“Women Are Not Men,” Continued

An interesting followup to our recent “Women Are Not Men” podcast, from a listener named Misty Touchette. This incident might more appropriately be called “Men Are Not Men”:

I have two female friends that are about 30 and 55 years old.  They don’t know each other and have very different backgrounds.  A few weeks ago, both gleefully told me about their new Facebook accounts.  They’d made them under the guise of men.  Both chose a similar figure head: a photo of a white, attractive man. The reason? They were tired of being unfriended by issues/cause/political groups when engaging in … civic discourse.  When presenting themselves as women, their comments, even simple statements of alternate opinions on a topic, were flamed, trolled or deleted and then, of course, they were booted from some pages.  

I realize that women penning under a man’s pen name is nothing new.  As others have before them I’m sure, my friends have reported that the new manly persona are yielding an increase in support, silence/tolerance replacing backlash or a return in civil discourse.  After listening to “Women Are Not Men” and considering my friends, I couldn’t help but wonder, hey, how many Wikipedians labeled as men are actually women?

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  1. Ollie says:

    I discovered this pretty early on in life and have been using male nicknames/handles on the internet ever since I was a teen. It made my life easier. First, my opinions are taken much more seriously. Second, there’s next to no harassment and insults. Third, no creepy stalkers.

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    • giada says:

      I have to say I’ve never tried to use male nickname and i don’t know about any female friend who did it , so i can’t tell wether they are advantages or not in doing so. but if it was a fact, how could we accept this so peacefully?’ doesn’t it make you really sad? maybe im naive and a hopless dreamer, but if we are not the first to write/tell our opinions in public or on the internet without any fears and the first proud of being women i can we claim respect and consideration from men and society?

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  2. Seminymous Coward says:

    Gender neutral anonymity would avoid active deceit and accomplish much the same.

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    • Melissa Belvadi says:

      But men are at least subconsciously aware of their advantage and are unlikely to be willing to give it up by accepting gender neutrality. They would find some way to identify themselves as men which puts women right back to where we are now because if the men are self-identifying, those who don’t would be assumed to be women.

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      • Ariffic says:

        Evidence suggests the exact opposite of your claim: that many forums permit gender-neutral nicknames and that men assume genderless nicknames are being used by men.

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    • JT says:

      Interestingly, this has the same effect. Names which aren’t obviously feminine tend to be taken as male online, unless context makes it incredibly obvious. (Even then, I don’t rule it out.)

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  3. JackAndJill says:

    It is ironic, perhaps, that when computer gaming, adopting a female pseudonym garners me, as a male, lots of assistance, instruction and free swag…all without asking for anything out of the norm.

    It is even more interesting in that I just realized that some people will react negatively to this male-to-female illusion where I expect few, if anyone, will react negatively to the OPs male-to-female trickery.

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    • JackAndJill says:

      That last bit should read “OPs female-to-male trickery.”.

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      • Kazzy says:

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      • J1 says:

        No, because there isn’t any.

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  4. George Elliot says:

    I’ve been doing this for years.

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  5. Nrojb says:

    If you attempt to engage in serious civil discourse on facebook, you deserve to be trolled.

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  6. Mike B says:

    I wish more details were provided as to the specific groups where this was happening because I have never seen such overtly sexist behavior on any sort of group that I have participated in.

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    • Impossibly Stupid says:

      Seconded. In fact, I’m inclined to suggest that such hostile environments should be abandoned by women completely, rather than have them put up with the pretense of being men. Why go out of your way to stay surrounded by jerks?

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      • Roxy says:

        Is that the answer you give to women in Egypt who have to put up with being groped whenever they leave their home? Why should anyone have to avoid a virtual space any more than a physical space because someone else is being nasty?

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      • Impossibly Stupid says:

        Yes, I would say (to both men and women) that you shouldn’t go to a country that is hostile to women. The sadder situation is for women who are born there and have no choice in the matter. I don’t know what to tell them; perhaps you can offer a helpful suggestion.

        No, you don’t *have* to avoid a hostile territory, real or virtual. But you do need to know what you’re getting into when you go there. When it comes to online communities, though, there is no “space” other than what the interaction of people makes it.

        My point remains that, at least virtually, there is no reason you have to put up with the negative people in order to talk to the positive people. Negative people have hidden a lot of my comments on this topic, but I can always go elsewhere to discuss these topics if so few here are willing to have a frank discussion.

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      • Mike B says:

        Well the question needing to be answered is if there are places where males get a pass but females get abused. Normally I have found trolling to be rather equal opportunity and of course the insults will be customized for the intended victim so you can’t go by just what one person says to another. Another good question is if women are more susceptible to trolling by either feeding them or actually taking what they say to heart. The very nature of what trolling is means that if you let it affect you you will increase your likelihood of being targeted. By getting upset and writing all sorts of op-eds the trollers win. Just like advertising the way to defeat these people is to simply pay them no heed because they have no actual power.

