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Women-friendly forums

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This page describes some techniques for hosting women-friendly discussions and forums, especially online.

Start at the top: Involve women in the creation and governance of your forum at every level.

Don't Tolerate Harassment Edit

Have a zero tolerance policy concerning online harassment and enforce it.

Don't allow sexist jokes. The fact that women sometimes ignore or humour sexist jokes doesn't make them funny. The fact that some women genuinely find sexist jokes hilarious doesn't mean that they have a place in a welcoming community. Ignoring sexist jokes is tedious and asking women to humor you is insulting. It's impossible for a woman to tell if you "really" mean it, and your community will be better served if women are able to participate in the community instead of wasting their time trying to decide whether or not you are kidding.

Unless your group has an explicitly sexual purpose, minimise the discussion of the sexual desires of participants. Many women (entirely justifiably) fear online harassment in sexual contexts.

Language Edit

Review your introductory material: will a woman recognise herself in it as easily as a man will?

Use nonsexist language and encourage others in the forum to do likewise.

Use "she" to describe readers in various places, and include female names for some of your hypothetical examples when you have them.

Avoid infantilizing women. Don't say "girl" when you mean "woman."

Set an ExampleEdit

Women online (and off!) spend a great deal of time ignoring sexist language because sometimes calling people on their language takes more energy than just ignoring it. Ignoring offensive language does take effort though. As an ally, you can lift some of that burden by correcting language that is unfriendly to female participation. Example:

UserFoo: Woah, FemUser, I didn't know you were a girl.
UserBar: Hey, UserFoo, I think she might be even be an adult woman. Women do use technology, too. You might want to give ... a read.

Women are often placed in the role of "nanny" in forums. Don't leave the enforcement of social norms to the women members of the group.

Apologise SimplyEdit

If there is an anti-feminist incident in your forum, apologise simply. Don't use phrasing that suggests that only women would have found the incident upsetting, or that you would have found the incident unproblematic if there weren't complaints. Don't tell women how they should feel about the incident: listen to them describe how they feel.

See also Edit

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