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Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet

Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet [Kindle Edition]

Laurie Penny
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

‘The Internet was supposed to be for everyone... Millions found their voices in this brave new online world; it gave unheard masses the space to speak to each other without limits, across borders, both physical and social. It was supposed to liberate us from gender. But as more and more of our daily lives migrated on line, it seemed it did matter if you were a boy or a girl.’

It's a tough time to be a woman on the internet. Over the past two generations, the political map of human relations has been redrawn by feminism and by changes in technology. Together they pose questions about the nature and organisation of society that are deeply challenging to those in power, and in both cases, the backlash is on. In this brave new world, old-style sexism is making itself felt in new and frightening ways.

In Cybersexism, Laurie Penny goes to the dark heart of the matter and asks why threats of rape and violence are being used to try to silence female voices, analyses the structure of online misogyny, and makes a case for real freedom of speech – for everyone.

Laurie Penny’s forthcoming book, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, will be published in 2014.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good points, some limits 23 Aug 2013
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a subject desperately overdue some serious discussion, and Laurie Penny has long been a pioneer in bringing it to public attention. We need a lot of books like this.

This isn't so much a book as a pamphlet; in length, it's short, and in the research and examples it covers, it's more a basic introduction than an in-depth study. If you've been following the discussion, her examples will be familiar, such as the Sarkeesian case and Ally Fogg's soapbox analogy. In its cases, it works mostly as a compendium of some of the most egregious recent examples and astute recent observerations; useful, but not exhaustive.

Its best feature is probably Penny's epigrammatic style. 'Germaine Greer wrote in "The Female Eunuch" that women had no idea how much men hate them,' she writes. 'Well, now we do.' Penny is a readable and snappy stylist with a knack for putting her finger on the nub of a subject, and this book is no exception.

It does have some limits which I regret, though, and they're mostly to do with the fact that she seems unable or unwilling to separate the issue of cybersexism from the issue of geek identity. Two related issues stand out to me:

1. She begins by stating, importantly, that much of the harassment comes from 'perfectly ordinary men holding down perfectly ordinary jobs' - that cybersexism isn't confined to any 'fringe' but is a problem coming from all walks of life. Later, though, she dedicates a big chunk of time to analysing the nature of 'geek misogyny', going into detail about its origins with a degree of compassion, and insists that 'Geeks aren't just the problem. Geeks are also the solution.' This seems to be rather contradicting her earlier important point that it *isn't* just geeks who are the problem, but sexist men in general.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More hyperbole than evidence 20 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I'm female, a feminist, a clinical psychologist, a research scientist and I spend a lot of time online. I've followed the Sarkeesian story and I know there are huge issues around gender that need to be resolved and that these are playing out in cyberspace in new media. I should love a polemic like this, but it fell short because the grand emotive claims and dismissal of other perspectives are not well evidenced.

For example, Simon Baron-Cohen's research. It seems she's only heard of this from Delusions of Gender and hasn't read the numerous papers and books herself. Simon B-Cs work isn't some sexist opinion, it's a body of meticulous research around traits relating to autism, by a Cambridge Don, including exploring why autism is diagnosed more in men. Studies have shown increased 'folk physics' and reduced 'folk psychology' (mentalising) in people with ASCs and their relatives, and population studies show this is an exaggeration of a difference shown between the genders (whether learnt or innate). In my reading of his work he has never once devalued the more 'female' pattern or said the patterns are binary or have a one to one correspondence with gender, but has talked predominantly about the impact of these deficits in ASCs.

I don't believe we have to be identical to be equal. Women are on average a bit shorter, lighter and carry less muscle and more body fat than men. This doesn't make us less good or attractive or valuable. So why does the idea of gender differences in brains cause such fear? Why can't we dismiss erroneous ideas from the past and explore what is determined by social learning and gender expectations whilst being open to new evidence?

