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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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Yes you are probably over thinking it especially when it is really hard to accurately measure tone in online conversation.

That said there do tend to be differences in the way men and women communicate and those generalizations don't hold true for everyone.

My problem is someone else gendering discussion and I just don't believe that there are differences in the way men and women communicate. There are different styles of communication, but I've never thought of those different styles as "this is the way men communicate" and "this is the way women communicate".

I do think that one can generalize communications styles as different between men and women, but I've got no scientific studies to back that up!

After internalizing stories like the one about Alice Sheldon, who published for years as James Tiptree and inadvertently convinced half of the science-fiction establishment that she couldn't POSSIBLY be a woman, I am unable to take seriously projections of gender roles on conversational style.

I do find myself making the assumption that Youtube commenters who write "lol dude this suckzzzz ballzzzzz" are male, and people who would write "omg u didnt hear about that??? thats ok sweetie" are female. I don't like how that gendered stereotype plays out in my head, but it is there, though hardly infallible. Not going to unpack that, as I have no idea how to do so fairly.

But if we're talking about people who're communicating like adults, I don't understand the point of trying to ascribe directness and brusqueness to masculinity, and smoothing-over to femininity. It leads me to suspect the accuser's motives -- are they just struggling to wrap their brain around the possibility that their initial gendering of the writer is wrong? What other assumptions have they brought to the table, then?

Feathers definitely can be ruffled in good-faith discussions. Especially online, but even offline, when cues about how to interpret the message are misinterpreted. So, it certainly can happen, but in a good-faith discussion I'd say people have some responsibility to make an effort to fix the perceptual problem if they want to keep it lighthearted. How can characterizing that as a 'feminine' practice help the understanding of why it works?

I don't think this question is irrelevant, as women who display the least forthrightness are still sandbagged for 'trying to be like men.'

I haven't read the original article, which is in Chicks Dig Time Lords, but it's causing a bit of a fuss in fandom. See here for more context.

Essentially, ascribing directness and brusqueness to masculinity is given as the reason for why female-dominated fandom has "issues" with this one female writer. Which I think is sort of way to say "this is how I am, which is not how fandom is, and because I'm the odd duck, THAT'S the reason for the issues", which I don't think is really an accurate representation of the situation... and to gender the discussion made me extremely uncomfortable because it runs counter very heavily to my own perceptions of Internet discussion.

Your point about feather-ruffling is taken and I should revise my statement: in a good-faith discussion, feathers may get ruffled, but there's always the underlying vibe amongst the participants that feather-ruffling is unintentional. Participants in a good-faith discussion work to clear the air and get the discussion back on track so that everyone returns to the table with rational, clear heads to the problem at hand.

You are right too: characterizing that as a "feminine" practice does nothing to help understanding why it works.

I don't think this question is irrelevant, as women who display the least forthrightness are still sandbagged for 'trying to be like men.'

As someone who is frequently characterized this way, it is frustrating. I'm not trying to be a man, I'm trying to be direct, clear, and concise. If those are qualities exclusively set aside for men, I'll eat my hat. Or yours! Hee!

(Although I probably wouldn't really eat yours, 'cause it's rather nice.)

I think I know why people would make the claim, but for the reasons you detail I don't think it holds up. And I think one could make a case for claiming (equally spuriously) that the "cattiness" of flame wars means the internet is intrinsically feminine.

What you see instead on the internet tends to be private thought -- metaphorically if not literally what we tend to say to ourselves when we're alone in our pajamas. And for a number of reasons, including watching a number of people working alone in their offices, cubicles, library carrels, etc., we don't seem to be as male or female gendered when we're by ourselves as we are in face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversation. Just a hypothesis and I have no idea how you'd confirm it.

Good food for thought though.


p.s. On the other hand I'm pretty sure that classic old-style comment trolls were almost universally men. But I'm not even sure that's true anymore. Lori Drew was convicted on charges related to trolling a teenage girl into to suicide!

Locals looking for you Go Here dld.bz/chwZR

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