In Which I Dabble at Science!

About a month ago I read a blog post about the recent Kathy Sierra online harrassment issue in which the author (a man) suggested that his male readers log into a chat room using an identifiably female handle in order to experience the type of sexualized comments directed at women as a matter of course. It was heralded by many commenters as a great idea, but I suspect few men would actually be willing to try it out because a) who goes to chat rooms anymore?, and b) it's just too much effort. This idea inspired me to come up with a little experiment of my own.

I wanted to find a way to highlight the differences in male and female experience of the internet, specifically the frequency with which users are harrassed or insulted in gendered terms. I'm definitely not interested in spending any time in a chat room, so I decided to make a couple of profiles on a free online personals site. The profiles are identical in every aspect but gender-- attached to the female one is an old picture of me, and attached to the male one is an old photo of my brother. The fictional ad-placers live in L.A., in order to maximize diversity of potential views and responses. The description of each profile reads:

I'm looking for people who live like it's no joke, but don't take anything too seriously. I love the outdoors; if it involves playing outside, count me in! I enjoy quiet, low-key evenings as well as nights out on the town, but I'm no fan of recreational drunkenness. A few drinks among friends is no big deal, but if you make a habit of going out and getting sloppy every weekend, we probably won't get along. Art, theater, live music: any kind of cultural event will pique my interest and lead me out in search of adventure and new experiences.
Bland and boring, nothing sexual, and listed as looking for people to "hang out." The goal here is to see what kind of responses each profile garners with no further encouragement. I will not respond to any messages or change the profiles at any point. I plan on leaving the ads up for a week or two and tabulating some kind of informal statistics of things like number of views vs. number of responses, number of harrassing messages vs. "friendly" messages, and number of multiple messages from single users. Any particularly vicious/vulgar/funny/creepy messages will of course be posted here for your reading enjoyment, and I hope you (all 3 of you who read my blog) will join me at the end of the experiment in speculating as to the meaning of the results.

Let's get our science on!

Posted byMJ at 11:40 AM  


you know who said... 5/14/2007 11:05 AM  

Am dying to hear the results on this one!

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