
As for Mr. Holderness, I will keep my comments brief since much of
what he said I addressed above.
>_If_ the net is an invisible college, who may it exclude? Last
>year, for a quite different article in _New Scientist_, I counted
>the apparent geographical location and apparent gender of some
>300 news-group articles (most in sci.*). Some 97% had US
>addresses and over 90% of those with identifiable given-names
>were male. Many fewer than 97% of all scientists work in the US
>and fewer than 90% are male; empirically, there's an issue to
Let me explain it so that even he can understand it.
1) If you know there are predominantly males in scientific fields,
stop biasing your results by sampling sci.*. Either sample
from 1/2 male dominant fields and 1/2 female dominant fields,
or sample all the fields. I can go to England and knowing that
mostly white people live there be conveniently surprised that
non-whites are in a minority - a parallel to the conclusion you
reached. It's called "stacking the deck in your favor". While
your reasearch may apply to the concerns of_New Scientist_, it does
not apply to the concerns of net users or prospective net users in general.
2) As for most coming from the U.S.
a) The Internet is a U.S. creation, springing from DARPA Internet,
(Defense dept. Advanced Research Projects Agency). That is also
why if you look at a network map from as little over a year ago,
there were no I-net connections into Eastern-Bloc (i.e., USSR
controlled) countries. The Pentagon is not in the habit of
allowing foreign countries to plug into their computer networks.
This is also why you see most posts coming from places that end
in *.edu, *.com, *.gov, *.mil, etc. Originally, there was no
public access. You had to be doing work for the defense dept.
to obtain an internet connection, and even today it is difficult
and costly to obtain an internet connection if you don't fall
into one of those groups.
The going rate for a non-U.S.-gov't-approved connection (like
a connection to your house) is $1,000 per month for a 56K connection,
and $2,000 per month for a T1 connection. That does not include
leased line fees, just the IP connection. And that is for people
in the U.S. where the *backbone* is. An overseas connection still
must eventually route itself to the backbone, and that is even
b) The U.S. has by far more computers around than most countries.
In fact, in a recent issue of PC Magazine, there was a statistic
given that more electrical power is used by U.S. computers
in a year than is generated by all the power plants in Switzerland
in a year.
There is no empiric issue to investigate; there is no issue. The sample
was poisoned, and he doesn't know the history of the Internet or how or
why it is set up.
>I made it clear that this was not a scientific survey. Last week,
>before being asked for these comments, I was working up a
>proposal for just such a survey: run the "From:" line of every
>news-group posting for six months or a year past the ISO 3166
>country codes and past _Naming Baby_, and see what falls out.
>Would people on the net object to this? Please take it for
>granted that I understand the statistical limits on
>interpretation of the results. Please tell me if someone else is
>already doing this.
I would object on the basis I stated above: Females may be more apt
to communicate in a one-on-one basis (i.e., e-mail) and males may
be more apt to communicate in a public forum (i.e., USENET). The reason
may not be gender bias, just the fact that males publicly post more
often than females since females prefer one-on-one discussions. You cannot
draw a pure conclusion from the survey. The survey will give you an
accurate count (close, anyhow), but the results will not be able
to be interpreted cleanly without a much deeper examination.
>other researchers who will have time to comment. All those I came
>across working on the issue were, for some reason, women. I
>always welcome further contacts.
Because the majority of the users, men, aren't counting posts
made by men and women. They're reading the post, not the header.
>My personal view is that "the calendar on the workshop wall" is a
>form of harassment, the effect of which is to contribute to the
>exclusion of women from mechanical engineering and so forth. I
Yeah, those mechanical engineering firms just have tons of near-porn
plastering their walls. It improves their image, don't you know?
I'm sure a certain computer company in New York that developed the
PC's most people use today have tons of "girlie pix" lining their
walls. Get a clue. The majority of those types of pictures are
prevalent in an environment where a tie is not required for work.
>I appreciated Jim Thomas' thoughtful and tolerant reply to Larry.
>Jim clearly has more patience than I can muster these days. I
>regret that he and I have had to put effort into explaining that
>it is appropriate for articles to appear on the net which are
>critical of some features of its current, and I hope temporarily
>aberrant, state. I find it deeply ironic that we have had to do
>so in response to an article which so vehemently invokes the
Bah, humbug. "Aberrant state"? Excuse me, but Mr. Holderness is the one
who is aberrant. I find it ironic that he questions the fact that
most posts in sci.* are by men when the scientific field is male
dominated, and I find it ironic that he wonders why most of the posts
come from the U.S. when the Internet proper is a U.S. institution
first and foremost, and has only recently expanded outside the
How can you criticize something and call it aberrant if you don't know
why it exists, who it primarily exists for, and what it's function is?
