When I bought my first modem a couple of years ago, an el cheapo 2400 baud number to throw in my father's old cast-off XT computer system, I really had no idea how much it was going to change my life.
I was between jobs, temping in Hartford, and was depressed about not having much money to go anywhere or do anything until I could land a full-time job. I bought the modem because I'd seen a friend on a neighborhood bulletin board system a few weeks previously and thought it looked like a cool (and cheap) way to communicate with other people.
Armed with only a few computer skills and a real desire to learn, I first cruised the local BBSs and struck up friendships with a number of other--oh, let's not split hairs here--computer geeks, who shared my fondness for the digital doohickeys. In less time than it takes to say "2400 baud sucks, Beavis! Heh heh heh!" I'd mastered all the BBS software interfaces and cruised cyberspace like a pro, and had struck up a number of conversations with people all over the country by surfing Fidonet and getting involved in all the debates, be they political, religious, or sacreligious. There were no sacred cows on the bitstream.
In less than two months I was engaged in a punning war with some dude named Jeff Schult I'd met on one of the Fido message groups, or "echoes", and then I ran into him again in the Singles Group where we started talking about life, the universe, and Ireland. And the next thing I knew, he'd asked me out--in front of God knows how many people and in front of whom he risked being hideously and publicly rejected. But because he wasn't a dweeb who only talked to women in hopes of getting a phone number--and because he was a Monty Python fan--I accepted.
Now here we are, two and a half years later, far more computer literate and having graduated to the Internet, where Jeff routinely pokes fun at white light fluffy bunny foo-foo New Agers while I terrorize the Christian Coalition's Web Page with my fearsome flames.
Why aren't there more women on-line? Estimates of their numbers range from 10-35% of the Internet. Some women, I suspect, are afraid of all those nastybad-boys they've heard about harrassing, propositioning, and flaming the moment they detect boobs on the bitstream.
I have just one word for women like that.
Lightweights who can't handle a man separated by several thousand miles or maybe even half the planet are probably better off staying at home with the kids and taping their favorite "Cathy" comic strips to the fridge during Oprah's commercial breaks.
Sure, there are a lot of rude men in cyberspace. Yeah, you're going to get hit on if your e-mail address even hints at a female persona, and one of the first things you'll learn is there are an awful lot of horny, underlaid computer geeks on the Internet, all of whom labor under the delusion that every woman they talk to is the very embodiment of Cindy Crawford sensuality. And yeah, some of those guys are *really* rude.
But on the other hand, unless you happen to be talking to someone in your hometown, these jerks are in another state or another country, and are in no position to grab your butt or push you up against the wall. And unless you're the sort who worships the Great Goddess Miss Manners, a few well-worded slams will put the creep in his place and establish you early on as a woman not to be screwed with. Not that you need to drag out your cheapest shots in most cases, since uttering the magic incantation "my boyfriend" or "my husband" will cause ninety percent of the on-line Lotharios to vanish into thin air.
The ones that don't are usually the ones you'll want to talk to.
A couple of years ago in the Connecticut Users Fidonet conference, a new guy who'd obviously just learned how to turn on a computer and viewed it as nothing more than a device with which to meet women, started posting all of them, and asking if they were married, if they had a boyfriend, what they looked like, and so forth. The responses ranged anywhere from polite laughter to all-out flames. It didn't take him long to discover my persona.
M.O.D. (The name has been changed to protect the geeky): So, Nicole, what do you usually do on the weekends?
FRENCH WENCH: I hang out with my boyfriend.
M.O.D.: What do you do for fun?
FRENCH WENCH: I laugh at dweebs trying to get laid over the computer!
"OOH!!! YEAH!!! KICK 'IM WHILE HE'S DOWN!" encouraged 20-year-old Dr. Doom, one of the Connecticut cyberspace scene's most prolific posters who loved nothing better than to taunt nerdy newbies whose first on-line action was to open mouth and insert joystick.
You wanna talk about empowerment? You wanna talk about telling the boys like it is?
KAKOS: I've never met a decent Christian who thought people of other religions were okay. Every last one of them thinks we're Satanic! I've NEVER found one of these types you claim is tolerant and accepting.
HYPATIA: Why don't you try pulling your head out of your ass for the first time in your life and take a look around???
With all the victimization psychology catching hold in extremist feminist circles, some women will invariably hide their hair-does in the sand at the prospect of going on-line. But the fact is, I've never found it to be as bad as Time and Newsweek claim it is. I don't join an America On-Line chat room to be greeted with a disgusting proposition. (Then again, I'm not hanging out in "AOL MEN WHO BOFF THEIR I/O PORTS"...) At the moment, the only rudeness I've seen for a long while is coming from some lady representative of Fat People Against Discrimination or some such wierdness (where I have been duly informed that "fat" is the proper term for the metabolically-challenged, and that "overweight" is a "bigoted" term loaded with judgementalism.)
How quickly it will take the chicks to catch up with the guys in cyberspace is a matter best left to the office pool. The Internet-- along with its satellite BBS and on-line service communities--is hardly a last bastion of unconquered good ol' boy cronyism. (As compared to, say, the Citadel.) The savvy lady should have little or no trouble negotiating the byways and potholes of the Info Highway. There's unlimited information and a whole world of interesting people to talk to.
There are even a few celebrities, like Hole band member Courtney Love, hiding behind pseudonyms on the bitstream. And hey, for all we know, Brad Pitt's e-mail address may be out there just waiting to be discovered!
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