Note: this is a reproduction of an article that originally appeared on the Carleton University site in 1995 but which has since disappeared.

It is reproduced with the permission outlined in its opening section. Nevertheless, should its author, Jocelyne Voisin, email to request that I remove it then I shall do so forthwith.


Copyright (c) 1995
Carleton University
Working Papers in
Communication Technology and Culture

This document may be reproduced in any form and freely circulated provided it is not in any way altered, and this statement is not removed.


Jocelyne Voisin
Graduate student in
Mass Coinmunications
Carleton University

March 10, 1995


[1] If you're a man, on your next visit to the virtual community you may find some closed doors or some brick walls. Forums reserved for women-only are cropping up rapidly to answer the needs of those women who have suffered at the hands of male netsurfers. Whether in Usenet groups, IRC or MUDs, female participants have been subject to sexual harassment, overzealous flaming and even virtual rape. Recent research detailing the ways in which women have limited access to network facilities and forums has also served to precipitate the move towards separatist groups. Women, it seems, were not freed from the prison of gender stereotypes when they stepped into the electronic world.

[2] The answer, however, is never as simple as it seems. Women-only virtual communities do not have impenetrable barriers to keep men out. Gender-switching is a common practice on the Internet and is not always detectable. In response to this habit, most moderated female groups have adopted some limited procedures to ensure the exclusion of men. But as the Net expands and crystallizes, the means for dealing with cross-talking may become more sophisticated and more severe. This possibility raises many questions: Do the verification means currently used by women-only spaces have the potential to infringe upon the freedoms of others? How are women's groups to battle malicious gender-benders who infiltrate their forums? How do we decide which is more important: freedom from or freedom to? And finally, is separatism a viable solution for women in their efforts to change contemporary societal views?

[3] Although I do not profess to offer the solutions to these issues, I contend that by exploring the reasons why women have attempted to create a unique space on the Internet and speculating about the dormant baleful tendencies of these separatist communities, this analysis could offer a better vision of our current path and aid in directing our future steps along the information highway.

Separatism and Radical Feminist Theories

[4] Separatism is not a new concept for women theorists. Radical feminists in particular suggest that the creation of a woman-only environment is the only solution to escape patriarchal oppression. They claim that an exclusively women's environment would be supportive, egalitarian and nurturing, because women's nature differs from the hierarchical and dominating nature of men. Within communication studies, Liesbet van Zoonen describes the media strategies of radical feminists : " ... women should create their own means of communication"[l] Although van Zoonen later criticizes this approach for its lack of foresight, the fact that it has been adopted by several groups on the Internet, with reasonable success as we will see, lends it some degree of credibility.

[5] Recent feminist utopias have also explored the idea of separatism. Stories such as "A Gate to Women's Country" by Sheri S. Tepper or Pamela Sargent's "The Shore of Women" provide visions of the future in which women have reappropriated the earth and assumed power in a time after nuclear destruction. Although appearing to present the ultimate fantasies of radical feminists both authors eventually question the wisdom of the segregated society they have created, where women dwell in cities mostly forbidden to men. I deferentially aspire to present here a project similar in insight and wisdom to theirs.

Gender and Technology

[6] In addition to radical feminism, literature addressing issues of gender and technology abounds. Sherry Turkle describes women's relation to computers as one of 'computer reticence', a feeling originating in "the social construction of the computer as a male domain through the eyes of women who have come to see something important about themselves in terms of what computers are not"[2] Women see a culture of computer hackers, anti-social geeks with their eyes glued to screens and their fingers fluttering incessantly on keyboards. Women fear losing an essential part of their gender identity - meaningful human relationships - by interacting with a machine. Although Turkle's assumption that gender is a social category and that technology is gendered in its production and use, she leaves little room for women to define their own space and fails to explain the presence of a large number of women on the Net. If Turkle's theory is correct, women would be more reluctant and less likely to participate in computer networks like the Internet. Although it is true that men outnumber women on the Net, even in Usenet groups such as alt.feminism and soc.women [3], the claim that this is the result of a reluctance on the part of women is proven invalid by the very existence of women-only groups and the participation of women in other areas of Netlife. Furthermore, the assumption that the use of computers necessarily forfeits interaction and communication can not be upheld in relation to a technology like the Internet. In fact, Pavel Curtis argues that people are not addicted to video games, but to communication [4].

