Can we gauge the ‘gender gap’ via the internet?


Amongst the ‘meme generation’ it could seem that the internet is a testosterone fuelled party and the girls aren’t invited, but is this really the whole picture?

A 2007 study found that since 2004 the number of women accessing the internet has been growing four times faster than men. For women the compound annual growth rate was 13% between 2004 and 2007, whilst for men it was 4% (Eurostat, 2007). Woman who where younger have more presence on the internet than their older counterparts (55-74) unlike males who are twice as likely to use the internet than the females of the same age. In terms of internet years this data is relatively old, so it is assumed that from these findings the rate is increasing still. **If you get time I recommend reading this study, there’s some interesting findings throughout:** 

So if there’s roughly the same number of woman using the internet, why does there seem to be so much sexism?

Let’s look at how the different genders actually use the internet. Fallows (2005) found no gender difference in overall amount of Internet use however there are gender differences in motivations for Internet use and utilization of time spent online. It was found that woman are likely to use the Internet to engage in social interaction, basically behaviour consistent with feminine gender role norms, while men are more likely to spend their time online engaging in more task-focused activities (e.g., reading the news, getting financial information) and are more likely to engage in behavior consistent with their gender role norm (Muscanell & Guadagno, 2012). I found this interesting, I have been on many forums where the overall population was dominated by men, however this paper and others found that females were more likely to be the ones interacting and would therefore be the ones on forums. Let’s think about this for a minute, so although men and women still follow their ‘gender norms’ there are still social areas of the internet that are male dominated (4chan for instance) how is this? Muscanell & Guadagno (2012) does go on to say that women have specific websites where there seem to have greater interactions than men, maybe we do separate off to our ‘gender  friendly’ websites.

Who are these men that are interacting so much given the trend for males to be less social?

Correa, Hinsley and de Zúñiga (2009) researched the personalities of internet users in relation to their social media use and found the more extraverted and anxious males are more likely to engage in socially interactive applications of the Web. Is it possible that 4chan is filled with anxious males? well, possibly.  **highly recommend this article lots of great findings*** 

It’s quite possible that I am looking at this all wrong, maybe the internet’s sexism is there because it is so ingrained into our culture it’s just when we actually have tangible evidence it becomes all the more apparent. So, is the internet a good source for gauging the gender gap? There are many blogs, twitter feeds etc dedicated to the eradication of sexism and making people more aware of its
prevalence (see everyday sexism twitter, no more page 3 etc). The internet seems a split by anti sexism activist and an almost constant stream of evidence of our society being male dominated. It is key to add that a large part of a male’s use of the internet is for mastorbatory purposes. This in its self holds many potholes for women’s rights, however again there is a rise in ‘feminist porn’ however I am yet to be convinced.

I would really love to hear people’s views on this so comment!


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