Gendered spaces and digital discourse: framing women's relationship with the Internet

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Royal, Cindy Louise

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While access to the Internet in the United States has reached parity amongst males and females, over time, gender differences in terms of usage, agency, and representation with technology are becoming evident. Early thinking about the Internet indicated a more liberating and equalizing effect than previous media, due to its decentralized nature, reduced structural barriers to entry, and potential for diversity of voices. But over time, mainstream sites that have been developed for women are primarily interested in their value as consumers. Many sites have adopted a women’s magazine model, using essentially feminine stereotypes to promote and position their content. This includes the ways in which these sites represent the ideas of technology and the Internet. This study maps the history and background of women’s Web sites and then identifies the relevant frames that the main players use around the Internet. Identification of sites that provide alternate discourses provide a basis for discussion of spaces of resistance and opportunities for alternate meaning making around women’s relationship with Internet technology.