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Motion to close the survey

I have to say that these days I work more with women than men on a professional day-to-day basis, and I find this entire discussion mildly bizarre, even though I started it. The more I understand the issues judging from the responses, the more I realize that the type of women who feel insecure with using the real names are the same type of men who feel insecure using their real names, and it's really not a gendered concept per se. What is gendered is the level of insecurity in our society, but there is nothing to be gained by encoding that in our social system, but rather we should ensure that people behave themselves (cf. StarlaPureheart). At least that seems to be the consensus that has emerged, as I read it. Thus, I move to close this survey. Seconders? Dissenters? -- SunirShah, June 6, 2004

My intuition is that there are more of that type of women than there are of that type of men. Similarly, men and women both have the same fears of walking the streets at night, but the proportions affected differ (according to the surveys I've seen). Still, the UseRealNamesForWomen survey isn't going to get proportions, only types - one would need proper research to get the proportions. --MartinHarper

After doing a lot of background work on stalking (cf. WhatIsaStalker) [for various reasons that I haven't completely mentioned here], one reason why Wiki:GirlsDontWiki is that they have to UseRealNames, and this makes them vulnerable (cf. VulnerabilityToCommunity). Women tend to need to feel safe, not vulnerable. However, ironically, PenNames reduce their over all security as men can use them too to harass them without accountability. Our IP/domain AuditTrail isn't likely to be helpful either. Consequently, I conclude that MeatballWiki is architecturally sexist, which isn't surprising as we are all men building it. -- SunirShah

I think that really depends on the community. In a chat room where "hey babe wanna" is the norm then women would not want to use real names. But in a community that is woven among communities of real responsibility, then RealName s are a source of power and support. -- AdinaLevin (real name identities including http://www.eff-austin.org, http://www.austinbloggers.org, http://www.socialtext.com) (and am I supposed to add this at the bottom?

Your argument would show that VulnerabilityToCommunity is sexist. While it is certainly sexist not on its face, I suppose the you might have some notion of "sexist-in-context" such that taken in the context of a (threatening?) mostly male community, VulnerabilityToCommunity would be "sexist-in-context" (in the sense that women would be more adversely affected by that policy than men).

If we give up VulnerabilityToCommunity, in order to be fair we should not hold anyone to this standard. Would we be willing to give up VulnerabilityToCommunity even if it were sexist? -- BayleShanks

Not just a threatening male community, but a patriarchal culture. I've read enough feminist literature in my lifetime to accept this as real. I like VulnerabilityToCommunity; it has been useful. So I wouldn't just throw it out. -- SunirShah

I agree with the premise: in general, women are more sensitive to BodilyRisk?, being physically weaker and in higher danger from (in particular) rape. This shows in things like walking the streets after dark, for example (compare the "Reclaim the Streets" campaign). Another issue is unwanted sexual approaches, which affect women vastly more than men. There are also societal norms to consider. So this sort of issue has bothered me somewhat. Since we're on the subject, FrontLawn vandalism seems to affect a higher proportion of overt females on EnglishWikipedia, and of a nastier kind, so I wonder if even the fundamental tenet of EditThisPage is potentially discriminatory. (see discussion of this point below)

It is quite easy for a gender-blind approach to be discriminatory, counter-intuitive though this may seem. For example: shared open plan changing rooms for men and women would be discriminatory: a sports facility should make reasonable efforts to provide alternatives. Having said all that, I do not believe the current policy is unreasonably discriminatory, given that there is the option to contribute without a name, or to lie. I'd be interested in other reasonable steps we could take. --MartinHarper

Gender-blind policies are almost always sexist as society is inheritantly sexist. Compare NaturistClubs.

