Gendering Cyberspaces

Digital cultures have the potential to shake up ideas about gender. As feminist cultural theorist Donna Haraway argued at the dawn of the digital era, the human-computer interface can serve to break down assumptions about naturalized female and male roles and identities. There is much cybercultural activity that does this, and some of that work is cited below.

On the other side of things, digital media, and perhaps most egregiously, some video games, seem to have set back gender representations decades. The virtual, non-realistic nature of new media allow for a plasticity of representation that may lend itself to the exaggeration on which stereotyping thrives. Where media activist and watchdog groups have done much to improve gender representation in traditional media (TV, film, etc.), though there is clearly much to improve, new media have frequently fallen back on stereotypes and representations that should have fallen into the dustbin of history (for example, e-games riddled with anatomically impossible cyberbabes).

And, as is the case with race and sexuality, the anonymity of cyberspaces has often unleashed new levels of sexist discourse, cyber sexual harassment and other problems. The web has also facilitated the sexual and work slave traffic in women through transnational webs. In response, women's organization have also taken to the web to fight new and old forms of sexism. The sites, articles, and books listed below address all of these aspects of engendered cyberspaces and more. (See also our page on "Digital Games.")

Gender is never an isolated social marker. It is always interwoven with race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and a variety of other factors, and most of the materials in this section acknowledge such intersectionality.

Selected Books, Articles and Websites on Gender in Cyberspaces

Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology Named for Ada Lovelace, genius pioneer of computing, this magazine brilliantly addresses a range of issues regarding gender and technology.

Adam, Alison E. "Hacking into Hacking: Gender and the Hacker Phenomenon." Computers and Society 32.7 (2004):0095-2737.

Alexander, Jonathan. "Queer Webs: Representations of LGBT People and Communities on the World Wide Web." International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Quarterly 81 (2002):868-76.

Arvidson, Viktor and Anna Foka, "Digital Gender: Perspective, Phenomena, Practice. Lead article in the First Monday special issue on Digital Gender, April 2015

Balsamo, Anne. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996.

Barak, Azy. “Sexual Harassment on the Internet.” Social Science Computer Review 23.1 (2005): 77-92.

Beavis, Catherine. “Would the 'Real' Girl Gamer Please Stand Up? Gender, LAN Cafés and the Reformulation of the 'Girl' Gamer.” Gender and Education 19.6 (2007): 691-705.

Bimber, Bruce. "Measuring the Gender Gap on the Internet." Social Science Quarterly 81.3 (2000).:868-876.

Bryson, Mary. "When Jill Jacks In: Queer Women and the Net." Feminist Media Studies 4 (2004) :239-54.

Bury, Rhiannon. Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

Byrne, Dara. "The Future of (the) Race: Identity and the Rise of Computer Mediated Public Spheres." In Learning Race and Ethnicity, ed. Anna Everett. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2007.

Cassell, Justine, and Henry Jenkins. From Barbie(r) to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2000.

Chatterjee, Bela Bonita. "Razorgirls and Cyberdykes: Tracing Cyberfeminism and Thoughts on its Use in a Legal Context." International Journal of Gender and Sexuality Studies 7.2/3 (2002):197-213.

Cherny, Lynn and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired Women: Gender and New Realities In Cyberspace. Seattle: Seal Press, 1996. Early work that raises host of issues that remain central to thinking about women using and being used by new digital media.

Clegg, Sue. "Theorising the Machine: Gender, Education, and Computing." Gender and Education 13.3 (2001):307-24.

Daniels, Jessie. Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.

DeVoss, Dànielle. "Rereading Cyborg(?) Women: The Visual Rhetoric of Images of Cyborg (and Cyber) Bodies on the World Wide Web." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 835-845.

Dias, Karen. "The Ana Sanctuary: Women's Pro-anorexia Narratives in Cyberspace." Journal of International Women's Studies 4.2 (2003):1-31.

DiGiuseppe, Nicholas and Bonnie Nardi. Real Genders Choose Fantasy Characters: Class Choice in the World of Warcraft. First Monday 112.5 (2007).

Earl, Jennifer, and Alan Schussman. "The New Site of Activism: On-line Organizations, Movement Entrepreneurs, and the Changing Location of Social Movement Decision Making." Research in Social Movements 24 (2003):155-87.

Eisenstein, Zillah. Global Obscenities: Patriarchy, Capitalism, and the Lure of Cyberfantasy. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

Elm, Malin Sveningsson and Jenny Sundén, eds. Cyberfeminism in Northern Lights: Digital Media and Gender in a Nordic Context. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.

