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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

April 19, 2005

It's 80 degrees in my office this afternoon. Today's first meeting was at 6:00 a.m. and it's now 3:30 and I'm starting to wilt just a trifle.

Maybe I should blog my massive frustration with Some People Today.

Reading around on so many women's blogs recently, I've been struck by how often I read complaints by women that men aren't "letting them in" to the mens' playgrounds.

And I'm thinking, "Don't wait for an invitation, just step right in. If it's a public forum, you're entitled to be there. If it's not, then start your own forum, since you're highly unlikely to be the only woman interested in whatever the topic is." But stop assuming that any place "men" are hanging out must necessarily be the center of the universe.

But I do understand what these women are saying and I find myself pondering many things, none of which, I just realized, I'm able to write a blog about today because I've tried three times and it all keeps coming out wrong.

Because there are women and there are women, and some women are perfectly comfortable in a "male behavior" environment and others are not.

More than that, there are men and there are men and some of them like nothing better than to get together with other men and act like twelve year-olds and they don't want icky girls in their club, but others are welcoming when their all-male environment is "invaded" by women.

You see? I tried to be as succinct as possible and it still came out dissing a lot of men, which really wasn't what I was trying to do. I was more wanting to diss a kind of mindset.

You see, I'm thinking it's not so much a man-woman thing as it is a child-adult thing, regardless of gender. Some forums/topics are populated by adults and people of both genders can be comfortable there.

Other forums are populated by emotional adolescents (regardless of calendar age) and anyone who is an "outsider" is probably going to be met with mockery or worse.

The problem for women is in determining if they're being met with hostility because they're women or because they're "outsiders" by the group's definition. It's possible that all women qualify as outsiders, but that doesn't mean only women qualify as outsiders. And if it's an "outsider" situation, then it's not really a matter of "discrimination" of the kind that one can do anything about.

Think of them as twelve year-old boys who form a neighborhood "gang" where the purpose is mostly just to create an "in" group so they can assure themselves they're not "out". That's what a lot of the little closed groups online are. And the groups within groups, I need hardly add, like politics. There's a big circle, and it's very inclusive, but there are also the little cliques ba-a-a-ing along behind their chosen leaders.

And realize that, like R*sh L*mb**gh's supporters and Ann C**lt*r's readers, all of these groups can only exist because of who they can exclude from their ranks.

They are "special" not by definition of who they are or what they do/say/know, but by virtue of what they're able to assure one another they're superior to. No actual superiority is required, just a cohesive group they can identify and target.

Could be women, men who don't like UNIX, bass fisherman instead of dry-fly trout anglers, men who prefer soccer to basketball, people who aren't fluent in English, gays, liberals, or anything else. The purpose is not so much who they exclude, it's that they have to exclude someone because they have no positive purpose. If they're not stomping someone down, they're not able to believe there's anyone lower than them, although that's not very gracefully worded. I think....it's like, they feel the poverty of their own lives is lessened by increasing the poverty of someone else's life.

And now I've run far, far afield from women who have trouble getting online populations that are largely masculine to crack open the door to women, and in my mind, this is about to dive into What's Wrong With the Democrats These Days, Anyhow? and I really don't have time for that at the moment.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:28 PM


Aside from the fact that I think you're being perhaps a bit too kind to tag these people as "adolescent" I think you're on to something. It might be worth distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless distinctions (boy I hope so) in the sense that there are, for example, disciplinary boundaries that are not hard-and-fast, but which nonetheless exist and serve some useful purposes.

I think you should forgo the "What's Wrong With The Democrats These Days" thing, though: what's mostly wrong is that we spend way too much time trying to make hard-core Republicans like us (I'm talking the Fundamentalist and Libertarian wings, now) and not enough time being who we are.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at April 19, 2005 04:15 PM

I've long thought that the various pockets of hostility on-line are more about little kids playing tough than anything else. Certainly when I've seen such behavior, it's always reminded me of the bullies in the neighborhood where I grew up. Immature, insecure, and clinging desperately to their "gang" membership for affirmation.

But I'd rather read your thoughts on the subject than my own, if you'd care to expand.

As far as the Democratic Party, you've summed up in aboiut 20 words what I probably would have taken 2000 words to say.

Posted by: Anne at April 20, 2005 08:32 AM