The Folly of Women Only Spaces Online

A link I found on Feministing today got my brain going this morning, and I’m glad I have a blog now, since I can finally write it all out. The post was called ‘Why The Washington Post’s new lady blog is wrong for women’, and I couldn’t agree more. Go read it first, then we’ll chat some more.

The first time I noticed this trend (creating spaces specifically for women instead of just adding more women in general) was with TED. Now, I love the TED talks. As in, I would spend all day watching them if I had just an ounce less willpower. But then they decided they needed to make a space for women. And I saw people talking about it like it was something awesome. Like, look at this nice gesture! Aren’t they being great? And I was thinking, no. No they’re not being great.

Because making a space for one specific sub-group can get wierd. It can easily turn into an excuse to move that group out of your normal space, to somewhere that people have to search out to find them. Before, if they wanted a woman speaker then they just put her in. Done! Diversity for TED and exposure for a sub-group. A win-win.

But now I wonder if there isn’t a subconcious shuffling going on. Where a woman speaker gets moved off into this little TED Women section, and then if you want to see that it’s harder to find it. You have to know that section is there, and you have to be actively checking it. And I wonder if there won’t be less women on TED’s main section. You know, where most of the exposure is.

So when I see these things I have to wonder. Are these people, the newspapers and the blogs, are they just not thinking it through? Do they think they’re helping? Because Jessica has it completely right. If you want to show equality, just add more people to your main site. It feels a bit like those old time-y dinner parties, where the men went into one room to talk about important things, and the women went somewhere else. How about just letting us join you, instead of moving us aside?