[7] Wajcman argues more convincingly than Turkle that technology is culturally constructed as a male domain, one in which women are not encouraged to venture. Without experience, many women lack confidence when encountering these new technologies. This lack of confidence is then translated into an image of technical incompetence and essentially "becomes part of the feminine gender identity"[5] perpetuating the cycle. Many present works focus specifically on improving the technical competence of women in computer networking as a means of curtailing the under-representation of women on the Net. Cunningham suggests an Internet training course specifically designed to attract and to be accessible to professional women.

[8] However, one key problem Cunningham notes is that "the association of computers with men and masculinity is reflected in the jargon that has grown up around the field and in the popular media"[6]. Words such as 'electronic frontier' and 'cruising the information highway', radical feminists would argue, have masculine overtones and alienate women further from the Internet culture. Gender, then, is inescapably linked to communication. In other words, communication is never neutral; language is always imbued with cultural or societal values. Similarly, Michele Mulvaney states that " ... gender is both an influence on and a product of communication"[7]. Donna Haraway, however, offers a way in which to reappropriate the discourse of technology on women's terms. Her metaphor of the 'cyborg' as one of restructuring the way in which we view the 'other', the fusion of different elements into a new way to envision the world [8], is particularly suited to the Internet. The fusion of the machine and human in this case, seemingly renders us, as users, genderless and raceless. But by leaving the physical body behind, aren't we also compromising the political agenda of feminism? Is our identity not tied to our body? Is the acceptance of the sexed body not part of the project of feminism?

[9] Much of the literature on the Internet concentrates on the marginalised position of women in terms of access to the technology, the hazards of cyberspace for the unsuspecting female or, in the words Leslie Regan Shade, indulges in "tired stereotypes of computer use by men and women"[9]. Although these are valid concerns, the Internet must offer some sort of attraction for women users, else the discussion of women in cyberspace would be moot. Some women indeed persist past the barriers of entry and the problems encountered on the Net. Flaunting traditional gender technology studies, Nancy Kaplan and Eva Farrell conducted an ethnographic analysis of two young women network users who find the Internet "congenial and useful for their purposes, understand and make sense of their own behaviors as denizens of electronic spaces"[10] Indeed, it is crucial to understand the ways in which women reflect about their use of the Internet and their positioning within virtual communities if we are to discuss the value of separatist discussion forums.

[10] In their recent study of women and the cellular telephone, Rakow and Navarro recommend that women be more involved in policy making decisions concerning technological development [11]. This recommendation is based on the assumption that the design, production and use of new technologies is a highly gendered process, but also that inherent in these new technologies is the potential to reshape present cultural constructs and remodel social hierarchies. In reappropriating technologies such as the Internet through women technical support groups and women-only discussion forums, the leading female computer programmers and network coordinators are concerned with issues of design, use and the possibility of remodelling the cultural category of femininity on women's terms - not men's. If technology is partly gendered through its use, a good place for feminists to begin their project is to secure a space for women who use this one.

Computer-Mediated Communication and Gender Styles

[11] One more area of theoretical work is of interest to the project to be undertaken here. With the advent of the Internet and its startling popularity, many communication theorists have developed an interest in computer-mediated communication (CMC) and its differences from face to face interactions. Claims that the absence of visual cues such as race, disabilities and physical appearance in computer-mediated communication eliminates inequalities and renders the Internet inherently democratic, have been tempered with studies confirming the persistence of gender categories online. In one such study, Susan Herring outlines the existence of gendered styles of communication which are reflected in online discussion [12]. These different styles are sometimes referred to as "debate" and "relate" styles [13]. In essence, Herring argues that men have a more aggressive style of communication in which they criticize or ridicule other participants, whereas a female style of communication focuses on the expression of personal feelings and supporting others. According to her research of two online discussion forums, Herring found that it is "virtually only men who flame"[14] and suggests that men assign greater value to freedom from censorship and open discussion than women do as an explanation of this behaviour.

