Men overrepresented in women's spaces

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Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby almulhida » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:52 am

Online, specifically. I'm on a number of spaces online that are aimed towards women but welcome everyone. On one women gamer forum I lurk the subject of women's armor came up again and I was irked and somewhat curious about why so many people were just not getting it that I started to go through people's posting history and keeping a note of anyone who explicitly gendered themselves male (no guessing). A non-trivial amount of the traffic the place gets is by these men, so that was interesting, though maybe I should have expected as much.

There's a presumption when you go to a place aimed at a certain demographic that the majority of the people there are of that demographic. No doubt a lot of the people who inhabit spaces aimed at different demographics are there to get a sense of they think, so it's a little weird that, e.g, a white person could go to a PoC space and end up reading a lot of things written by other white people, and think they were written by PoC.

More problematically whatever discussion could have happened in that thread was buried by an argument that happened between one of the men and... well almost everyone else. It's frustrating that in a women's space the discussion still ends up being squelched by a few vocal men.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby almulhida » Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:04 am

Heh looks like I basically posted the same thing Quietmarc did in the other thread.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby Lovely » Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:25 am

Definitely agree. And while it coincides with some of what quietmarc was saying in his thread, I think it's important to discuss how this affects different groups.

For women, I'm gonna use the example of Reddit. Specifically the sub of AskWomen. The sub is supposed to be about asking women questions, but Reddit's demographics are heavily skewed toward male (and white and cis and straight, etc). Combined with a voting system what this means is that often, even if women are answering the questions (and they clearly are not always), that the heavily skewed demographic can make sure that only the male approved answers are highly upvoted.

What this effectively means for that particular sub is that women are not answering anything.

It's a bit different on sites that don't have voting systems, but essentially anyone can pop in and say something that (due to the purpose of the site) people will assume is from the target demographic (like a woman on a for-women site) and not from someone outside of that.

And it IS frustrating when women get to make a space where their voices are supposed to heard by eachother and men end up derailing. Which is why I 100% approve of spaces for people that exclude an oppressor class (queer only spaces, WoC only spaces, etc.) It's often necessary to get to the heart of matters on more equal footing than can happen when, like in your example, men end up talking a TON in a space built for women.

It's drives women away. And it ends up a husk of a space.

The fact that some of these spaces exist at all is great, and might only be there because of the Internet connections (ie bringing people together across great distances) but it faces a problem when dealing with folks who should really be quiet/listening on an issue and yet they still feel they deserve free-reign to talk about *all* things.

TL;DR: I hear you.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby almulhida » Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:58 am

Funny you mention reddit. I hang out on the PoC subreddits and someone came on the Saudi Arabia subreddit and asked why all the Saudis there seem to hate Saudi Arabia. It's like a)You're on an English speaking forum, you're not exactly getting a random sampling on Saudi opinions (it definitely skews liberal) and b)Not everyone on the subreddit is Saudi to begin with.

And it IS frustrating when women get to make a space where their voices are supposed to heard by eachother and men end up derailing. Which is why I 100% approve of spaces for people that exclude an oppressor class (queer only spaces, WoC only spaces, etc.) It's often necessary to get to the heart of matters on more equal footing than can happen when, like in your example, men end up talking a TON in a space built for women.


It's a shitty situation where this is necessary, honestly. There has got to be women out there who would be turned off by having an explicit filter to keep out men, and they're women I want to talk to too. I worry creating exclusive spaces that are enforced narrows the range of opinion represented by the target demographic, though it's hard to know how seriously to take that worry.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby Lovely » Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:27 am

almulhida wrote:
And it IS frustrating when women get to make a space where their voices are supposed to heard by eachother and men end up derailing. Which is why I 100% approve of spaces for people that exclude an oppressor class (queer only spaces, WoC only spaces, etc.) It's often necessary to get to the heart of matters on more equal footing than can happen when, like in your example, men end up talking a TON in a space built for women.


It's a shitty situation where this is necessary, honestly. There has got to be women out there who would be turned off by having an explicit filter to keep out men, and they're women I want to talk to too. I worry creating exclusive spaces that are enforced narrows the range of opinion represented by the target demographic, though it's hard to know how seriously to take that worry.