One thing we could do to ameliorate the PerceptionOfVulnerability is to make this wiki (and wikis in general) feel safer - remove personal attacks and flame wars, act as a community against harassment, actively intervene. There are options here, without resorting to HardSecurity. --MartinHarper

Good point, but I take it for granted the community will work against harassment and flame wars. I submit that safety is merely a hygiene factor (cf. Frederick Herzberg's Motivator-Hygiene theory), insomuch as women are always hestitant to enter any male-dominated environment for fear or annoyance of being hit on. To motivate more women to come here, we will have to sell this place as somewhere they would actually want to come to satisfy some need of theirs. I suspect they have the same needs as the men here, except we haven't actually gone and talked to as many as I had originally when I talked to all the wiki developers (all men at the time) to kick Meatball off. You are what you eat, after all. This isn't to say that we are desperately in need of seeking out female communities and soliciting their interest. It is to say that we are too narrowly focused right now and that we should branch out to find new spaces to diversify our patrons. We are currently spending too much time studying WikiPedia and MeatballWiki and WebLogs anyway. By we, this time I mean not just me, as I am too busy. Is it my responsibility though? Maybe we should continue in an organic growth pattern, though I think we are moving towards GroupThink already. -- SunirShah

While I suppose it would be interesting to know if using their real name would turn off potential female contributors, regardless of the outcome, I certainly would not be in favor of exempting half of earth's population from this rule. If people are not willing even to provide their gender to us, any notion of VulnerabilityToCommunity or of "living in MeatSpace" goes out the window.

The typical "use real names cases" reason that "i want to keep my online persona and my real self separate, just because i want to" seems like a better reason for a pseudonym to me than "i don't feel comfortable telling the community my gender" (and since the former reason is not good enough for us, the latter shouldn't be either).

I reiterate that I am willing to allow UseRealNames exceptions for people who have a good reason to believe that harm would come to them in RealLife if they disclosed their identity. But not for reasons of personal comfort (unless we go all the way, and allow pseudonyms at will). -- BayleShanks

I'm curious why you think "Just because I want to" is a better reason than "It would harm me". To me, it's clearly the reverse. You have the digital RightToLeave, but you also have a deeper human right to be free from discrimination and harassment. -- SunirShah

I don't. I meant personal comfort in the sense of the fear of unconscious gender discrimination or of being called names online, rather than a fear of actual RealLife damage. If I felt that women were exposed to damage to their real lives, either their reputations or their persons, I would be amenable to adopting psuedonyms. But then, to be fair, I'd push for giving up UseRealNames all together. -- BayleShanks

... you also have a deeper human right to be free from discrimination and harassment.
realizing those rights by accepting "hide and you won't be harrassed" is clearly wrong. As Sunir said on WhyUseRealNames: "It is the definition of oppressive to live in a world where you cannot fully express your own identity out of fear [...]." If we want a satisfiable solution, we (as members of a "image-challenged" community) need to go beyond cyber-naval-gazing and get answers from those who are not participating online. -- DavidSchmitt

I doubt that using real names is the real issue. Just look at the blogosphere - so many women writing publicly under their real names. I don't think it's the technology either -- I run a very active wiki where most of the contributors are women. It's about natural parenting, though, not tech stuff. So if you wonder why there aren't many women here, maybe consider the subject of this wiki. -- Wiki:YonatSharon

True. Thanks, Yonat for your insight! I suppose it's the same with any constituency. I just have to market to a more gender-balanced audience. Maybe next I'll go for sociologists. -- SunirShah

On the blogosphere you can permanently block someone's comments, and disable anonymous ones too. BlogFarm?s such as LiveJournal have GodKings watching over it. Perhaps that is a factor too.

Talking to more women, particularly a sociologist I know, about this suggests Yonat's example of the blogosphere doesn't cover; LiveJournal has (a lot of?) cases of harassment, stalking, false males, and PenNames. I need real empirical data. -- SunirShah

Come to think of it, a LARGE number of LiveJournals are "friends-only", often as a result of problems with other users.

