Kendall, L. 2000. “‘Oh No! I’m a Nerd!’: Hegemonic Masculinity on an Online Forum.”

Kendall, Lori. 2000. “’Oh No! I’m a Nerd!’: Hegemonic Masculinity on an Online Forum.” Gender and Society 14(2): 256-274.

Examines raced and gendered identities in online forums in relation to context of assumptions and norms of offline mainstream US culture, as well as those of subcultures of members’ belonging.

Participant observation – reading and writing online text – synchronous communication – messages simultaneously offered and responded to, as well as offline gatherings of members of the same social network studied.  “Text-based online communication […] limits the communication of information about selves and identities to textual description only.  Participants must learn to compensate for the lack of audio and visual cues and make choices about how to represent themselves” (259) – includes speech patterns, jargon, interaction spaces – very similar to F2F interactions.  “All social exchanges, regardless of the participants or the outcome, are simultaneously ‘gendered,’ ‘raced’ and ‘classed’” (West and Fenstermaker 1995, 13) – people make choices in online text-based communications as how to present selves, and how to evaluate others based upon given information and descriptions.

Anonymity of bodies is replaced with social information on race, sexuality, gender, age, through reads and expectations of other users – an interpretation of information offered.  Mistaken identities are often corrected, through offline interactions – the evaluators’ adjustment and deduction in classification based upon presumed raceable, genderable, sexualizable traits.

Connell: hegemonic masculinity as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy, which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women”  (1995, 77); masculinity as socially constructed, situational , relational, and interactional (Messerschmidt 1993; Segal 1990)

“As it is represented in our culture, ‘masculinity’ is a quality of being which is always incomplete, and which is equally based on a social as on a psychic reality.  It exists in the various forms of power men ideally possess: the power to assert control over women, over other men, over their own bodies, over machines and technology” (Segal 1990, 123).

Computer culture as a masculine domain, requiring technical agility, self-confidence, competence, devaluing characteristics of women (Wright 1996). “An obsession with technology may well be an attempt by men who are social failures to compensate for their lack of power. On the other hand, mastery over this technology does bestow some power on these men; in relation to other men and women who lack this expertise, in terms of the material rewards this skill brings, and even in terms of their popular portrayal as ‘heroes’ at the frontiers of technological progress” (Wajcman 1991, 144).

Users promote difference and parody as a means to separate selves from “real” whiteness or hegemonic masculinity/misogyny – note themselves as Others, through demonstrating alternness from “ideal types” of race and gender; however, nonwhites, women, and bisexuals must conform or erase identities to “safely” belong in such a space without being called out or sanctioned.

CITES:

Messerschmidt, J.W. 1993. Masculinities and Crime: Critique and Reconceptualization of Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Segal, L. 1990. Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wajcman, J. 1991. Feminism Confronts Technology. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

West, C. and S. Fenstermaker. 1995. “Doing Difference.” Gender and Society 9: 8-37.

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