Ta-Nehisi has a good post up about the lack of female editors on Wikipedia, and refreshingly, he avoids doing what you see a lot of people do when women fail to step up in certain circumstances as much as men do. He doesn’t blame women for being weak, but instead looks at environment.
It seems to me that is not just a Wikipedia problem, but a societal problem likely extending out from families and schools. Defending your words strikes me as a really good thing. Dissuading women from doing that strikes me as just the opposite.
That said, I’m not convinced that there’s nothing that can be done. For whatever reason, I think Internet sites that allow trolling and aimless idiocy to run roughshod have a disproportionate effect on women. (Terri Oda hints at exactly that here.) I don’t know if that’s because trolls and idiots are more likely to say something sexist or what. But I don’t think the problem is aggressive argumentation, so much as its weak people saying these behind a cloak of anonymity which they’d never say publicly.
He then references the many online situations where racism runs rampant, and how this ugly reality makes him not want to go in those spaces. And that’s exactly it; even the idea of going on to Wikipedia and trying to edit stuff and getting into fights with dudes makes me too weary to even think about it. I spend enough of my life dealing with pompous men who didn’t get the memo that their penises don’t automatically make them smarter or more mature than any random woman. I don’t even have to go onto Wikipedia to tell you that it’s probably like that, on steroids, since, as Justine Cassell notes, on Wikipedia you can actually delete people’s actual words. Women spend huge chunks of our lives trying to get our voices heard. Why go into a space where men can actually erase you?
A lot of the time when dealing with this issue, it’s hard to talk to men about it, even if they don’t mansplain or get pompous, because men literally don’t see how much abuse women take online. When they’re put in the position to see it, they invariably register intense shock, in my experience, such as when Jesse had to deal with the overwhelming amount of bullshit that happened in this space when I joined, or the men I’ve spoken to that end up having to moderate comments for female writers, particularly those who make feminist points. Women get used to it, but it does wear you down, and you find yourself picking your battles before it even begins.
Which is why I was glad to see this article describing a new website called Fat, Ugly or Slutty, which is dedicated to chronicling the abuse female gamers receive because they have the audacity to think they deserve to play online games just like guys do. FUS is just the latest in a number of sites I’m seeing that just simply put the bullshit up for all to see, hoping to give the reader a small taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this crap. It’s a great trend, because all you have to do when someone doubts that you, as a member of a group who gets certain kinds of abuse, are accurately reporting your experiences, is to point them to the website so they can absorb it. It’s a funny site, too, which isn’t surprising—humor is often the only weapon you’ve got.
I see one sign that sites like this are effective. Usually at Kotaku, when there’s a post up about racism or sexism, the comments turn into a sea of white dudes yelling, “Nuh-uh!” And this didn’t happen, probably because the evidence is just so compelling. Instead, they started to bicker about whether it’s worse on PC or console games, an irrelevancy that was nonetheless heartening for what it wasn’t.