Granted, the shape of the Internet has changed much since its first
inception, but he is asking a question similar to: "Why are most
of McDonald's customers American?" or "Why are there more phones in the
U.S. than in other countries?" Because it was developed first and
foremost for American use, and it gradually expanded outward, and it
costs more elsewhere at least at first.
The lack of depth on Mr. Holderness' part to seek a basic explanation for
certain "empirical facts" when those explanations are very clear
and for the most part well-known makes me question his ability
and integrity as a journalist. I could go into an American nursing
school, see mostly women, and cry aloud: "Men are being discriminated
against!" I could look at the railroad industry and seeing more
supertrains in Europe, Japan, etc. cry aloud: "There's an empirical
issue here! The U.S. has a lot of miles of railroad, and all of it
is nowhere near the supertrain capabilities elsewhere!"
But none of that would make sense, would it? Why cry wolf before
looking even at the surface for a possible explanation? That is
not responsible journalism; that is media hype.
To answer his last topic, that of the defense of seemingly
"stupid" free speech, or bothering to defend "puerile" topics:
>It is issues such as this -- the suppression of political comment
>-- which the drafters of the Amendment clearly had in mind and
>which exercises people out here. Few here really bother about the
>free expression aspect of the Mappelthorpe (sp?) exhibition in DC
>or the current attempt to suppress "adult" (i.e. puerile) movies
>beamed into the UK by satellite. To be honest, no-one's getting
>very publicly worked up about the Prime Minister either.
I suppose the American stance on Free Speech makes as much sense
to an Englishman as does figurehead royalty to an American. Neither
can see the purpose of the other's interest, but to each it means a lot.
I have to disagree that the suppression of political comment is what
the drafters had in mind. Even if it were, there are more types
of political comment than the written and spoken word: flag burning,
cartoons, art, and other forms of symbolic expression can make striking
political comments (often more so than the mere word).
Perhaps in the context of "I may not agree with what you say, but I
will defend to the death your right to say it" (paraphrased), _Civil
Disobedience_, and "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"
underscore the intentions overall more so than a part of the whole:
an individual may exist in a society and still be an individual; it
is of many diverse individuals that a society is made. E pluribus unum.
Those seem to be the intentions floating around at the time of the
writing of that document.
A more relevant and timely example of the importance of the extension
of free speech is the United States Secret Service pounding on your
door and confiscating your computer because on-line media isn't
protected under the auspices of the "free press" premise that is used
to protect paper copy. Ask Knight Lightning about that.
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1993 08:56 CDT
Subject: File 4--A Female Response to the Gender Question in Cyberspace
A friend of mine has a small sign on her door. It includes statistics
about wage and salary differences between men and women. Then it says,
"Yes, Virginia, there is a gender hegemony."
Based on the data I've seen to date (scant, I'll admit), I suspect the
comment could apply as easily to the nets as to earnings.
Larry Landwehr's comments irked me. And, to Larry I would say, we can
stand the heat; nevertheless, we'd like to get out of the kitchen. But
I don't want to be flippant in this response because I think there's
more at stake here than trading feeble witticisms.
In his response to Landwehr, Mike Holderness mentions that he's a
journalist and places much of his response into a journalistic
context. I share that background, so it's one of several filters that
should be fairly obvious in my response. Added to that, I am female,
and I have been looking at gender issues on the nets (among other
things) for the past few years.
First, let me say that my journalism background may make my comments
unrepresentative of all women. I've talked with feminist scholars in
face-to-face arenas about First Amendment conflicts with feminist
agendas (e.g., the elimination of pornography). I've told them that I
value free speech and free press and am likely to continue to do so,
lest John Peter Zenger's wife continued to publish a newspaper in vain
while her husband sat in jail. On that level, I think Larry Landwehr
(and anyone else) can say pretty much whatever he wants (they want)
with my support of his (their) right to do so. But I say that while
fully aware that some feminists would rather risk censorship than
permit continued degradation of women in speech and the press.
But, as Holderness properly notes, freedom of speech and the press is
not a concept fully understood (or supported) in the rest of the
world. And there is, indeed, obnoxious and offensive speech. Now,
here's where I see the gender issues entering in.
