Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world …

This week’s topic in our Gender and Computerization class is “Computer-mediated communication on the Internet (Part II). Gender, identity, race, and sexuality.” The four articles we read look at how people portray and perceive and gender and race online.

One article from 1998 and another from 2000 pretty much started out with the assumption that most people pretend to be something online that they’re not in real person [1, 2]. It matches the attitude at that time. After all, the famous dog cartoon was published in 1993 when very little was known about the ‘net.

[1] begins with “It is a remarkable fact that many people who have never before been interested in cross-dressing as a member of the opposite gender are experimenting with gender identity in typed encounters on the Internet.” [2] includes the following line: “Now, it is commonly known that the relative dearth of women in cyberspace results in a great deal of ‘computer cross dressing,’ or men masquerading as women.”

I’ve been pretty active on the Internet since 1998, and my personal experience is much different. I have known of only one or two instances where people pretended to be a different gender. That’s one or two out of thousands of people I’ve met online (and some of whom I’ve met in real life). I don’t know. It may be just because I don’t frequent the places online where sex is the key topic of conversation. (Music is usually the key in my online escapades.) But, I find it hard to accept this as fact.

To me, it seems like people assume that just because it’s possible to pretend to be a different gender, then people will do it. Just because people CAN do something, doesn’t mean they will. Now, I do know that there are some people who do pretend to be a different gender. But, I do not think it is as widespread as these articles lead us to believe. Also, these articles make it seem as if these people pretend to be a different gender all the time. I can see someone trying it out for a little while, but I think most people just go back to being their real gender.

There is even some research out there that backs me up.

It reminds me of an old joke:

A woman and her husband are camping and are sleeping in a tent. The husband is snoring very loudly and the woman can’t sleep. So, she gets up and tries to read outside the tent. But, she can still hear him snoring and can’t concentrate. So, she gets into her husband’s fishing boat and rows out to the middle of the lake and enjoys the quiet as she reads.

After about an hour, a DNR officer approaches her in his boat and asks to see her fishing license. She informs him that she’s not fishing and therefore doesn’t have a license. The officer tells her, “I’m sorry, but you have all of the equipment there and could fish, so I’m going to have to write you a ticket.”

The woman replies, “Well, then I’m going to have to charge you with rape when we get to shore.”

“What?” the officer cries. “I haven’t touched you!”

The woman replies, “I know, but you have all of the equipment and you could.”

[1] Danet, B. (1998). Text as mask: Gender, play, and performance on the internet. In S. G. Jones (Ed.), Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting computer-mediated communication and community (pp. 129-158). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[2] Nakamura, L. (2000). Race in/for cyberspace: Identity tourism and racial passing on the internet.


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