April 6th, 2010


Gender & Discussion...

I asked this question on Twitter, but it's not really the appropriate medium for it. 140 characters just can't hold what's required to answer this question. Frankly, 140 characters couldn't hold the question! So, here it goes, with some additional thoughts:

How would you feel about Internet discussion being described as "masculine" in nature? Further, to have that described as "confrontational, brusque, concerned with winning the argument rather than with group bonding or soothing ruffled feathers"?

I find this description of Internet discussion uncomfortable. I am confrontational, brusque sometimes, but I would never characterize that as "masculine". Especially not in discussion. I look at discussion as gender neutral. Like science. In fact, science is a good example of how I see Internet discussion. Discussion (the back and forth, not the one-sided nature of storytelling), like science, has a purpose: to get at the truth. When two or more people get together to have a discussion, it's not to have a winner and a loser. Winning is incidental. It should be the shared exercise of discovering truth. It's possible that the person I'm engaging with has additional data that would alter my perspective, improve my point of view and I would take a different position than the one I started with at the beginning of the conversation. This is not losing. This is Finding Truth, and it's a Good Thing. A good-faith discussion requires this, and I try to approach every conversation that I have (both on the Internet and off it) with this attitude.

Group bonding comes, in my experience, quite naturally in good-faith discussions even when the people having the discussion agree to disagree, because everyone in the discussion understands that they are searching for the same thing. As for "soothing ruffled feathers", that doesn't fall under discussion to me. If the discussion is a good-faith one, will feathers be ruffled in the first place? Perhaps I'm just demonstrating my own thick skin here. I'm not sure.

Also, isn't this applying gendered stereotypes to behavior? It's not that I don't characterize aspects of my behavior as "masculine" or "feminine", however the act of being in a good-faith discussion, for me, feels genderless. Like the pursuit of science.

Looking at this another way, I guess have a hard time looking at my behavior and Internet conversations as "masculine".

Maybe I'm over-thinking this or being overly sensitive about it. The individual that made this observation about Internet discussions is someone that I've got other "issues" with (specifically in regards to race, but that's another conversation), so perhaps that's coloring my point of view? Hmm. Anyway, I guess I'm looking for other people's thoughts on this, especially if this is a case of "Ai, you're being stupid/overreacting!"
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