I will offer the following comments. In real life, my first name is distinctly female, and my maiden last name is a slang word which means breast. My grand mother, my mother and I before being married, have been hassled, not in everyday interactions, but by cranks, anonymous phone calls, anonymous letters, and sometimes door peeping, which required police help in several cases for my two elders. The name certainly was the initial reason the sick people called, but ultimately, what was funny was to bug lonely women without fear of punishment. My elders chose to disappear from public lists to hide themselves. I chose to have my name masculinized to prevent night phone calls, while staying available for my family, friend and professional relations, who just consider there is a typo in the name. The information provided when linking a name and a phone book is just too important for safety.

When I jumped on internet, I naturally chose a no-sex identity (usually interpretated as male) or a masculine identity, essentially because all the places I went to were populated by men only. It is extremely easy to do so in english. Not in french, where holding a masculine identity requires to be very careful.

Later, I held different sex depending on the place I was. When the topic of the place is neutral, there is no need to hide (some would say lie, but to me it is hiding). When the topic is very focused, such as for me in the agri or industrial world, or on games forums, and quite often on political forums, that is different. When a woman gets in a masculine world, there is a very disctinct change of behavior. Either the community gets more policed, less rude in comments (usually far less sexist and dirty jokes and less personal attacks) and welcome the woman, or on the contrary out the woman quite quickly. Very often, there is one individual who will start making sick comments, that may make some quite uncomfortable and that ruin the place spirit. Except if there is moderation or a strong spirit preserving social behavior, it sometimes gets to the point it is just best to leave.

This said, I don't think the place is sexist, it is just the topic which explain there are no women. Much more than RealNames to my opinion. Sexism also is a two way concept. When one prevent a woman doing something because of her sex, when one prefer to employ a man instead, that is sexism. But when one adopts special behavior and special rules for women, as if these had to be exceptional, that is discrimation and also sexism. Somehow, it is my feeling that a rule that would say men should use real name while women may do otherwise, is just recognition and acceptance of our vulnerability. This is paradoxical :-) But what should be done to my opinion should not be to recognise us different and take actions to compensate that, but just to actively fight what make us feel unsecure and what is hard to accept in the wiki process (such as personal attack with threats).

Wikipedia case

FrontLawn vandalism seems to affect a higher proportion of overt females (compared to overt males and to those whose gender is not immediately obvious) on EnglishWikipedia, and of a nastier kind, so I wonder if even the fundamental tenet of EditThisPage is potentially discriminatory. --MartinHarper

is this true? What is the source?

Probably the inherent gender-assymetry in our society. How many males feel threatened by females and vice-versa?

this is exactly what has been happening in the past 10 years or so in the feminist fight. Women have confused gaining rights and equality, with oppressing men and trying to make them change their nature. Women say their despair over the inequal share of rights and duties. Some men feel they are at the same time asked to keep the virtues of their grandfathers (strength, courage, responsability), but also to acquire those of the grandmothers (compassion, listening, affection). That may lead to a confusion of identity, particularly in front of women who behave like men themselves. Some men are resentful, and feel like we are the big winner of the past 30 years. We feel resentful still to be the ones doing most of the housework duties, to be the first victims of unemployment, not very present in the managing teams (especially top ones) or in governemnts. Both sides now feel victim of the other side. That is for sure regression, not progress. That was the first mistake of the past years. Second is victimisation and feeling that protection must come from legal means.

if there are few women on wikis, do not look so much toward use of real names, even if that generate some fear to some of us. Consider double day work in particular :-)

It goes much deeper than that:

Along these lines there are many more differences which are way deeper ingrained in the community subconcious than the discussion about acceptable work for women.

No, rape is about power, not sex. Men who get raped don't enjoy it any more than women. It is true that legal and social repercussions differ (eg, in some jurisdictions, women rapists are charged under different laws). Also, men commit more rapes than women, statistically.

