Do women rule the Internet?

I’ve been seeing this “Why women rule the internet” link a bunch, and it seems they think “rule == buy more crap.”

Sure, it’s nice to be recognized as a market force, but as someone who wants to encourage more women creators rather than just women consumers, and who hates being treated only like consumer when she’s a creator… it’s very frustrating.

I’m not up to a long post on this, so here’s some commentary from a few of my friends on the subject:

If only we’d MAKE more stuff!

It’s weird, because nobody ever thought that peasants ruled in the middle ages despite their numbers!

Yeah, I’m not really thrilled at being told I rule in the cutting-edge areas of shoe shopping, diapers and coupons. And I say this as someone who buys a lot of shoes and diapers.

Oh great, so the next iteration of Facebook will be sparkly and pink and less functional, and they’ll rent out Hello Kitty as the mascot because that’s what all women want, all the time?

To be fair, the article isn’t all categorizing us as consumers — it definitely implies that women are driving some innovations and new ways of using the web — but there’s definite overtones of “look at this exciting new market segment!” that make me cringe. What did you think?

14 thoughts on “Do women rule the Internet?

  1. robotprincess

    I got more of a “women are social/more into connecting” vibe, especially in the bits about us dominating social networks.

    I’m not really sure I buy into the idea of women being somehow inherently more social, but as a diehard introvert, I suppose I have an odd perspective on it.

  2. Keith Ealanta

    I had a thought along those lines earlier today…
    It’s not so my misogyny as ISOgyny – the desire of advertisers (and oh so many others) to have all women match a single standard so they can sell to them/categorise them/understand them etc.

  3. imayer

    The article was a little essentialist and troubling, but I like to think its heart is in the right place:
    “You guys! Women are in your market segment too… can we please stop pretending everyone on the internet is male now?!”

  4. Eivind

    This referenced article is so much bullshit.

    Yeah “women rule the internet”, the author base this claim on the fact that women do a lot of socializing and shopping – on websites predominantly constructed, owned and operated by men, offcourse. (what fraction of Facebook-stock or Twitter source-code is owned by, or written by, women?)

    If this is the yardstick for “ruling”, then I suggest that women rule generally speaking, certainly it seems to me that in my physical world there’s twice as many square-meters of mostly-women-shops compared to mostly-men-shops. (say handbag-sellers versus motorsport-shops)

    Furthermore, the article also suggest that the internet is important mostly because it can be used for *shopping*. Which would be horribly sad if it was true, but it isn’t.

    Who rules the shopping-streets ? Those who construct them ? Those who -own- them ? Or those who shop ?

  5. Erica

    I think that this article does have some demeaning undertones, but overall I agree with imayer … in that this writer (who is geared toward consumerism and investing in it) is saying that these companies need to realize how much of the market on social networks is made up of women.

    From my experience on places like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and my horrible love/hate relationship with Zynga … I tend to agree with the overall statement of the article, most of the people that are the most active in these places are my female friends … posting 5-10 Facebook updates a day, where men maybe post that in a week (in general). Overall I don’t think that the article is demeaning … I do see what you’re saying about us being valued as consumers and not much else, but since the article is being written on investments and consumerism, that’s how they would look at any “demographic.”

  6. Cthandhs

    I don’t like being pigeon-holed as a female shopper, since my tastes are not the norm, but it’s important that the female market share, especially on the tech savvy internet, be recognized. It’s not a dichotomy between running the businesses and shopping at them, women should be doing both.

    If we’re shopping, it’s good for us when the marketplace knows that our dollars matter. For example, there was a recent post about that stupid, misogynistic , objectifying, Duke Nukem game. As much as I dislike it, the publisher has every right to build it. The most effective way that I can criticize that game is not to buy it, but that won’t matter if it’s not recognized that I *could* buy it or I *would* buy it if it was a compelling product.

    Next step, creating and producing games/software/merch designed by women and targeted at a female audience. No Hello Kitty please.

    1. Eivind

      I agree, except that’s what actually happens. Nobody ever really doubted that women do shopping, and that targeting female shoppers is a significant demographic. Walk into any mall on the planet, and you’ll see plenty of shops that target predominantly female shoppers. That the same thing is true online does not, I think, at this point surprise anyone.