Gender-Swapping and MUDs

[12] The existence of gendered communication styles has significant implications for the practice of gender-swapping online. Many network users profit from the anonymity of CMC to experiment in adopting a gender-neuter pseudonym or one of the opposite sex. But if, as Herring argues, gender specific communication styles are recognizable, then theoretically, cross-talkers can be recognized despite attempts at camouflage. Nonetheless, there are some burgeoning legends of cross-talking in Net culture, such as the tale of "Sue" who broke the hearts of many MUD players in the early 1980s when she turned out to be Steve in real life, and Van Gelder's (1991) now famous account of "Joan", the disfigured, crippled and mute woman who was really an obsessive psychologist named Alex [15]. The potential for deception in CMC has elicited considerable controversy particularly in the realm of MUDs, where relationships between players sometimes evolve into romantic relationships in real life, or virtual sex encounters and even virtual marriages. In cases like these, the stakes are much higher.

[13] In her study of MUD culture, Elizabeth Reid suggests that it is commonly accepted that women more rarely play a character of the opposite sex than do men:

"This one-sidedness runs in parallel
to a common claim that male-to-female
cross-gendering is far more common than
the reverse, a claim that rests in part
on the notion, common lore amongst MUD
players, that most of their number are in
fact male. "[15]

Pavel Curtis supports this claim when he says that " is advised by the common wisdom to assume that any flirtatious female-presenting players are, in real life, males"[16]. Proportionately, it seems likely that men outnumber women on MUDs; firstly, because men outnumber women on the Internet in general, and secondly, because MUDs were originally based on male oriented role-playing adventure games (although the emergence of MOOs - Muds object oriented - and other variations of multi-user dimensions now provide a more habitable space for women).

[13] Discussion on Usenet groups about MUDs shows, however, that many women players assume male identities in order to avoid sexual harassment and preferential treatment in role playing games. Included here is an excerpt from a discussion about this issue on

">Try it sometime. Notice how much harassment you get. I
>wouldn't want to play a female for any length of time."

"I agree. I tried an experiment: I logged in as a female and my friend logged in as a male, both the same character, stats, etc. even similar name. My character got more eq, got more help, etc. just because it was a female (and I'm a male) than my friend's character did (she's a female). I also got a shitload of harassment.... "

The very fact that there is consistently different behaviour directed towards women strengthens the argument that people include gender as a key factor in relating to one another. Many network users may find the encounter with gender-neutral others to be unnerving and confusing. With no social expectations or indications of how to relate to a neuter, network users are left floundering, searching for cultural references to direct their communication behaviour.

[14] Intrinsic in the potential for deception, is the prospect of personal exploration. Amy Bruckman argues that "MUDs are an identity workshop"[18]. Indeed, the opportunity to explore how the 'other half lives' brings into the question the very nature of gender constructs and provides a means of exploring our own sense of gender identity. When discussing her own gender-swapping experiment, Elizabeth Reid admits it was an "experience that gave me a greater understanding of the mechanics of sexual politics than any other I have ever had"[19]. There is, then, some promise of positive repercussions in cross-gender experiences. A man exposed first-hand to the injustices suffered by women for centuries may adjust his own behaviour as a consequence. In the discussion on, one man admits his reluctance to believe claims of sexual harassment until the implications were more personally meaningful:

"Someone else made a derogatory comment once that it
seemed all the females were on Pkillling [player killing]
MUDs. I would have poo-pooed the whole subject until
I finally got my wife interested in MUDding. I simply could
NOT believe what she had to put up with continually
just to play ... Personally I saw a lot of reasons why
females would choose male characters, or choose
muds which allowed them to mace someone who deserved it. "[20]