Similarly, I don't feel like sexist and aggressive talk online is equivalent to the same things said in person.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cybersexism 10 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a short book but it raises some serious issues for women who use the internet. It also asks questions about what exactly constitutes free speech. Any woman who uses the internet regularly - especially forums, chat rooms and social media will have come across misogyny in one form or another. Even expressing mild opinions about anything leaves you with the feeling that women should be seen and not heard and that the internet is no place for women - we should leave it to the men.

The author asks if we are doing the right thing by overprotecting children - especially girls - from the internet. Are we perhaps perpetuating a situation where abuse of women is acceptable - because it is just banter and if you can't take a joke then you shouldn't be here. But it seems the jokes only go one way - against women.

I found myself agreeing with most of what the author says in this hard hitting book. I have in the past tried to debate issues of interest to women in a calm and rational manner but have received such virulent abuse from men that I have stopped doing so. Maybe I was wrong - maybe we need to fight back and to make sure our views are heard. Currently it is the free speech of women which is being restricted.

Free speech is not about abusing and threatening others and never has been. Fortunately the law agrees but the fight to make ourselves heard and be able to debate subjects without being abused is far from over
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Great Disapointment 2 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Laurie's work so I was excited to see that she was tackling such an important topic in her new books (there's a second one to come next year)-but unfortunately I feel she's really missed the mark this time around. Despite focusing on sexism online and the changes cyberspace has wrought on gender relations her argument here really hinges on a very old fashioned and largely discredited idea, namely that while female gender roles are culturally created (and therefore can be changed), male gender roles are natural and inalterable.

Laurie argues that online sexism is a result of "geek" men seeking out new spaces online where they can escape the normal social hierarchy where "jocks" rule. These reductive and rather American terms presuppose that there is a natural order - a pecking order of sorts - with jocks at the top and geeks at the bottom, and that it is a refusal on the part of the geek men to accept their place in that hierarchy that causes problems, rather than limiting models of acceptable masculinity.

By attributing online sexism to bitter geeks who were unable to form relationships with women in the real world, and now resent finding them online, Laurie not only relies on some pretty ugly generalisations, she also seems to be blaming natural allies and failing to acknowledge that in 2013 everybody is online -geek, jock or otherwise, and that even those perfect examples of the jock stereotype she puts on a pedestal are capable of being sexists, both on and offline.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Relevant and insightful.
I very much enjoyed reading this. The text is a thoroughly intelligent dissection of the perils and pleasures of being a user of the Internet while female.
Published 12 days ago by Dr Jill Farquhar
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening
An excellent extended essay recommend for any geek with a burgeoning interest in feminism. The section on Anonymous needs updating, as they've since proved that they include as... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Oliver Jeffery
5.0 out of 5 stars A depressing but necessary read
Only a teaser for her main book later this year. Hopefully will enlighten some people - although I worry that it won't change as many minds as it should.
Published 1 month ago by Terence Eden
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and essential.
As with everything by Laurie Penny this is a clearly-written and easily understood book, but which engages the reader and deals with themes the misogynists and right-wing haters... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Angel
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
It's a great little pamphlet - sharp and focused, and very timely. Well worth the few pennies it cost. Buy it!
Published 6 months ago by calum walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing especially new but well written
If you follow blogs and news sites that cover these issues then there is little here that will surprise you. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Inlaid
5.0 out of 5 stars great strength of character
Laurie seems to have met some strange people, I suppose being exposed to the public is always going to be tough. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs Natasha Elsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Cyberfeminism for beginners AND experts
This book is in fact a chapter from Ms Penny's upcoming publication which I believe is due out next year. Read more
Published 11 months ago by TinaP-J
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting but not truly explored the subject
having seen some of the exploits on places such as second life , cybersexism was a bit disapointing rather than an authorative look at the subject it seems more a placing glance... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
OK, I'll start right out by saying I am a HUGE fan of Laurie Penny. Her writing in New Statesman, the Guardian & the Independent has genuinely changed my worldview over the couple... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Matt
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