Sorry, that I was unclear. I wasn't talking about plain out rape, but just the little bit of fondling and kissing that crosses the line of "normal conduct". A friend of mine told me about his dentist and her advances on him. He wondered but obviously didn't mind. -- DavidSchmitt

Little bit of fondling and kissing is rather part of normal human behavior and relationship, no ? It is when it is missing that life is sad. Whether a man or a woman, if you appreciate it and appreciate the other, gently play with it. If you do not like, just do not react in front of the appreciation the other shows you. Or plain say you do not want such an intimacy if the other does not get it. Ihmo, a mature person can express this without hurting the other. If the other really do not get it, just slap him, with words or more. Only when there are situations of power from one on the other, either physical (when a stronger forces a weaker) or moral (such as a boss on an employee) is there a real problem. Imho. Unless there is power, most should be solved amicably :-)

Yes, you are right. That's the point I wanted to make: while in normal relationsships this behaviour is symmetrically accepted, in situations where it is not usual, men do not feel as exploited or used as women.

When I asked about the source, I didn't mean the origin, but what did you read it in. I supposed you meant 'higher proportion of overt females compared to overt males'. Did I guess right?

(what does that mean, overt ?)

opposite to covert. Declared. An overt female is open about the fact that she is female, and does not obscure her gender behind a gender-free pseudonym, for example.
I've added some text to say what it's compared to.

If your gender is not immediately obvious, you are usually assumed to be male on the Internet, just as if your race is not immediately obvious, you are assumed to be white.

On the other hand, you have a 95% chance to be able to distinguish between male and female from the text written. -- HelmutLeitner

References please? I have seen many people I know to be women be addressed as men or referred to as "him" by people who do not know their sex. On several occasions, people have assumed I am female -- TarQuin

I can only offer participation (active or passive) in experiments. One could snip parts from discussions and neutralise known authorship. Then one could test "gender perception" capabilities. -- HelmutLeitner

2 years experiment allowed me to guess only twice that someone everyone thought was a guy (per default) was a woman in reality. Though "in reality" would have needed an identity card to check the claim :-)

Really ? Now that you say this...yes...if I had no read something about a pipe, tweed and nose picking, that is true I might have assumed this :-)

but why ? I think...because compared to many, you are low profile (non agressive, quick to apologize and descalate conflict). Curious thought as I do not really relate this to women :-) (shaking my head)

Projection (do we have something on SelfProjection??) means that men tend to assume maleness, and females femaleness. The situation may be different in languages with WikiPedia:grammatical_gender.

Yes, it's in the CyberTypes inspired pages (except I never wrote them because I was travelling at the time I was reading it). -- SunirShah, not white nor "INDyan"

There are two ends to minority rights. There are of course what the majority does and there are what the minority feels. It is paternalistic (what a word to choose!) to presume the majority has to manage the feelings of the minority (i.e. they are entirely extrinsic), but certainly it should not believe that the minority intrinsically feels that way, and thus entrench those feelings. Special rules are never acceptable, but understanding how and why a minority feels oppressed helps the majority understand what it can stop doing to be first more accommodating and then, finally, what it can start doing to be more integrating. Integration requires the so-called oppressed to do something themselves though. Affirmative action doesn't help the lazy, it just breaks the glass ceiling against the lazy. -- SunirShah

I'm one to feel that the problem is that that I haven't asked enough women to participate, probably since I didn't know enough women. Since that is changing, the demographics here will change. Birds of a feather; people only feel comfortable in environments that have people that reflect their own sense of identity. So, I think the lack of women only reflect generally that we are too GroupThink here on Meatball and that we should try to be more plural, women, men, queer, or otherwise. By we, I mean only me in the sense that I can only make myself be more plural, but maybe something for others to consider. -- SunirShah

I'm not a woman, but maybe my experiences are relevant to this discussion anyway:

On and off since 2000, I've been pursued by a fairly persistent stalker who uses Google a lot. She found me on WardsWiki and tried to glean as much as possible from my contributions there, though since she's not a programmer I suppose most of it was Greek to her. I lived in Barcelona for five months, which was reflected on my own web site, and when I returned to NewYorkCity I updated my bio accordingly. When she found this on my site -- she's also in NewYorkCity -- she left me about 50 voice-mails in the course of 24 hours.

