I'll be honest. This is a really long read. So, let me sum it up very briefly for you all who want to participate in a discussion but don't have time to read this article. Generally, women get harassed on the internet at a substantially higher rate than men.
This is just one example of data, but the article is chock full of data like this. We're not talking about one shady website here at all.Feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.
I've noticed in my own internet usage that whenever I make a more "male" username or make my avatar male when gaming or otherwise, a few interesting things tend to happen. First, I get treated more seriously. The things I say tend to matter more. When gaming, my ideas and strategies are listened to much more often than brushed aside. I get babied less, and given free gear/coin far less. People assume I know how to play the game. When chatting/posting to forums as a male, I so far have never been threatened or sexually harassed. (But it happens, sometimes to men, too.)
In contrast, when gaming with a female avatar or female name, I get treated as though I'm confused and new, no matter my level, gear or my style of play. Many people assume I'm on my 'boyfriend's' account or that this hypothetical boyfriend did all the work on my character for me. Often I would get threats such as those described in this article, some death threats, and quite a few rape threats. It varied by game. For example, I got way fewer threats when playing MMOs than something like a FPS. When in a social forum/chatroom I identify myself as female, I often get very forward propositions! Quite a few threats and random barrages of hatred, too.
I also made two usernames on Reddit. One female, one male. Now, Reddit has a history of treating women badly. I have to say, this is unfortunately true. I gave up on and deleted my "female" username where my comment history showed that I was female, and now only comment with my fake male persona. Everything I write is exactly the same, but if I ever refer to myself, I claim I'm male, or don't make any claim to gender at all. I get treated quite well now!
This is not particularly a problem on ADISC, however. I want to make that clear. I have only received maybe a handful of interesting propositions, not one of which was "interesting" enough to report to the mods. I think this is in part due to the level of moderation on this site, the ability to report private messages, and the community/social atmosphere here.
So first, let me thank ADISC for being one of the safest places on the internet for me, and other women I assume/hope, to hang out without having to lie about my gender (which is against the rules anyhow.) And second, I was wondering what you all have experienced on the internet. Has anyone else played with their gender online, and noticed differences in the way you were treated? Any males here switched to female to see what would happen? Have a story to share? Has anyone else noticed being threatened and sexually harassed as a woman? Any other ideas and comments to add?