Questioning of the relevance of this for the feminist project arises again when Elizabeth Reid asks: "What, for instance, will it mean for feminist politics that in cyberspace men can not only claim to speak for women, but can speak _as_ women, with no one able to tell the difference?"[21]. Enforcement of rules against the inclusion of men or the practice of gender-swapping is still left mostly to the cyberspace community in question. The virtual reality domain, however, permits behaviour that is not normally acceptable in real life. This disinhibiting effect is often blamed for the prevalence of 'flaming' and sexual harassment, but as we see in the example above, MUDs also offer women the opportunity to gain virtual revenge on male assailants which would either be physically or legally impossible in real life. Reid provides an example of one woman who uses her own methods of punishment for sexual harassment:

"On the muds i play, im happy to kill people for
harrassement[ ... ]I was getting tells like 'How big
are your tits' or 'you want to mudfuck' which is
really annoying. So to the females who have
problems, head to the player killing muds where
you can avenge yourself... "[22]

I haven't yet decided whether this violence is empowering or scary.

[15] Leaving MUDland temporarily, we can relate some of these issues to the realm of discussion groups and policies about the exclusion of men. There are a few questions I would like to raise here. First of all, is it at all plausible that a man "lurking"[23] on a women-only group could gain considerable insight into what it is to be a woman? Wouldn't he learn even more by assuming the identity of a woman and participating in that discussion? The assumption underlying these questions is of course that conversations among women differ significantly from those among men or within mixed-sex groups. Another assumption is that lurkers are curious but not actually harmful - a dangerous presupposition to make.

[16] If Lurking can be likened to being a fly on the wall, then what is gender-swapping? And, for that matter, what is gender? Although for some, uncomfortable or unhappy with their own sexual identity, gender-swapping is the ideal way to escape the confines of a physical sexuality they feel ill-suited for in real life, for others, pretending to be the opposite sex is just that: pretending - a game and no more. Is gender, then, just a state of mind? How tied is the body to categories of gender? of race?

Challenges to the Boundaries of Fiction and Reality

[17] The realm of Multi-User Dimensions challenges traditional boundaries of reality and imaginary. It embodies the postmodern condition in which rational dichotomies of real/unreal, fiction/reality are rejected and replaced with conceptions of multiple realities and subjectivities. Virtual worlds are creative, moldable spaces where each player fabricates their own understanding and interacts on a plane completely severed from the constraints of rationalism and physical reality. This is especially true of MOOs in which the attainment of status is no longer centered around success in battles or quests, but in the ability to manipulate the environment to _create_ objects [24].

[17] It might be useful, here, to formulate my analysis of virtual worlds in the postmodern context. Postmodernism is characterized, according to Geraldine Finn, by the following two theoretical standpoints among others: 1) "A recognition that reality is socially constructed as are the organizing categories (of history, reason, self, subject, sex, sanity, etc.) by which it is known and reproduced;" and 2) "A reevaluation of the old polarities which modernism has taken for granted as 'objective' categories of the real and in terms of which the real has been both organized and reproduced: the familiar, hierarchical oppositions of self/other, subject/object, reason/emotion, mind/body, history/myth, reality/illusion, individual/society. "[25]. Therefore, MUDs can be examined within the postmodern paradigm for two essential reasons: first, they dissolve the frontiers of reality and fiction and second, they encourage an exploration of multiple identities.