Epstein, Steven. "Sexualizing Governance and Medicalizing Identities: The Emergence of State-Centered LGBT Health Politics in the United States." Sexualities 6.2 (2003):131-71.

Eriksson-Zetterquist, Ulla. "Gender and New Technologies." Gender, Work and Organization 14.4 (2007): 305-311.

Everett, Anna. "On Cyberfeminism and Cyberwomanism: High-Tech Mediations of Feminism's Discontents." Signs 30 (2004):1278-86.

Everett, Anna, ed. Learning Race and Ethnicity. MacArthur Series, Digital Media and Learning. Boston: MIT Press, 2007.

Fernandez, Maria. "Cyberfeminism, Racism, Embodiment." In Domain Errors! eds. Maria Fernandez, Faith Wilding, and Michelle M. Wright. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 2007.

Fernandez, Maria, Faith Wilding, and Michelle M. Wright, eds. Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 2003.

Fernandez, Maria, and Faith Wilding. "Situating Cyberfeminisms." In Domain Errors! : Cyberfeminist Practices eds. Maria Fernandez, Faith Wilding, and Michelle M. Wright. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 2003.

Finn, Jerry and Mary Banach. "Victimization Online: The Downside of Seeking Human Services for Women on the Internet." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 785-796.

Flanagan, Mary. 2002. "Hyperbodies, Hyperknowledge: Women in Games, Women in Cyberpunk, and Strategies of Resistance." In Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyber-culture eds. Mary Flanagan and Austin Booth. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Flanagan, Mary and Austin Booth, ed. Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture. MIT Press, 2006. 
Uses a combination of fiction texts and critical analysis to examine the varied experiences of women in online environments.

Fox, Nick, Katie Ward, and Alan O'Rourke. "Pro-anorexia, Weight-Loss Drugs, and the Internet: An 'Anti-recovery' Explanatory Model of Anorexia." Sociology of Health and Illness 27.7 (2005): 944-71.

Gajjala, Radhika. "South Asian Digital Diasporas and Cyberfeminist Webs: Negotiating Globalization, Nation, Gender, and Information Technology Design." Contemporary South Asia 12.1 (2003):41-56.

Gajjala, Radhika. ed. Cyberfeminisms Special issue of the journal Rhizomes.

--- . Cyber Selves: Feminist Ethnographies of South Asian Women. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Alta Mira Press, 2004.

Gajjala, Radhika. and Yeoh Ju Oh, eds. Cyberfeminism 2.0 Bern: Peter Lang, 2012.

Gender Online Special issue of electronic journal Computer-Mediated Communication (1996).

Gender, Race and Cyberspace Links from U of Iowa.

Gill, Rosalind. "Review: Technofeminism." Science as Culture 14.1 (2005):97-101.

Gossett, Jennifer Lynn, and Sarah Byrne. "'Click Here': A Content Analysis of Internet Rape Sites." Gender and Society 16.5 (2002): 689-709

Graner-Ray, Sheri. Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media, 2003

Hansen, Mark B. N. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto" One of the most influential articles ever written on the gender implications of the human-computer interface.

---. From Cyborgs to Companion Species. Broadening cyberculture into unexpected canine directions.

---. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. NY: Routledge, 1991. See especially "Situated Knowledge."

Harcourt, Wendy, ed. Women@Internet: Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace. London: Zed, 1999.

---. "The Personal and the Political: Women Using the Internet." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3 (2000):693-97.

---. "Women's Networking for Change: New Regional and Global Configurations." Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 8.1/2 (2004).

Herring, Susan C. "Gender and Democracy in Computer-Mediated Communication" Electronic Journal of Communications 3.2 (1993).

Heinz, Bettina, Ako Inuzuka Li Gu, and Robert Zender. "Under the Rainbow Flag: Webbing Global Gay Identities." International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 7 (2002): 107-24.

Jacobs, Susie. "Introduction: Women's Organizations and Networks; Some Debates and Directions." Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 8.1/2 (2004).

Kahn, Richard, and Douglas Kellner. "New Media and Internet Activism: From the "Battle of Seattle" to Blogging." New Media and Society 6.1 (2004): 87-95.

Kember, Sarah. Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Kendall, Lori. "'MUDder? I Hardly Knew ' Er!': Adventures of a Feminist MUD-der." In Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace eds. Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth R. Weise. Seattle: Seal Press, 1996.

---. "Meaning and Identity in 'Cyberspace': The Performance of Gender, Class, and Race Online." Symbolic Interaction 2.2 (1998):129-53.