That's an interesting point. And there probably are women who wouldn't feel great about having a "no men" policy in women's spaces.

I'm just not personally sure how to balance allowing all people into all spaces, with the fact that in designed-for-women spaces men will continue to talk over/shout down/derail.

And so I tend to come back around to the "maybe it's not the greatest solution, but it feels necessary" in having women-only spaces. Unless there were significant moderation at hand to make sure that any time a man were derailing/shouting over that that particular user would then be banned. Again, not really perfect.

Funny you mention reddit. I hang out on the PoC subreddits and someone came on the Saudi Arabia subreddit and asked why all the Saudis there seem to hate Saudi Arabia. It's like a)You're on an English speaking forum, you're not exactly getting a random sampling on Saudi opinions (it definitely skews liberal) and b)Not everyone on the subreddit is Saudi to begin with.


Mhm! It's a very American/English-speaking-privilege minded thing to imagine that a whole bunch of Saudi people would be talking about Saudi Arabia ...in English...

And, yet, it's not as though having those spaces are inherently bad. People who do speak English (and not Arabic) may wish to read more about Saudi Arabia which is why I imagine a lot of people end up there. But, then like you say, they're also hearing from not-Saudi people, too so...how much are they really learning? *shrug*

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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby Kirbmarc » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:06 am

Mod Edit -Hidden Text for Derail [ Show ]
hang out on the PoC subreddits and someone came on the Saudi Arabia subreddit and asked why all the Saudis there seem to hate Saudi Arabia.


To be fair there some pretty good reasons to hate Saudi Arabia. http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/saudi-arabia http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/saudi-arabia http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/saudi-arabia
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby Lovely » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:04 pm

I'm out right now so I have to make this quick.

Kirbmarc - I don't feel that was appropriately contributing to the conversation that was happening in this thread. The topic is not "what's wrong with countries" it's "what to do to keep men from derailing spaces for women"... Kinda ironic.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby quietmarc » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:17 pm

First, no offence on my part, I don't feel this thread duplicates what I've said, though they cover similar themes. I'm male, so I'm vulnerable to ignoring my privilege in that respect. I was very lucky, though, in that when I was coming out I had access to a youth group that ran a help line for queer youth and as a part of training for that we engaged in a lot of seminars about safe spaces and privilege (I don't know if we used that term though)...it was eye opening to me to be told that even when there's equal numbers of men and women in a group, men are more likely to speak, to interrupt, and to be listened to. It could be confirmation bias now, but I've seen it in practice....there just needs to be one guy (eg, me) and the balance of power shifts in the room. Because of my social anxiety, it's always a weird feeling when I realise that I'm the person being listened to, when there are women in the meeting who are more qualified than I am in every respect.

I think safe spaces are essential, and I also think they take a lot of work. People on the privileged side of the various axes tend to forget that the world caters to them, so they sort of assume that unless explicitly told that they are guests, that they are full participants and co-owners of a community or space. They get comfortable, they invest in the place thinking that it is for them, too. And when they come against someone telling them that no, it isn't their space, they feel as if something is being taken away from them. This is where you get that sudden shift in the conversation about "reverse sexism" or reverse-whatever, because they mistake being excluded (and not even excluded, most often) in ONE place for being excluded (really excluded) from ALL the places.

It's a double-standard that safe spaces for women need to be explicitly for women whereas the world is just by default for men, and in an ideal world men would be taught constructive ways to handle their privilege, like how to wait a few beats before chiming in with their opinion, by considering how women might perceive their statements, by remembering that they are guests in the space and not part-owners. But we don't live in that ideal world, and so maintaining a safe space as safe ends up being a lot of work for those who have the fewest resources to do that work. Guys need to get better at listening to the room and deciding if everyone needs to hear -another- guy say basically the same thing, especially if guys aren't the target audience.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby ApostateltsopA » Thu Jan 23, 2014 9:03 am

quietmarc,

I agree with this thread and avoided participating here because I didn't want to perpetrate the thing being discussed. I do want to disagree with one thing you said though.