[18] I have already discussed the possibilities of virtual worlds for the exploration of sexual identity. From this, it is easy to see how role-playing domains invite users to take on multiple identities. When one character dies, you can assume the identity of another, whether female, male or neuter, and whatever species you choose. The choice in some multi-user dimensions is limited only by imagination. Existing in a state of continual co-realities, many MUD players come to see their characters as an extension of themselves. According to Mary Gentile, however, the state of multiple identities is particularly important for the project of feminism. She argues that women " ... must begin to see themselves as in a network of multiple possibilities, multiple perspectives and multiple identities, where there is no clear split between 'I' or 'not I', but a rather a range or continuum of existence"[26]. By adopting the postmodern stance and accepting that virtual characters are only alternative expressions of our own identity, the line between real life and imaginary becomes rather blurred. The originator of the first MUD, Richard Bartle, commented on the tangibility of MUDs in 1990 when he wrote:

"MUAs [Multi-User Adventures] have an emotional hold over
their players which stems from the players' ability to project
themselves onto their game personae, feeling as if the things
which happen to the game personae are happening directly to the players themselves.'[27]

[19] Prevalence of MUD sex and MUD marriages also attest to the seriousness with which these virtual worlds are considered by their inhabitants. The nature of MUD characters as simple characters in a game or as alternate identities could be debated extensively, but it is beyond the scope of this project to do so. My point here in adopting the position that virtual reality has a profound effect on its participants, is to demonstrate why some women have chosen to delimit a man-free space.

[20] The story of "A Rape in Cyberspace" by Julian Dibbell illustrates this point, I think, better than anything else. Within her account of the virtual rape of two women on a MUD called LambdaMOO, Dibbell speculates about the relationship between reality and fiction. As a full-fledged participant in this virtual community, she claims that " ... what happens inside a MUD-made world is neither exactly real nor exactly make-believe, but profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally meaningful'[28]. Surrounding the debate about the punishment of the virtual criminal, were issues of physical versus mental abuse and means of dealing with the offender. Did a crime really take place in the space connecting minds? No physical contact. No obvious evidence. But there was no doubt that this event hurt those players: not just the characters, the players. Dibbell tells the story of this tragic event as a personal revelation about the power of language. She invokes the discourse of the postmodern to explain the happenings she recounts:

"For whatever else these thoughts tell me,I have come to believe that they announce the final stages of our decades-long passage into the Information Age, a paradigm shift that the classic liberal firewall between work and deed (itself a product of an earlier paradigm shift commonly known as the Enlightenment) is not likely to survive intact."[29]

[21] Whatever else this story may tell us, it certainly provides compelling proof that women cannot escape the violence of the real world on the virtual one. It also demonstrates the extent to which the real and the imaginary are melding into one powerful subjective experience, with little to differentiate them. Measures are undertaken in the real world to avoid or escape from these destructive experiences (never walking alone at night or carrying a "rape alarm"), why not implement some protective measures in the virtual world as well?

Women's Virtual Communities

[22] Despite the virtual violence, the sexual harassment and the intimidating communication practices in some mixed groups, we can not assume that women-only spaces online are simply reactionary. Although the establishment of a safe haven was most likely a large part of the motivation for some groups, such as WIT (Women in Telecommunications) on ECHO, I believed there has to be more to the issue than fear alone. So, I asked them. I talked to four different discussion forums - three of which were exclusively reserved for women and one which was open to both men and women.

[23] I found that the theories forwarded by radical feminists purporting that women-only groups would be more supportive and community-oriented than mixed-sex groups, were partly correct. Many of the women I spoke to confirmed that they felt more comfortable and more at ease knowing that the group was reserved for women. One woman wrote to me and said:

"i also feel that a womyn only space is much more supportive
than the "mixed" areas i've been in (in general)"[30]

Another woman responded likewise:

"I am glad that this is a woman only space,
many personal and sexual issues are discussed here,
I would feel less at ease discussing these private matters
if I knew a man was lurking. If a man needs to learn
more about bisexuality, he can jump on bisexual
list but most of the lurkers on this list are heterosexual
males invading women's space to get off... I do not feel
like being part of some guys fantasy... I have no desire of
fulfilling that void for any man without consent."[31]

