Gender differences in cyberspace

Subject: Gender differences in cyberspace
From: Melissa Hunter-Kilmer <mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 11:40:06 EST

Geoff Hart, Wolf Lahti, and Colleen Dancer all wrote about gender differences in
learning styles and information processing.

It seems to me that tech writers
1) must appeal to various learning styles and
2) must not write stuff that is interesting only to one sex or the other.

1) It may or may not be true that men and women learn differently and process
information differently. I am not sure that a definitive study can ever be done
on this; we start our training in sex roles so early that I doubt any study
could ever fully take that training into account. We can't know how much is
inherent and how much is learned.

These days, people often know what their baby's sex before the child is even
born. I have spoken to lots of these parents. They often take the opportunity
to do up the kid's room in "sex-appropriate" wallpaper, bedding, etc. Because
the parents know to treat the child as a boy or a girl, the child's sex
conditioning starts way before birth.

In any case, there are enough people who don't fit sex role stereotyping that we
should (in my view) forget about the differences between men and women. We
should just recognize differences between _people_, and target our writing

2) About ten years ago, a printer vendor was demonstrating the wonders of his
printer to me. He printed out several cheesecake pictures to show the marvelous
definition that his printer could produce. I tried to point out to him that the
pictures were geared to men (and straight men, at that) and that they didn't
make me want to buy the printer. He looked at me blankly.

That's an example of aiming only at one sex -- actually only part of the total
male population -- and expecting it to work for everybody. Most of this kind of
unwitting bias is gone now, in my view. I cannot think of a reason I would ever
include in my doc anything that would appeal only to one sex or the other. This
isn't because I'm politically correct; it's because it wouldn't work.

(Didn't we do this thread a few months ago? Oh, well, what is old is new

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
(BNA and I don't speak for each other, and we like it like that.)

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