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    • Roxy says:

      Another incident, this is the first article I found about Anita Sarkeesian, it is not that sympathetic, but I think you will be impressed anyway


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    • Enter your name... says:

      Isn’t “unfriending” pretty much a silent thing? If you get kicked off someone’s page, I don’t think it puts up a note to say “Republocrats R Us has unfriended yet another woman”. So the fact that you haven’t seen it doesn’t prove that it isn’t happening, even on groups that you closely follow.

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    • Roxy says:

      The women who wrote the responses for the article to which I linked were invited to write about their experience. They did not just randomly spout off about how their fee-fee’s were hurt on the interwebz.

      I think the experiment you propose to see if there are virtual places where men are abused and women get a pass is a good one. Please fire up the google machine and see what you can locate. I am interested in seeing the results.

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  7. MW says:

    I suggest a blind controlled experiment. A number of people participate in some online forums, presenting themselves as male or female, independently of their actual gender. Futhermore, the participation will be via some experimenter controlled gateway, so that the participants do not know whether they are being presented as male or female. This gateway will also allow the experimenters to edit sexist insults of participants to non-sexist insults, to maintain the gender anonymity to participants. Optionally, the participants enter multiple discussions, and may have different identities in each discussion.

    At the end, the participants rate how civil the discussions were, how seriously they were taken etc. The experimenters then compare these results to the secretly assigned gender identities (and also to the actual genders of participants.)

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  8. Dave F. says:

    I think escaping stereotypes and preconceived notions is hardly the domain of women alone. Far too often have I felt my opinions on welfare, affirmative action, drugs, etc. were totally discounted because I was a white male born into middle class.

    In the meantime, I enjoy reading Thomas Sowell’s stuff because as a black male raised in Harlem by an aunt, then dropping out of high school BEFORE he turned his life around and went economist, he is allowed to say whatever he wants

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    • Kazzy says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Dave F. says:

      Case in point…

      I am not saying that it sucks being a white male, but I think we should respect viewpoints regardless of where they come from.

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      • Chris says:

        No way. There’s a victims-only policy

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      • Impossibly Stupid says:

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      • Seminymous Coward says:

        Impossibly Stupid:
        Where an idea comes from never has any bearing on the merit of the idea.

        Keep in mind that Dave didn’t even reveal any of his views on women’s and minority issues before you called them self-centered and myopic. Also, it looks to me like being a man hasn’t helped Dave escape ridicule.

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      • Impossibly Stupid says:

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      • Dave F. says:

        I like how you mention birthers – I think almost all of us feel that that subset of the republican party are a bit crazy. Add in those who feel Obama is a socialist muslim trying to take over America.

        I have been wondering if the left had a good analog to those crazy republicans, and turns out they do. It is probably those people that say that a white male who may disagree shouldn’t even be heard.

        Honestly, I haven’t heard anything resembling science from ‘ImpossiblyStupid,” and am amazed that without knowing me he/she thinks they have some understanding of any of my emotions or understanding of minority or women’s issues.

        There are real issues and smokescreens in both race and gender issues. Scorning a certain race and/or gender (in this discussion white males) isn’t a prescription, it is simply more of what got us into these problems in the first place. Conversely, the solutions require reason, kindness, and understanding from all sides. If we had that, this problems would disappear overnight.

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      • Kazzy says:

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      • Dave F. says:

        I wonder what seeing my “marching” would look like to someone who doesn’t know who I am or what my values are.

        Prejudice will judge people solely based on gender or race. It is too bad that your experiences have led you to be so anti a group of people.

        I have wasted too much time with this already – people who really know me would never accuse me of shutting out any viewpoint because of prejudice. Hopefully, Kazzy and ImpossiblyStupid are actually happy, decent folk that simply act differently when allowed to hide behind the mask of anonymity as well

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      • Impossibly Stupid says:

        This has indeed become tiresome, mainly because your supporters are shutting down conversation via moderation. The fact is that you, “Dave F.” are being more anonymous and vague about your values than I am, because I *am* Impossibly Stupid (#1 result on Google). And I will happily tell you exactly what I think (though I at least try to stay on topic).

        The fact also remains that, no, your views don’t need to be heard if they are the same self-serving opinions that have been championed for decades. If you have new ideas, great, we’d all like to hear them; state them directly. If your only contribution is more lamentation about how white men are losing their status, then we’ve heard it all before.

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    • Rob says:

      I get what you’re saying but you need to find a better way to say it. I’ve consistently failed at that but I’m going to give it another try and hopefully get some constructive feedback from the fine intellectuals reading the Freakonomics blog:

      Just because I am far more likely to suffer because of policies concerning welfare, affirmative action, drugs, etc. than to benefit from them doesn’t make my opinion irrelevant.

      Put like that, I think you can see that it’s difficult for anyone, in any demographic, to be unbiased about these things. On the one side you have those who have to support social programs (and yes, affirmative action is a social program). On the other, you have people who will benefit from them. Who can have an objective opinion in that picture? Both sides of the argument are important, compromise is necessary. Ideally, nobody leaves happy.

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      • Impossibly Stupid says:

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