I've been noticing many more articles about sexism and the Web. I'm going to try to string some of these articles together in this thread to raise the issue of why more women and girls aren't in computer science AND why girls may not play as many video games (it might have something to do with the reception at online gaming rooms).
The first article was a story on KUOW about UW and young women in computer science. One interesting line:
“One of the things that parents tend to do is they’re much more protective of their daughter’s time online,” said Rane Johnson,
a principal research director at Microsoft Research Connections.
Johnson said parents want to protect their daughters from the unknown
dangers of the Internet.
“And so girls are experiencing gaming or
the Internet or computer science or programming a lot less than their
brothers,” she said.
So first, is that true at your home? Do you worry more about your daughter online than your son?
From UW's Ed Lazowska:
“Last year we graduated 28 percent women from this program — it ought
to be, let’s say, 50 percent, so it’s half of what it ought to be,”
Lazowska said. “The tragic thing is that we’re double the national
He said the trick is to get women in the door.
My older son had been telling me about how aggressive some guys are in gaming chatrooms. (Gamers love to talk and trade tips and tricks.) He told me that earlier on in the game world if someone found out a girl was in the "room", it was "OMG, you're a girl. Do you want to hook up?" He said it was equivalent of whistling at a girl on the street for his generation.
He thinks there is certainly a level of misogyny going (like a woman suddenly appearing in the man cave during the big football game - it changes everything). But he believes there is a culture for women to be nice and accommodating, no matter what is being thrown at them. And, there is the anonymity factor - men can "bravely" and comfortably say every thought that pops into their head.
This has come to the fore with writers like Lindy West (who used to write for The Stranger) who write for the online magazine Jezebel. She appeared on a talk show to explain a subject she had written about - rape culture in America - as part of a debate over whether comedians should tell rape jokes. But what ended up happening to her was a volume of comments over the Internet that were rape threats and threats to kill her. And then there was the customary assessment of her looks.
She had one column where she talks about a study that was trying to get an idea of how people understood the risks and benefits of nanotechnology but found other surprising results:
Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced
discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology ... The text of
the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments
varied. Sometimes, they were "civil"-e.g., no name calling or flaming.
But sometimes they were more like this: "If you don't see the benefits
of using nanotechnology in these products, you're an idiot." The
researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such
rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it
wasn't a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience . . . Pushing
people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them
double down on their pre-existing beliefs.
On Saturday, NPR had an interview with Emily Graslie who has a fantastic science video blog called The Brain Scoop. (She's called, by Wiki, "an American science communicator" who works at the Field Museum as their "Chief Curiosity Correspondent." ) NPR's Robert Krulwich interviewed Ms. Graslie about the responses she sometimes gets. They are depressingly familiar.
Now I get that she's part entertainer and you gotta give the people something to watch. But many comments are about how to make her hotter or that the guy who works with her on the video is the brains.
Many of the folks who write her, write not about the science, but about
her body, her looks, her clothes, and do so without any apparent
embarrassment. She's a science reporter who happens to be a young woman,
and her woman-ness is the thing they focus on. The science, to her
chagrin, often takes second place.
In her new video, Emily (with help from director and video editor
Michael Aranda) gives us samples from her mailbox, She's not mad, not
exactly. Instead, she just explains why these matter-of-fact little
letter bombs make it harder for her to work, and how they hurt — every
single day. And, being Emily, she explains it very well.
So are trolls ruining it for girls and gaming? Are there larger implications to cyber attacks on girls/women? Does it make it harder for girls to want to pursue these professions?