Landwehr is simply wrong to suggest that it's inappropriate to apply
feminist theory to the nets. Women are part of the nets (even though
their participation is apparently less than men's) and feminist
theorists are among them. Why should they be prohibited from studying
the interactions there from some feminist perspective? I can think of
no good reason.
Women I've talked to (f2f and via cmc) are sometimes intimidated by
some males' exercise of their right to free speech. The problem
becomes one of a "chilling effect," in which speech is inhibited
because some speakers are afraid to voice their ideas and opinions.
They are afraid of opening themselves up to harassment, or worse.
Whether intentional or not comments like Landwehr's "feminist dogma"
remarks can have that chilling effect. (Not only women are silenced,
but also some men by such tactics.)
Secondly, in Jim Thomas's response, he notes that he sees "no
significant evidence" that the "old boys" network is being recreated
in cyberspace. He notes, "The 'old boys' no longer control the
terrain..." I'm sure he realizes that the "old boys" have *never*
controlled the entire terrain, but the share allotted women has been,
and continues to be, small. Although some men seem consciously
willing to share larger portions of that terrain with women, what
little evidence we have to date seems to suggest that much of it is
still dominated by men. Larry Landwehr is obviously one of the men
unwilling to give up an inch of his cyberspace.
Thirdly, Jim Thomas also makes reference to a paper prepared by
members of Bay Area Women In Telecommunications (BAWIT) for CFP '93.
In it, they note that women's access to computers and modems, and,
hence, the nets, is more restricted than men's access. This serves,
also, to silence many women in this particular communications medium.
One of the speakers at that CFP '93 session was herself a computer
professional who talked of other women programmers, systems analysts,
etc., who found their career advancement impeded because they felt
intimidated by remarks made by males in their field, both f2f and in
technical discussion lists. Her response was to found SYSTERS, a
discussion list limited to women participants.
Founding of separate lists can be construed as "equal opportunity."
The access is obviously there. And I support the notion that women
(and men) who want to form some separate lists should be allowed to do
so. But court battles have been fought in the US in the past about the
fiction of "separate but equal" opportunities. It should come as no
surprise that some women feel that separate does not always mean
equal, and that subtle and blatant sexism continues to exist in this
medium. Making that observation, based on feminist or other
theoretical perspectives, should not be grounds for further
intimidation or derision.
In a book written in an entirely different substantive arena (third
world agriculture), Robert Chambers notes: "Male predominance and
dominance in organisations is so marked and so widespread that to many
men it is, quite simply, natural, and the question of deliberate
action to increase the status of numbers of women staff does not
arise."  Chambers suggests that social science (particularly in
relation to agricultural studies, but I believe also in studies of
other technical areas) has used as its evaluative standard a white
male-oriented "dogma" (to borrow from Landwehr). Such use, however
rooted in history, could stand correction.
Donna Haraway further suggests that that white male standard has
corrupted previous studies because its represents a partial
perspective. She notes: "No wonder Max [Headroom] gets to have a naive
sense of humor and a kind of happily regressive, preoedipal sexuality,
a sexuality that we ambivalently--with dangerous incorrectness--had
imagined to be reserved for lifelong inmates of female and colonized
bodies and maybe also white male computer hackers in solitary
electronic confinement."  Her discussion proceeds to the biological
sciences, and doesn't dwell on computers, but among her points is that
women's roles, contributions and needs have been largely ignored in
such studies. Why should the same be true in the burgeoning area of
I have admitted (repeatedly) that the data we have regarding gender in
computer mediated communication are slim. And I'm willing to admit that
things change even as academics are studying them and journalists are
writing about them. But what we do have is rather dismal looking to
some women (and some men). While some women are silenced, those who do
speak up risk the kind of harassment Larry Landwehr's remarks
represent. I suspect those who believe respect is as important as
equal access and free speech will continue to take the heat.
Finally, while the intention may (or may not) be benign, the effect of
these various "small" problems appears to be a systematic exclusion of
women from full participation in the net community. We should not
arbitrarily exclude a feminist perspective from the study of that
apparently systematic exclusion.
And, having said all that, I still support Landwehr's right to say
what he has said. Personally, I find it offensive, but I can't seem to
++++++++++++++  Chambers, Robert. 1983. _Rural Development: Putting
the First Last_. Longman Scientific and Technical: Essex, England. (p
 Haraway, Donna. 1988. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question
in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective," _Feminist
Studies_, 14(3):575-599. (The quote is from pp 575-6.)
End of Computer Underground Digest #5.31