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

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Length: 45 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 418 KB
  • Print Length: 45 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (22 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EO24J3O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,121 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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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 and did not hold my interest of indeed my imagination for many pages
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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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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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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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