"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?


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.


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?

Seminymous Coward

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

Melissa Belvadi

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.


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.


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.


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


You don't see a difference between "trickery" aimed at leveling imbalanced playing fields and that which is aimed at gaining an unearned advantage?

George Elliot

I've been doing this for years.

Marko Vovchok

So have I!

;-) ;-) to those in the know


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

Mike B

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.

Impossibly Stupid

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?


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?


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.)

Mike B

That would also be a good way to see if humans can naturally pick up on the gender of the writer from their writing. Currently computers can do this with accuracy rates above 80% and I believe humans can as well to some extent.


Computers can only do it in personal diary type writing, e.g. based on the number of pronouns, the number of adjectives, and so on. When presenting factual data, or scientific data, it is much more difficult.

Dave F.

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


Oh, yes... us middle class white males... if only SOMEONE would listen to us...


Oddly enough, posing as a woman also has its benefits. Back in the old days of Halo CE, I starting playing on Halo servers as "Megan". Although nothing had changed about my ability to play the game (slightly above average, but certainly no Master Chief by any stretchofthe imagination), I started winning more one on me challenges and scoring more kills and flags in the team flag capture games that I played.

This seemed to be partially due to the reaction of the male players (especially the teen male players) to getting scored on by someone they perceived as female. It seemed that the very thought of being beaten by "girl" totally frustrated them and caused them to make more mistakes.

Of course, I also got to experience the negatives as well...the constant sexual innuendo, the downright nasty comments that made me ashamed to be a male of our species and the pervs that thought I was a teen girl and tried to talk me into meeting them in private chat rooms.

Not all guys were immature morons. Some came to my aid, kicking the pervs off the servers that I played on or just punishing the pervs by assisting me when they could.

I played as "Megan" for about 2 years. It was a very eye-opening experience and gave me a new found appreciation for the very few real girls that played...and an understanding of at least one reason that there were so few of them.


Matilda Glovermos

I'm a man and always write as a woman on the net. I get hit on but the guys are generally nice. I tell them I'm six foot 180 and prefer women...true! They generally move on nicely.

I don't notice being treated much different. I definitely get treated softer and nicer in my male dominated field.

I'm not sure why I do this but it's interested to live a different perspective.

JJ Jameson

Women receive lower sentences in court for the same crimes as men. Women have the ability the vote without the obligation of showing up for draft. The "wage gap" in the US is not because of institutional sexism; it's because women literally aren't working as hard (not because they are less capable, they just don't want that much money, power, status, success). Read up on it, the labor department has a great study on this. Yet scores of feminists are arguing for closing the wage gap like it's a thing put in place by men. They want to be paid more money for doing less work. Finally, feminists are enraged when rape victims's are asked about their alcohol consumption and/or attire, like the choices women make do not affect what happens to them.

All of this leads me to believe that men and women view women as having no moral agency. As if what they do don't affect what happens to them and women are only acted upon and that they cannot act or have meaningful impact on the course of their lives so they cannot be held accountable for the choices they make.