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The Melting Pot

A digital, cultural conversation

The usual guy-girl equation is now online.

So far, I’ve blogged about religion, identity and generational culture – it’s only logical that gender would be next. I’ve been thinking about the essential guy-girl question ever since I visited the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. this weekend. That museum exhibited how so many works were left out of the arts, and I wondered if it was the same in online media.

Communication theory tells us the stereotypes men and women, for the most part, seem to embody. Men are aggressive, controlling and direct; women are nurturing, indirect and all for compromise. We associate the bulk of these characteristics with workplace meetings or group projects.

A Discovery News article cited 2010 United Nations University study about Wikipedia noted that less than 15 percent of all Wikipedia contributors are women; those millions and millions of articles about every topic under the sun are almost all authored by males.

On the flip side, the article also cited a May 2010 study by comScore, Inc. said that 75.8 percent of all women online social network, in contrast to the 69.7 percent of men that engage in conversation online.

It’s almost as if the theory of yesteryear’s communication studies – women are passive-aggressive, men always want to be right and be in control, women love to gossip, men love to assert their power – seems to be resurfacing in a whole new wave of online media.

But if the sexes are just sinking back into their old spheres of communication while exploring the great World Wide Web, it seems like we’re doing something wrong. Shouldn’t we be trying to change our stereotypes instead of inadvertently reinforcing them?

Maybe my bashing of gender in the media is somewhat unwarranted. Social networking is just a baby, really, and has miles to go before it can permanently be defined in the norm of the world as we know it. Some argue that the new generation of web users will be so used to updating forums while simultaneously social networking that the harmonious balance will transcend to real life.

Sounds great, right? I guess it’s possible, but it won’t come to life just by men and women sticking to their current spheres. Perhaps instead of complaining that men make more money than women and it feels like men get whatever they want, women should start to make the change themselves. Women have no excuse, because creating a gender balance is easier now than ever – it’s just a click away.

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