Implied in this woman's comment is that there are lurkers on this list, - that this is an accepted fact. It is as though the myth of exclusivity makes the participants feel more secure, even if in reality the space is not exclusive and can never be. For as argued by Howard Rheingold, "The possibility of an electronic imposter invading people's most intimate lives is inherent in the technology" [32]. If it is impossible for women to enforce exclusive policies, then why do they even try? A woman who was actually the founder of one such group explained that there was some debate at the beginning about the issue, but that they finally decided to make it all-women. She notes that this strategy also served to cut across boundaries of class:

"There were many members who felt that open
discussion of issues would not happen if there were
men present. And there was a strong sense of
self-identification as "staff women" in a strongly
hierarchical institution that had many forms of
class bias, male-female, faculty-staff, student-nonstudent, etc. We drew staff women
from all levels of the institution, from vice-president
to custodian, to our meetings.[33]

Once the group had acquired that "distinctive style women bring to group structure", the woman added, the policy was amended to include men as well.

[24] In all this talk of excluding men, I was forced to consider the possibility that men did not even _want_ to be included in these groups. However, I suspect that the minute a 'do not enter' sign is posted, one want to enter. My suspicions were not wrong. One man responded with this answer to my question about the wish of men to be included:

"Yes. One good reason as an example: because
(we suspect) some of the women-only groups
would be of good quality, of genuine interest,
and wouldn't pander to traditional male subjects
and views that some of us find boring. No doubt
there are bad reasons why men join such groups as

Furthermore, both the founder of BITCH and WIT and of Internet-Women-Info said that men wanted to be included in their groups. One of them sounded frustrated by the constant demand: "Yes, men want to be included in ALL FIVE of my women only lists; they HATE to be left out of anything, even though they have plenty of relevant forums of their own." What about men-only groups? Would women feel excluded or offended if they were not allowed to participate in a "boy's club"? Evidently, there is an argument in favour of the marginalised group struggling to find its own place in the vast expanse of the dominant culture. Even so, most women were neutral about this issue. One replied: "There may well be such groups. I don't know of any that I'd want to join, nor do I feel left out."[35]

[25] Exclusivity on the Internet is a myth. At present, the Internet is a public forum, and policy to exclude men will never function to actually exclude them. Nonetheless, I asked the moderators of these women-only groups what measures were taken to ensure that no men were included. The moderator from Systers, a group reserved for women in science and computing, relied mostly on faith:

"My policy so far has been to believe
people when they tell me they are
female computer science students. I
don't undertake any additional efforts
to verify."[36]

Most groups who do undertake some kind of verification procedure, usually limit it to checking if the person applying for submission has actually registered their computer account as a female. However, WIT (Women in Telecommunications) actually places telephone calls to the applicants to get voice confirmation.

[26] In the case of a man who was actually found "lurking" on a female only group, one woman related this tale:

" ...there was one incident that I am aware of ... He
posed as brenda, when in fact he was brian ... a few
women asked him kindly to leave, that this list was
for women only, a few naive women actually talked
to him..then Julie the listserve administrator took
care of the problem and quickly his account was removed."[37]

[27] At present, these enforcements are not severe. They do, however, have the potential to infringe upon the rights of those who wish to participate in various forums on the Internet. Will moderators begin collecting lists of known 'lurkers' that they could share - or worse, sell - to other exclusive groups? Perhaps they will start sending out application forms or requesting picture identification. Will the trend towards exclusivity spill over into other groups, until the Internet loses all its potential for open forums and democracy? What about freedom? Are these exclusive groups discriminatory?

[28] One argument against the implementation of women-only groups is that they undermine the very project of feminism. How can women make headway in the social, political and professional realms when they are not making themselves heard and understood to the rest of the community? They cannot emancipate themselves in isolation. One woman respondent actually disagreed with the exclusive policy for this very reason: "I don't agree with the exclusively female policy for this list. I've worked too long to try to break into a male dominated field to talk out of both sides of my mouth."[38] Indeed, the purpose of women-only forums seems somewhat self-defeating. On the other hand, one might argue that there is no other way for women to create the kind of environment in which they feel completely comfortable. The scenario attempted by the Syracuse University Staff Women's Forum list seems to be a reasonable compromise: essentially beginning as women-only in order to build the community in a way acceptable to women and, once established, allowing men to join. In this way, "the STRUCTURE could be developed to make women feel comfortable in the inevitable presence of men"[39]. It remains to be seen whether men would eventually overtake the group through pure numbers or not.


