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The Rhetorical Dynamics of Gender Harassment On-Line

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Abstract

This articlecompares two extended interactions that took place recently on the Internet, one from a recreational Internet Relay Chat(IRC)channel,andtheotherfromanacademic listservdiscus- sion group. The two interactions exhibit similar gender dynamics, which can be characterized as harassment of female by male par- ticipants. This harassment takes different forms, in keeping with the possibilities inherent in the two modes of computer-mediated communication. Whereas female participants on IRC are kicked off the channel, in the discussion group harassers must rely ex- clusively on language to intimidate and silence. This ª rhetoric of harassmentº crucially invokes libertarian principles of freedom of expression,constructing women's resistance as ªcensorship.º A rhetorical analysis of the two harassment episodes thus sheds light on the means used toconstruct and maintain asymmetricalgender and power dynamics in different modes of CMC.
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