      My fear is exactly the pigeon-holing. Seems to me that “women like to chit-chat and go shopping” does nothing to promote a more gender-neutral online world, to the contrary it seems to reinforce existing prejudices.

      I agree with you about the cure though: what I’d really like to see would be more areas online where women are common among those who own and/or create the space – not only among those who *use* it.

      Offcourse there are grey areas. In many online creative spaces, women are in the majority among the contributors. And contributing actively, helps *shape* the space to a much larger degree than simply being a consumer does. (I’m thinking of spaces like DeviantArt or FictionPress which have significant overlap with various nerdy communities)

      But the silliest assumption in the article by far, is the assumption that the Internet is primarily a shopping-mall, and thus who does the most shopping, “rules” it.

      1. Cthandhs

        I agree that the article’s assumption is silly. However, it is a good thing if women’s voices are considered important in the marketplace.

        It seems like a no-brainer that women should be the target of online marketing, but we’re not. I work in a digital agency, we make advertising and community websites for companies doing PR and marketing online. I can tell you first hand that the designers are predominantly male and the marketers who approve those designs are predominantly male. The end results are web sites that are clearly targeted towards male customers. For example, everyone throws around words like “sexy”, “sharp” and “edgy”. These are not words you use for a female targeted market segment. As silly as this article is, it will actually help get the ladies some power in the web market.

  7. ptp

    The article’s actually pretty insightful if you do the following two things before you read it:

    1) Recognize that it’s written by a VC employee trying to stoke interest in a new market segment to further her own business interests.
    2) Discard her rather subjective conclusion in lieu of the information she cites.

    It’s actually a pretty awesome shift in the way we look at the internet start-up market that sites like Etsy, Gilt, etc. are all doing well. I’d also point out that Gilt was founded by two female entrepreneurs and that Katerina Fake had a major hand in the early goings for Etsy, so there is some good take-away in all of this… as long as you remember the above two points.

    1. ptp

      I should also clarify, Katerina Fake isn’t just on the board for Etsy but is in fact the Chairman (heh) of it. Tangentially related, Zappos was founded by an Asian-American. So basically Aileen Lee sort of stumbled into an interesting but poorly-written piece about how a lot of the biggest startups on the internet include stories of successful women and minorities in major positions of authority, and how the influence of these people on the business models probably says something about the success the companies themselves are experiencing.

    2. Erica

      I agree with what you’re saying … if you recognize the point of the article … and her purpose it isn’t that bad. Being pigeon-holed is bad, when you are part of ANY demographic, but I don’t think she was out there to say “hey women are just a bunch of brainless consumers that will succumb to our will” … I think she was saying “hey, look here’s a group of people that we should market to” …. which is, in fact, her job …

  8. Terri

    My problem isn’t that the article is about carefully thought out business choices with respect to gender… As you say, within a nice narrow interpretation of the article it’s actually quite interesting. My problem is that they’re equating being part of a large shopping demographic with “ruling the Internet” and I just don’t agree that those are equivalent things. Sure, it’s just a catchy headline to get your attention, but you could be catchy without being obnoxious. e.g. “Are you missing out on the best online customers?” “Women: the Internet’s unsung demographic” or whatever. “Why women should be ruling the internet” or “Why women will soon rule the internet” could also have worked….

    I guess what’s really obnoxious about it is that it nicely makes the case for why women should be controlling how things are marketed and such… but the reality is very far away. For example, it points out that the average social gamer is likely a 43-year-old woman… but I still see social game ads that aren’t much better than the Evony ones.

  9. blogicspeak

    So, “ruling the internet” = shopping and chatting with our friends? What about writing code? Owning companies? Developing innovative concepts and ideas? It’s good that women are being recognized as a powerful market demographic, but if we don’t celebrate women’s real strengths, then we risk doing more damage than harm with tired gender stereotypes. Read our full blog post response to this piece here: http://blogicallyspeaking.tumblr.com/post/4092972868/why-women-rule-the-internet-weve-got-credit-cards

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