via liberal japonicus
Sound interesting? Well, it's below the fold.
Normally, I'm a guy who thinks that stuff that goes in the comments, stays in the comments, but a point came up there that would have taken the discussion far away from what it was originally, but was an interesting question. A commenter who shall remain nameless (of course, you can look around for the comment and if you are a regular, you already know who it is, but maybe someone might have missed it, so I'm leaving it anonymous), after assuming I was a woman and me replying I was flattered that at the thought that I was, wrote:
Why would a male be flattered that he has been mistaken for a female? Gender confusion issues? I find that sort of problem to be indicative of real mental illness. It certainly would not fly in an infantry company.
I would love to say that I act the way I do because it's me, independent of any gender image, a monad of individuality. I know that's not true, lots of aspects of my behavior are dictated images I have absorbed of who men are, what they do, how they interact. But, this being the internet, and me being me, I try, not very successfully I suppose, to write and interact in a way that hopefully is more 'feminine' than masculine. It's a conscious choice and like all conscious choices, can be undermined by things I don't realize are there, and I assumed that I still left enough tells that I didn't have to keep emphasizing that I was male (which, in its own way, is going to entrench gender in the discussion) However, it was perhaps an unfair assumption on my part to suggest that the commenter didn't know my gender because of a lack of reading comprehension, though if the person confused me with Dr. Science, I think that might be a different matter. (I just had dinner with a recently divorced friend to meet the person he is seeing now. Ex-wife's name is Yuki, new person Yumi. While it may have been perfectly understandable for me to have confused the two names, 'perfectly understandable' does not repair the conversation)
Part of my job here in Japan involves trying to develop models of blended classrooms for students while getting them to learn English. There is a huge amount of research about how gender affects participation in online fora (two papers are here and here (pdf links)) with nothing settled. And while I'm not using ObWi to research this stuff, part of the reason I agreed to move to the front page (beyond feeling part of this community and wanting to keep it going) was to be more fluent in the work of handling online discussions and understanding why they work or why they don't. And my main goal is to have them learn English, not to level the playing field in terms of gender roles. So if I could encourage them to write and post by leveraging gender roles, I will, unless it harms the other gender (and I realize that the notion of only two genders is challenged by changes in society, but those changes have yet to reach my classroom in a way that can be addressed) One could say this is hypocrisy, and if I really believe that people should not be bound by their gender, leveraging gender differences is merely making them more entrenched.
I don't have figures and numbers, it seems to me that most blogs that are Western-centric and have at least a partial focus on politics tend to have more active commenting by men and are certainly not welcoming to women. But it's not just thinking about women, it's thinking about other voices as well. My belief is that if you organize a place that is less confrontational, you get a number of people to participate who wouldn't do so. I take this as a good thing, at least in a forum like this. An infantry company, maybe not, but I don't see any stripe on people's sleeves here and we aren't storming the palisades
So that's a lot longer than my usual open thread, but I hope it might prompt some interesting thoughts. As I'm not at my desk for this weekend, but out and about, I'd appreciate it if we try to keep the focus on the idea rather than personalities of particular commentators. I realize that saying that in a post that starts off with a quote from a commmenter might be kind of bizarre, but if I were to reframe the point so as to keep the quotation out, I might be accused of passive-aggressiveness. So have at it.