How Internet Anonymity Hurts Women…

…I mean, maybe! New geek-girl blog The Mary Sue posted yesterday about the downside of internet anonymity for women (and sort of other “minority” groups). Polo’s basic argument is that, as in other areas, people assume that everyone defaults to a straight, white, male, unless told otherwise. If people are truly anonymous on the internet, the unfortunate assumption is that they’re men. This creates a vicious cycle–people assume they’re operating in a male dominated space (which is often true), the perspective of the conversation can become very male-centric, which in turn makes the space more hostile for women, making the space even more male-dominated. Polo’s suggestion is that you try and “out” yourself as soon as possible. She uses the example of “out and proud” gay people who correct the “straight until proven gay” assumption, which I think is apt (although maybe not in the way she’d like it to be).

The problem with Polo’s suggestion is the same problem with the assumption that these “out and proud” gay people have an implicit obligation to out themselves for the betterment of society. I recognize that in both cases, you’re doing a public service–if people know there’s a black person in the chatroom, or a genderqueer person, or any kind of person who isn’t part of their default assumption, that’ll be good for those people. But it sucks for us, right? It’s martyring your personal comfort in order to educate people, and no one should be obligated to do that. It’s especially interesting the Polo has this perspective as someone blogging from a specifically girl-geek blog, because that seems sort of antithetical to me. With real-life outing and internet-outing, there are two general options: try and make existing spaces safer (by outing yourself), or to create new spaces from scratch (like instead of outing yourself and educating ignorant people, you could just hang out with awesome LGBTQA folks all the time). Polo is advocating for one, but using a platform that exists because of the second option.

 

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