It is amazing how naive and oblivious I have been to the obvious gender gap within the online community. I thought, compared to say, a decade ago, that our society had come a long way in terms of gender equality. And it has, but nowhere near as far as what I thought.
Spender stated in 1997 that women were under-represented in computer science training, a lack of women in decision making capacities and that there was a macho culture surrounding the online community. Fast forward 15 years and we see how things have changed. Women now have a presence online, with many blogging, publishing and interacting.
However, the gender gap is still ever present. Business Insider’s Top 10 Most Influential People Online, only one female makes the cut coming in at #5: Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post. From 2002 until 2010, the number of women directors of the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) rose by only 0.2%. However, a considerable improvement in the 2012 Census reveals that 12.3% of directors of ASX 200 companies are women. Although the gender gap is still prevalent, and I think always will be, there have been major leaps in closing that gap.
We see how feminism online has pushed for changed through the use of media platforms, possibly facilitating such changes previously stated. Sites and movements such as Donglegate, Destroy the Joint, The Hoopla and The Anti-Bogan have provided a means for speaking up and talking back.
While media can be a platform for feminism and gender equality encouragement, it can also be a platform for vocalizing misogynistic views and trolling. As the anonymity of trolling creates a chilling effect with their extreme opinions and comments, causes in some cases, bloggers and content publishers to disable comments. It is these cave-man like attitudes towards women which created the 2011 Twitter campaign #mencallmethings. This campaign highlighted the abusive misogynist trolling towards women.
While such misogynistic beliefs are up to the individual, the media and media personalities do in fact have a great role to play in how those beliefs are shaped. Take Kyle Sandilands for example. The radio shock jock has a large viewing audience and therefore his opinions reach a large number of people. Sandilands sparked controversy when he said of News Limited journalist Alison Stephenson:
“You’re a piece of shit. This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of news.com.au online. You’re supposed to be impartial, you little troll…. You’re a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job… Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.” He also called Ms Stephenson a “fat bitter thing” and attacked her hairstyle and breast size.
Writing on a topic which is bound to offend or stir up some pretty controversial opinions is difficult to do. I found myself cautiously thinking about what to type and how to phrase my thoughts. It seems everybody has quite a unique view when it comes to feminism and women’s online presence, but I hope that we call all agree on the fact there is no place for such vicious and misogynistic attacks online, directed at women or men.