Women and Geek Culture
Within mainstream culture today there is exists an unique
computer geeks. This Geek Culture dictates the rules of conduct for
the inner most core of the Internet community. However, many of the
elements of Geek Culture actively discourage women from entering into
the field of computing. What are these elements?
There is a particular social stigma attached to Geek Culture.
Mainstream society portrays the members of this culture (in some
cases, rightly so!) as a group of obsessive individuals with little
social skills. However, at the same time, society teaches women to be
balanced individuals who value social interaction. As a result, the
core characteristics that compose Geek Culture are completely contrary
to those that mainstream culture expects of women. Women are thus
discouraged by society to enter into the field of computing and its
accompanying Geek Culture because they are told that such actions and
characteristics are not appropriate for their assigned gender.
Geek Culture is often a culture of hostility and anger.
Flaming, arrogance and little tolerance for ignorance or newcomers
are the norm in the computing subculture. All one has to do is look
to the scathing posts on various newsgroups and websites to see the
hostility of Geek Culture exemplified. The issue of the hostile
nature of Geek Culture has been discussed in depth on many of the
definitive geek gathering places, like Slashdot and Freshmeat. In an
article about geek hostility entitled
"Please Die2: Raising Creative Jerks," Slashdot contributer
"JonKatz" writes "hostility tends to go hand-in-hand with online
media...there's always been an angry streak in the subculture of geeks,
hackers [and] nerds." Unfortunately, women are often targets of this
Geek Culture hostility. In the same article "JonKatz" notes that women,
"more than any other single group" report problems with hostility on
posting boards and websites. This unwarranted cruelty from fellow
geeks may cause women to view computing as a particularly unwelcoming
field and may ultimately drive women from the
The male dominance of Geek Culture also discourages women from
entering and remaining in Computer Science. In
Slashdot's "JonKatz" describes the Internet as a "clubhouse,"
dominated by those who are "white, male [and] narrow." This sentiment is
echoed by LinuxChix -
a website devoted to providing women (and men) with
Linux support in a hostile free environment - which describe the male
dominance of the net as a "locker-room mentality." In fact, a
study done by Gladys We indicated that men tend to dominate the
majority of online communitcations. The study noted that even on
feminist newsgroups (Alt.feminism, Soc.women, etc) men tended to
dominate the conversion, accounting, in some cases, for more that 70
percent of the posts. As a result of Geek Culture being dominated by
men, women often feel excluded and isolated, thus causing them to
leave, or choose not to enter, the field of computing.