[29] Although many tout the anonymity of the Internet as the solution to discrimination, I have attempted to show here that gender still exists on the Net, but that the participatory nature of this technology may offer some interesting possibilities for the reconstruction of femininity. Exclusively women's groups have emerged partly in reaction to the violence and inequality in cyberspace, and partly as a natural desire to construct a space in which women feel they belong. But this brings me to ask: why are there no exclusively female MUDS? As we have seen, the possibilities for self-exploration and creativity in MUDs offer plenty of opportunity to reconstruct a gender identity in a way suitable for women.

[30] The prevalence of gender-swapping practices, however, limits the extent to which these spaces can be uniquely feminine. Practices used to exclude potential gender-bending lurkers, although not yet effective, may soon become more sophisticated. If so, the glorified freedom of the Internet will be in danger of becoming a realm of cages and walls. How do we reconcile the desire of women to take control of their own gender identity, to protect themselves from violence and the privacy of individuals? Is separatism the best way to promote the political project of feminism? In "A Gate to Women's Country", Sheri Tepper concludes that separatism is not the final answer - will we?


I would like to thank the class of 27.511, who, through their stimulating discussions have inspired many aspects of this paper.


[1] van Zoonen, L (1991), p. 37

[2] Turkle, S. (1988), p. 41.

[3] In a study conducted by Gladys We (1993), the percentage of women participants in alt.feininism was 11% and in soc.women, 13%.

[4] in Rheingold, H.(1993), p. 152.

[5] Wajcman, J. (1991), p.157.

[6] Cunningham, S.i. (1994), paragraph 11.

[7] Mulvaney, M. (1994)

[8] Haraway, D. J. (1991)

[9] Shade, Leslie Regan, (1994), paragraph 2.

[10] Kaplan, N. and Farrel, E., (1994), paragraph 7.

[11] Rakow, L.F. and Navarro, V. (1993), p.144

[12] Herring, S. (1994).

[13] in Truong, H.-A., (1993).

[14] Herring, S. (1994). Getting 'flamed' essentially means receiving a harsh, negative rebuttal to an expressed opinion. 'Flaming' is the jargon of network users for this type of behaviour.

[15] related in Rheingold, H. (1993), p.164-165.

[16] Reid, E. (1994).

[17] Curtis, P. (1992).

[18] Bruckman, A. (1993).

[19] Reid, E. (1994).

[20] From 'Gandalf'; Newsgroup:; subject: Re: Female Characters and MU*

[21] Reid, E. (1994)

[22] in Reid, E. (1994), from; Newsgroup:

[23] "Lurking" is an Internet slang term used to indicate the action of reading but not contributing to discussion in a group. Someone who reads while never writing anything is therefore a 'lurker'.

[24] As explained by Elizabeth Reid (1994), social MUDs, include MUCKS, MUSHes, MUSES, MOOs and TinyMUDs. These virtual environments focus on social cohesion and cooperation, to encourage interaction between players and encourage creativity.

[25] Finn, G. (19?? ), p. 125.

[26] in Wolmark, K., (1994), p.21.

[27] in Rheingold, H. (1993), p.155.

[28] Dibbell, J. (1993).

[29] Dibbell, J. (1993).

[30] The respondents in these quotes will remain anonymous upon their request. Only the name of the lists will be included as reference. This particular excerpt is the response of a woman from the Bisexual Feminist listserver. Furthermore, I have tried to remain as faithful as possible to their original formulation, including grammar and spelling irregularities.

[31] Bisexual feminist group

[32] Rheingold, H. (1993), p.164.

[33] A respondent from the f-email listerserver.

