I’ve been managing online discussion communities for over seven years and this is a consistent pattern among discussions on politics and current affairs – both sexes read discussions but it is mostly men who respond and get into slagging matches over controversial issues.
Why is this the case? Common explanations I’ve been told include: ranting and raving online is how men get their feelings out; women prefer to read and evaluate while men prefer to shoot first and think later (no pun intended); and that online arguments are simply old-fashioned penis size comparing exercises (for example: How the Indo-Pak rivalry is harming Wikipedia).
Maybe readers have other explanations but I would venture that there is probably some truth to all of the above. How else can we explain that most British political blogs are by men and they dominate the ensuing discussions. Having followed most discussions here since it was launched I am confident in saying that this place is also a sausage fest.
I hope this does not sound patronising to women, but I would also venture further that vociferous and argumentative discussions make it less likely that they would want join in. It cannot be that they are less argumentative (if ex-girlfriends are anything to go by), so there must be something in their genes that tells them getting involved in the 1048438309th argument on Israel/Palestine is probably not worth it. But it does happen and I’ve been told this many times by women themselves.
Thus, I think it is worth saying that by taking such extreme stances and engaging in slagging matches we not only end up driving out more moderate and informed debate, we may also be putting off women from joining in.
[a longer version appears on CIF today]
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Filed in: Sex equality