While Reddit has proved itself as a great source of viral news and received deserved praise for its coverage of the Aurora shootings, a recent thread posited a question about where women fit in in the site. It's already yielded over 1,700 responses — some genuinely awful especially those towards the bottom of the thread, and some which actually made us think about Reddit's male-driven culture and how women factor into it.
As people mention in the thread, Redditors are mainly guys. According to Google's Doubleclick Ad Planner the site's U.S. users are 66 percent male, and its skew towards dudes has been discussed outside the site. The blog Geek Feminism took on the subject in 2009. In December, Daily Dot wrote that asking whether Reddit is sexist "hardly seems worth an argument" because the answer is so obvious: "it is." Jezebel headlined a story in April as "Reddit Is Officially the Worst Possible Place for Rape Victims to Seek Advice." That same month, the site Man Boobz — which carries the tagline "Misogny. I Mock it." — noted an "experiment" in which a woman found less discrimination by creating a Reddit username that is "obviously male."
So it was a bit of a loaded question when Reddit user 478nist kicked things off on Wednesday night by asking "Why is Reddit so anti-women?":
I used to think it was just because the large majority of users are men, but it's not pro-men it's becoming more and more anti-women.
Outside of the friendzoned crap, any comment that leans towards any kind of talk of womens issues, equal rights etc gets downvoted to hell so it's not even capable of being discussed. It seems like it's an US vs THEM mentality more and more. Was it always like this?
In the last 24 hours, this thread has been anything but downvoted, as its attracted 361 (and counting) upvotes. So, what gives, Reddit? One of the main themes in responses is pretty heavy on the stereotypes: guys on Reddit are lonely virgins who don't date:
A lot of guys on reddit are bitter because they view women as having an easier time in areas redditors tend to struggle in.
For example, whenever dating/forever alone/losing your virginity comes up a lot of guys can't believe that a women could ever have problems in this area. They think girls just have to stand there and they will have a line of perfect guys come running.
I think a lot of it stems from this belief. "Why is it so easy for them and so hard for me?"
Another user, in addition to citing the angry, girlfriend-less guy example, argued that it's just okay to be sexist:
My second guess is that it's still acceptable to be sexist in society. Accuse someone of being racist, and people take that seriously. Sexist? Few will blink an eye, no matter how bad it is. I feel like the trend might be on the rise, especially in America. Some of the big women's health debates recently have included comparing women to farm animals, and calling women who use birth control pills to sluts. A lot of the people who were upset by this were told that they were "too sensitive". And it's not just men, women do shit like that too.
Throughout the thread users spoke out about their experiences being a woman — especially an identifiable one, on the site. One user wrote:
I've read lots of awesome bright women leaving this site because they just want to unwind and read but they deal with harrassment and stalking and it's bad enough in real life. Where can a girl get away from the bullshit regarding what's in my skirt? I'm a person too.
Another explained that she tries to avoid mentioning her gender:
I'm a girl, no idea. I've noticed it, and generally try to keep my gender out of comments unless it's relevant to the conversation (like now, for instance). I hate the way many (not all, but many) male commentors [sic] have a weird mentality of "Girls always friendzone me" + "OMG OAG" + "Why are all these bitches so stupid" + "TITS or GTFO". And I'm obviously oversimplifying this immensely, but my point is that as a woman on reddit you are either expected to be a sexual object or a coldhearted bitch. I wish it weren't so much that way, because I fucking love reddit.
Women who commented in gaming threads explained they got what essentially boils down to the "booth babe" treatment, which Katie J.M. Baker explained yesterday on Jezebel. Girls who appear to be interested in video games are viewed as attention grabbers. (Real booth babes, Baker explains, "are paid models, not groupies.")
A commenter in the most recent thread claimed to have done something similar. The new username chosen: SomeGuyWithABoner. That poster wrote:
I'm actually a chick. I had a female name and was harassed to no end; berated and belittled for any opinion I held. Now I'm just one of the guys(with a boner for heh) and it's so refreshing. I am also married, so I comment using my husbands perspective. It is a shame I need to resort to this, but it works and I can openly express any opinion or make jokes without people being assholes.
Internet anonymity is often regarded as a bad thing. Jimmy Kimmel's segment wherein celebrities read mean tweets about themselves was partly aimed at exposing how horrible people can be when they have the veil of the Web to protect them. We can only assume (and, mostly, hope!) that sexist Redditors might tone down their sexism if their full identities were out in the open. But in these cases for women anonymity actually provided reverse protection.
In the confusing universe of Reddit not all is bad — the videos are still funny, the news still newsy — but this thread, which has produced some thought provoking comments, shows how the site's underbelly can be so capable.