---. "'OH NO! I' M A NERD!' Hegemonic Masculinity in an Online Forum." Gender and Society 14.2 (2000):256-74.

---. Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002.

Kennedy, Helen. "Subjective Intersections in the Face of the Machine. Gender, Race, Class and PCs in the Home." European Journal of Women's Studies 12.4 (2005): 471-487.

Kennedy, Tracy L. M. "An Exploratory Study of Feminist Experiences In Cyberspace." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 707-719.

Kensinger, Loretta. "Plugged in Praxis: Critical Reflections on U.S. Feminism, Internet Activism, and Solidarity with Women in Afghanistan." Journal of International Women's Studies 5.1 (2003):1-28.

King, Katie. "Women in the Web: Teaching Technology Narratives." In Marc Bousquet, Bruce Simon, and Katherine Wills, eds. The Politics of Information: The Electronic Mediation of Social Change. Altx eBooks, 2004.

Kolko, Beth, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman, eds. Race in Cyberspace. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Kwan, Mei-Po. "Affecting Geospatial Technologies: Toward a Feminist Politics of Emotion." The Professional Geographer 59.1 (2007): 22 - 34.

Lee, Rachel C., and Sau-Ling Cynthia Wong. AsianAmerican.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Leggon, Cheryl B. "Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and the Digital Divide." In Women, Gender, and Technology, eds. M. F Fox, D. G. Johnson, and S. V. Rosser. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2006.

Lloyd, Christiane et al., eds. Feminist Challenges in the Information Age. Opladen, Germany: Leske and Budrich, 2002.

Lovejoy, Meg. "Disturbances in the Social Body: Differences in Body Image and Eating Problems Among African American and White Women." Gender and Society 15.2 (2001):239-61.

Magnet, Shoshana. “Feminist Sexualities, Race and The Internet: An Investigation of suicidegirls.com.” New Media & Society 9.4 (2007): 577-602.

Margolis, Jane and Allan Fisher. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. MIT Press, 2006.

Documents the many ways in which women, despite rapidly emerging as major users of the Internet, continue to face discriminatory barriers when entering technical production fields.

Massanari, Adrienne. "Gendered Pleasures: The Wii, Embodiment and Technological Desire". Analyzes the ways in which Wii exercise games reinforce gender stereotypes.

Mazzarella, Sharon A., ed. Girl Wide Web: Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

McNeil, Maureen. Feminist Cultural Studies of Science and Technology. Routledge, 2007.

Mellstr̐ưom, Ulf. “The Intersection of Gender, Race and Cultural Boundaries, or Why is Computer Science in Malaysia Dominated by Women?” Social Studies of Science 39.6 (2009): 885-907.

Merithew, Charlene. "Women of the (Cyber)world: The Case of Mexican Feminist NGOs."Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 8.1/2 (2004).

Millar, Melanie Stewart. Cracking the Gender Code: Who Rules the Wired World? Toronto: Second Story Press, 1998..

Morahan-Martin. Janet. "Women and the Internet: Promise and Perils." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 683-691.

Mulveen, Ruaidhri, and Julie Hepworth. "An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Participation in a Pro-anorexia Internet Site and Its Relationship with Disordered Eating." Journal of Health Psychology 11.2 (2006):283-96.

Na, Misu. "The Home Computer in Korea: Gender, Technology, and the Family." Feminist Media Studies 1.3 (2001):291-306.

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Neutopia, Doctress [pseud] "Feminization of Cyberspace" Classic early article.

Nip, Joyce Y. M. "The Relationship Between Online and Offline Communities: The Case of the Queer Sisters." Media, Culture, and Society 26.3 (2004):409-28.

Nouraie-Simone, Fereshteh, ed. On Shifting Ground: Muslim Women in the Global Era. New York: The Feminist Press, 2005.

---. "Wings of Freedom: Iranian Women, Identity, and Cyberspace." In On Shifting Ground ed. Fereshteh Nouraie-Simone. New York: The Feminist Press, 2005.

O'Brien, Jodi. "Writing in the Body: Gender (Re)Production in Online Interaction." In Communities in Cyberspace, eds. Marc Smith and Peter Kollock. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Odell, Patricia M. et al. "Internet Use Among Female and Male College Students." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 855-862.

Orgad, Shani. "The Transformative Potential of Online Communication: The Case of Breast Cancer Patients' Internet Spaces." Feminist Media Studies 5 (2005):141-61.

Pitts, Victoria. "Illness and Internet Empowerment: Writing and Reading Breast Cancer in Cyberspace." Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness, and Medicine 8 (2004):33-59.