Has it affected the way I interact online? It has, to some extent. You can find out online that I live in NewYorkCity, and if you were persistent you could probably figure out what borough I live in, but I have been very cautious not to give out more specific info about where I live. I never mention what neighborhood I live in, or what subway I take to get home -- she does not have any idea where I live, and I want to keep it that way.

In other ways, it has almost nothing to do with how I post online. By nature, I'm fairly peculiar about what personal details I will give away to strangers online, sometimes quite a lot, sometimes quite a little. For whatever reason, I don't worry about what this would do to my stalker's mindset. If I were interested in guarding my personality from her I'd write less online. But in fact her behavior in the past has been fairly unhinged from reality, so it's easy for me to imagine that whatever I post won't penetrate her consciousness.

FYI, for the last year or so I've had very little from her in terms of emails or voice mails, so I'm a little hopeful that she's had some sort of psychological help and is moving on with her life. -- FrancisHwang

And a non-stalker observation: Techie-culture has a highly specific style of having conversations. It's a style that feels quite natural to me, and I expect I would barely notice it, if it weren't for the fact that in work situations I'm commonly the go-between between techs and non-techs, and when the two styles cross it can be quite shocking to the non-techs. I remember very vividly working at a web shop, years ago, having a very intense conversation with Paul, another programmer, about a bug in one of the HTML templates. After Paul agreed I was right, he went off to fix it, and I turned around to see that Jenny, the project manager was aghast.

 Francis: What?
 Jenny: What was that about? Does Paul hate you or something?
 Francis: No, what do you mean?
 Jenny: Just, just, the way you guys were talking ...
 Francis: Oh, we always talk like that.

As a first stab I might characterize this style as something like this:

In very broad terms, I think this is a pretty gendered style of conversation, which is to say that if you were to find the people who talk this way you'd find a disproportionate amount of them would be men. (Not that it's genetic or innate or even that one style of conversation is better than another.) I can imagine being a woman and assuming that in many online social spaces, these dynamics predominate. -- FrancisHwang

What the hell? What is the problem? It's like when people accuse me of being racist just because I'm Canadian. About how many regular contributers to this wiki? Not alot. That isn't enough for a statistical analysis. People assuming that your male happens because the majority is male and the topic is gender neutral and the language has no gender tones. If you talk in a woman dominated forum, your male and speak in gender neutral ways, people would probably assume you are female.

Men being threatened by femmnism is just a general human reaction to being demeaned by association. ParaLanguage Example of Some Femenist Literature: "Just because you are male you are partly responsible for all of these demonic things, so therefore your a horrible person." Male Reaction: "You socially injured me so I'm defending myself in XYZ ways. You are unjustified in my particular case, or are justfied in my particular case so I'm going into denial"

The only really valid argument I've seen is that women are more prone to being stalked because more men tend to have social ineptness which leads to stalking. Geeks tend to have a higher concentration of men because of historical reasons (weren't women shunned in geeky things and sciences 1950s and before?) which meant that this computer geek culture started male dominated. Geeks also tend to be socially inept. This created a barrier of socially inept men who would be more prone to stalking women that usual. This creates a barrier to computer-like things to women because of all the creeps. Since wards-wiki/wikipedia started out as a geek thing, they mostly drawed it out the already male-dominated population. Meatball came from wards-wiki and so drew on a male dominated audience and leads to what we have today. [More later] Note From a Few Days Later: I opened my mouth before I really knew the entire situation (still don't). My antagonism comes partly from being accused of racism through minority-type-racist literature when I don't really think of that racism at all and my behaviour is not racism specific.


No, men are allowed to harrass, overbear women, because it is assumed that the behaviour is natural for them or at least they are more prone to it. When a few boys bullied me (I am female) at elementary school, the teacher understated their behaviour using those excuses. Then the bullying got so bad that my family had to move. In history, there have been societies without any rapes, like some isolated Greek islands. People there couldn't have imagined such behaviour, thus it never happened. And there are still some matriarchal tribes in China, so you can't say that woman are by nature less confident than men. The fact that the majority of societies are patriarchal is just of good or bad luck, I can't decide which. A just balance should be possible.