It shouldn't fall to those with the least spoons to tell captain privilege to shut up and listen, it should fall to the rest of us with full bingo cards and plenty of spoons. We are there, and ideally reading and participating appropriately. Part of participating appropriately is calling our peers on their privilege.

And on that note, in the nicest possible way, it bothers me that your post is so much longer than the ones preceding it. Let's you and I shut up and listen on this thread.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby quietmarc » Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:22 pm

Quick point of clarification: i don't think I said it should fall to those with the least spoons, I said that it DOES fall to those with the least spoons.

I have more to say but I will take it up in another thread.
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby smhll » Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:18 pm

I think safe spaces are essential, and I also think they take a lot of work. People on the privileged side of the various axes tend to forget that the world caters to them, so they sort of assume that unless explicitly told that they are guests, that they are full participants and co-owners of a community or space. They get comfortable, they invest in the place thinking that it is for them, too. And when they come against someone telling them that no, it isn't their space, they feel as if something is being taken away from them.


I think this is really well said, quietmarc.

I was surfing old pages on Metafilters meta threads this week, and in 2009 they had a very long discussion about making their space less unfriendly to women. (Google metafilter plus boyzone if you want to find it.) The thread covered some of what you said, but in a meandering fashion. It seems really hard to get a privileged person to grok the presence and absences of privileges. Kind of like a dog chasing and not catching its own tail. Elusive. (That's just an image of nearly fruitless effort. I'm not comparing anyone to a canine.)

Some of the emphasis on "let's not say those things about Ann Coulter" makes a space like Metafilter more welcoming for lots of people, not just women. (I think we all know that insulting men by comparing them to women does splash damage to anyone who hashad to put up with this kind of trash talk, especially if it brings back memories of being trapped and bullied in school.)

I have to run and won't be back for several days, so I don't really have time to track down a link. But I find Metafilter kind of cool in ways, and uncool in others. They have paid moderators, so trolls tend to get weeded out and disagreements can get explored without flames (or maybe with occasional flames, but with fire extinguishers). However, the demographics there skew male, I think, while also skewing leftist politically.

[As an aside: they also had a megathread once about whether 'civility' is necessary and desirable or possible and reasonable to expect in discussions of SJ topics.]
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Re: Men overrepresented in women's spaces

Postby Sun Countess » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:37 pm

It's a shitty situation where this is necessary, honestly. There has got to be women out there who would be turned off by having an explicit filter to keep out men, and they're women I want to talk to too. I worry creating exclusive spaces that are enforced narrows the range of opinion represented by the target demographic, though it's hard to know how seriously to take that worry.


Different venues yield different conversations, absolutely. If you want to hear what women exclusively have to say about some topic, then by necessity you have to exclude non-women from the conversation. On the internet, exclusive webspaces for marginalized groups almost *have* to be private or otherwise have their membership tightly controlled to keep out the privileged classes who would otherwise come in and dominate conversations. Because that's what society tells the privileged classes that they can do, no matter where they are, because their opinions are always valued. I enjoy a handful of private web spaces where woman-centric conversations can be had without trolling or JAQing or academic "balanced perspectives" from otherwise clueless "allies."

In a public space, where it's "geared toward" women (or any other marginalized group) but where men are encouraged to lurk or even participate, I would never imagine that women's voices would dominate the conversation, unless the topic itself was of almost no interest to the vast majority of men (e.g. menstrual cramps or menopause...and even then I imagine a few trolls would stop by to make crass jokes, or some clueless dood would feel absolutely qualified to 'splain to the ladies that his woman doesn't have these problems because she maintains a positive attitude or "Have you tried lowering your salt intake?" or blah blah blah more 'splainin', I'm sure you get the picture....). If a space is open to privileged groups, and the topic is of wider interest, I assume that I'm hearing from mostly privileged voices, unless there's pretty strict moderation.

As far as not hearing from the women who would be turned off by a space which filters out men, I wouldn't place too much worry there, because from my experience, said women are usually pretty comfortable speaking their minds in wide-open unfiltered spaces. Either because they have a boatload of other privileges, or because they're so sick and tired of being told that they're not supposed to be speaking, so they've decided to roar. And be awesome.
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