[34] This was my only male respondent and it must be noted that he is a member of the f-email discussion group (the only group which was mixed-sex). This fact alone may predispose him to be more interested in women's issues than other men might be.

[35] A woman from the Internet-women-info listserver.

[36] Moderator of Systers.

[37] Bisexual feminist group. The names included in this quote were substituted in order to assure the participants anonimity.

[38] Internet-Women-Info list

[39] Co-founder of The Staff Women's Forum


Balka, Ellen, "Women's Access to On-line Discussions about Feminism", _Electronic Journal of Communication_, Vol.3 (1993) available at URL: access.discuss-fem

Bruckman, Amy S., "Gender Swapping on the Internet", presented at the Internet Society, San Fransisco, CA, August 1993. Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/asb/papers/gender_swapping.txt

Cunningham, Sally Jo, "Guidelines for an introduction to networking: a review of the literature", _The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture_, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1994. Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/ejvc/CUNNINGH.V2N3

Curtis, Pavel, "MMding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities", Proceedings of DIAC 1992. Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/MOO/papers/DIAC92.txt

Dibbell, Julian, "A Rape in Cyberspace or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society", _The Village Voice_, December 1993. Available at URL

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Kaplan, Nancy and Eva Farrell, "Weavers of Webs: A Portrait of Young Women on the Net", _The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture_, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1994. Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/ejvc/KAPLAN.V2N3

Kramarae, Cheris and Jeanie Taylor, "Electronic Networks: Safe for Women?" Available at URL

Mulvaney, Michele, "Gender Differences in Communication: An Intercultural Experience", Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/ejvc/MULVAN.V2N2.

Rakow, L.F. and Navarro, V., "Remote Mothering and the Parallel Shift: Women Meet the Cellular Telephone", _Critical Studies in Mass Communication_ Vol. 10, No. 2, 1993: 144-157.

Reid, Elizabeth, "Cultural Formations in Text-based Virtual Realities", Thesis submitted in Cultural Studies Program at University of Melbourne, January 1994. Available at or

Rheingold, Howard, _The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier_, A William Patrick Book, Addison-Wesley Publishing co., Massachusetts, 1993. Also available electronically at URL:

Shade, Leslie Regan, "Gender Issues in Computer Networking", paper present at communitey Networking: The International FreeNet Conference at Carleton University , august 17-19, 1993. Available via anonymous ftp at in pub/freenet/93conference/leslie-regan_shade.txt

Shade, Leslie Regan, "Introductory Comments: EJVC Special Issue on Gender Issues in Computer Networking", _The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture_, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1994). Available via anonymous ftp at in pub/ejvc/SHADEV2N3

Truong, Hoai-An, "Gender Issues in Online Communications", written in conduction with BAWIT (Bay Area Women in Telecommunications), 1993. Available at URL: http:/

Turkle, Sherry, "Computational Reticence: Why Women Fear the Intimate Machine", in Kramarae, C. (Ed.), _Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch_, Routledge and Kegan Paul, New York, 1988: 41-61.

Turkle, Sherry, _The Second Self: Computers and the Human spirit_, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984.

van Zoonen, Liesbet, "Feminist Theories and Media Studies", _Critical Studies in Mass Communication_, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1991: 95-135.

Wajcman, Jane, "Personal computers, gender and an instituational model of the household" in Silverstone, R. and Hirsh, E. (Eds.), _Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in the Domestic Space_, Routledge, London, 1992: 96-112.

We, Gladys, "Cross-Gender Communication in cyberspace", _The Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture_, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1994). Available via anonymous ftp from in pub/ejvc/WE.V2N3

Newsgroups consulted:


Listservers consulted:

F-email (not exclusively for women)
Internet-Women-Info (exclusively for women, moderated)
Internet-Women-Help (exclusively for women, unmoderated)
Systers (exclusively for women in computer science, moderated)
Bi-Fem (exclusively for women who discuss bisexuality, moderated)


Elsewhere on this site:

Richard A. Bartle (
17th July, 2003.