When you think about the internet, and especially social media, it is really perfectly made for women. Relationships, cooperation and communication are qualities that are almost implemented in women’s nature so one would think that the web could be a woman’s playground. In some cases it really is, like Pinterest, where 97% of the users are female! Despite this point, there has been an ongoing discussion about women’s place in the virtual sphere. Where are the women in the online decision making roles?
Today I was asked to mention as many influential online male persons that I could think of and several names came to mind; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergei Brin and Larry Page (Google), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Julian Assange (Wikileaks). Just after that I was asked the same question again, but this time I was to think of female influential persons, and honestly, I could not think of a single name. There is a clear online gender gap today, but personally I choose to look at it more positively. We have a long history of women fighting for equality, and there are still reasons to debate, but I will say that women have had great success as well. The situation for women in the corporate world is strengthen and is still getting stronger. Gradually there is a change in people’s perceptions and ideologies of “the woman at work”, this is just something that does not happen overnight. It takes time, but I believe that in the future we will see several influential women competing with the men online. I believe that in 2012, women and men stand equally in their choice of education, I think that, in addition to the above, it is a matter of interest that men choose computer science, technology and engineering more often than women do.
But in connection to gender online there is a greater concern to me. Several female media personalities like Miriam O’Reilly and Nina Power, Karalee Evans and Melissa McEwan have lately taken a stand and expressed their frustration regarding misogyny online. As unbelievable as it may sound in our era, there are actually a few men out there who do not think that women should have a say in the world, they have a hate and a dislike of women. They express this by commenting on women’s blogs and other online platforms in a disgusting manner. The comments serve an attitude that bias to undervalue women. Their goal is to threaten women to silence, and in many cases the threats are violent and sexually violent.
A problem with an online world is that people can appear anonymous, this also an invite to an open domain where everyone can freely express themselves, but how open should it really be? We would not approve for misogyny to occur in the real world, so we should not approve for it online. Several women have closed their accounts in fear, some have chosen to remove the option of public commenting on their posts and others are moderating and filtering the comments. This is not right! What happened to the space which we talk of as the closest we have been to democracy?
Being a firm believer of user generated content I will again pt my trust in self-regulation. We have to remember that it is only a few men in the world who share these attitudes, the majority of both men and women would go against that kind of behavior, voting their comments down and away. Maybe if we considered having an even more open domain, where users are able to vote comments up and down, and even like and dislike them, these comments would end up in the bottom of the comment-thread, giving them no attention and displaying them as the least interesting comments. Although the comments may still occur, the self-regulation system would in itself act as online gatekeeper and diminish the credibility of the threats.