Women are belittled in our society. Also women belittle themselves, if some man is going to protest this claim. The assumption is that they are more irrational, more stupid than men. Women are considered more emotional than men, and emotion is considered the opposite of the reason. Your notion about scaring women by science fits this scheme, because science is thought to to be rational.

In my home country women use Internet as much as men. However, wikis I have found there have mostly male writers. I blame both the fear of technology and the fear of geeky subjects.

I have never read such feminist literature as someone cited above, although I have read several books and lots of articles. Are you misinterpreting it? They refer with word "masculine" to the things that are associated with men in this culture, not to the men themselves. Thus the Sun is masculine, physical violence is masculine etc. Yes, that wording is confusing.

--Anonymous, who doesn't want to use her real name for whatever reason

In this case, I started the survey after some women had actually told me about their concerns about using their real names online (including with respect to Meatball). It's not like being told you are a racist because you are a Canadian. It's like being told it's racist to require the Lord's Prayer in your schools.

While there are those men here who have the same concerns, like TarQuin, the claim is that statistically there are a significant number of women who feel this way (and who also aren't CryptoNauts). The first step in understanding is asking. Now, I'm not convinced they aren't cryptonauts, personally, so at least I'm back to being confident in UseRealNames.

As you point out correctly, our maleness relates to the fact we only stuck to male-oriented populations. Now that I'm moving away from compscis, so hopefully I can help the gender balance shift. -- SunirShah

The lack of overtly female conributors to this thread is telling...

I use my real name online, but then my online and offline identities have been linked for a very long time. I've used the same email address continuously since 1990 and am pretty comfortable with Internet culture, etc.

However, online creeps of various kinds do exist. Online creeps of various kinds at least anecdotally appear to be predominantly male, and their victims appear to be predominantly female. This anecdotal evidence, whether statistically valid or not, creates the perception that women need to be especially concerned about RealLife dangers arising from online activities. To insist that someone with that fear use her real name is to guarantee that she will not participate in your community. Whether you care or not is, of course, up to you.

With that said, the only case of online harassment that I'm personally aware of involved a male victim and a female harasser. Certainly online creeps who prey on men also exist. I think though, (sweeping generalization alert) that a man who did not want to use his real name might be more likely to simply refuse to do so, either quietly adopting a pseudonym or overtly challenging the community. A woman might be more likely to see the "rules" as unchangeable, and go elsewhere. --KatherineDerbyshire

Thank you very much, Katherine Derbyshire, for your calm, well-worded post and your "everyday" courage. You have insight into a frustrating situation.

I'm a woman whose instinct for self-preservation battles with the instinct to enter and enjoy worlds both virtual and real. Women's fear of being harassed, stalked or worse comes from the experience of being harassed, stalked or worse, and from seeing it happen to countless others.

Thank you again for your post. Your tone of quiet understanding made me willing to take my (small?) risk to post as well.

Does anyone know if a WikiCommunityForWomenOnly? exists?

I believe that there are a number of good reasons for me as a woman, and for women in general not to reveal any personally identifiable information such as their real names on the Internet. Several of these have been outlined above. The only thing I would add is my conjecture that it is typically younger women who are probably going to report being comfortable using their real names, and then, as they get older and acquire one or two unpleasant experiences - either personally or second-hand - many begin to say, "the heck with that! I'm sticking with a nom de plume." Either way, I wish you all safe surfing and good luck! Anonymous East-Coaster



MartinHarper -- Wed Jan 13 10:06:07 2010

In many cultures, women typically take their husband's name when they get married. Only 17% of women in the USA retain their unmarried surnames [1]. Women in these cultures are often raised to see their birth names as disposable and temporary. Resulting thoughts:

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