Plant, Sadie. Zeroes and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate, 1997.

Podlas, Kimberlianne. "Mistresses of Their Domain: How Female Entrepreneurs in Cyberporn Are Initiating a Gender Power Shift." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 847-54.

Ray, Audacia. Naked on the Internet : Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2007.

Rosser, Sue V. "Through the Lenses of Feminist Theory: Focus on Women and Information Technology." Frontiers 26.1 (2005):1-23.

Rubin, Andee and Nicola Yelland. Ghosts in the Machine: Women's Voices in Research with Technology. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Sandoval, Chela.“New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism.” In Jenny Wolmark, ed. CyberSexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Edinburgh, UK: U of Edinburgh Press, 2000.

Scott-Dixon, Krista. Doing IT: Women Working In Information Technology. Toronto: Sumach Press, 2004.

Senft, Theresa M. Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

Shade, Leslie Regan. Gender and Community in the Social Construction of the Internet. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Shepherd, Tamara, ed. Round Table on Hate Speech Online from Social Media & Society July-Dec 2015.

Shih, Johanna. "Circumventing Discrimination: Gender and Ethnic Strategies in Silicon Valley." Gender and Society 20.2 (2006) :177-206.

Singh, Supriya. "Gender and the Use of the Internet at Home." New Media and Society 3.4 (2003):395-416.

Stokes, Carla. “Representin’ in Cyberspace: Sexual Scripts, Self-Definition, and Hip Hop Culture in Black American Adolescent Girls' Home Pages.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 9.2 (2007): 169-184.

Stone, Allucquere Rosanne. The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995. Classic study of potential for gender subversion via networked computing.

---. "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?" Cyberspace: First Steps. Ed. Michael Benedikt. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. 81-118. Web.

Sunden, Jenny. "What Happened to Difference in Cyberspace? The (Re)turn of the She-Cyborg." Feminist Media Studies 1.2 (2001): 216-232.

Sutton, Jo, and Scarlet Pollock. "Online Activism for Women's Rights." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000):699-706.

Violence Against Women on the Internet Teaching modules from the Berkman Center at Harvard.

Wajcman, Judy. Technofeminism. London: Polity Press, 2004.

Walstrom, Mary K. "'You Know, Who's the Thinnest?': Combating Surveillance and Creating Safety in Coping with Eating Disorders Online." CyberPsychology & Behavior 3.5 (2000):762-783.

Weiser, Eric B. "Gender Differences in Internet Use Patterns and Internet Application Preferences: A Two-Sample Comparison." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.2 (2000): 167-178.

Westfall, Joseph. "What Is Cyberwoman? The Second Sex in Cyberspace." Ethics and Information Technology 2 (2000):159-66.

White, Michele. The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.

---. "Too Close to See: Men, Women, and Webcams." New Media and Society 5.1 (2003):7-28.

Wilding, Faith, and CA Ensemble. "Notes on the Political Condition of Cyberfeminism." Art Journal 57.2 (1998):47-59.

Wilding, Faith. "Where is the Feminism in Cyberfeminism?"

Willett, Rebekah. “'What You Wear Tells A Lot About You': Girls Dress Up Online.” Gender and Education 20.5 (2008): 421-434.

Wolf, Alecia. "Emotional Expression Online: Gender Differences in Emoticon Use." CyberPsychology and Behavior 3.5 (2000): 827-833.

Wolmark, Jenny, ed. Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theories, Cyborgs, and Cyberspace. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

Wright, Michelle M. "Racism, Technology, and the Limits of Western Knowledge." In Domain Errors! eds. Maria Fernandez, Faith Wilding, and Michelle M. Wright. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 2002.

---. "Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black Women, Technology, and Identity." Frontiers 2.(1 (2005): 48-59.

Zombardo, Philip. "The Demise of Guys" TED talk (Aug 2011).

Organzations Working on Gender and Cybercultures

  • Ada Excellent journal of feminist new media and technology studies.
  • Center for Women in Technology
  • Digital Sisters/Sistas African American women in ICT.
  • Fembot Collective Feminists in new media studies.
  • FemTechNet International Listserv for hundreds of feminists studying new media.
  • Geek Girl
  • Not Your Mama's Gamer
  • The Representation Project
  • Webgrrls International
  • WISAT: Women in Science and Technology.
  • Women's Net SA Women and ICTs in South Africa.
  • Women and Technology International
  • Women's Networking and Support Program
  • (See also our pages on "Digital Games" and on "Diversity and IT Jobs")