Where are the female sock puppets?
It may be that minutes after this post goes up, a whole rash of women sock-puppets will be exposed and my questions will become null and void. But so far, it appears to have been a boys-only situation. The names of those writers who are accused of sock-puppeting or who have admitted to it, privately or otherwise, are so far pretty much exclusively male. Why so?
The problem with any question that looks at gender issues is that the generalisations soon come think and fast. Historically, it's women who have been considered guilty of deceitful, underhand behaviour - feminist theorists defend this as often the only option of resistance against oppression, a lack of power preventing face-to-face confrontation. Have these sock-puppeting men been experiencing a similar lack of power? Another aspect many have commented on is how the male writers involved in this scandal have been in the upper-selling bracket, the successful ones. Why resort to sneaky behaviour that smacks of powerlessness then?
I have also been wondering how it would be reported if these suck-puppets were all women? The word 'catfight' would almost certainly be bandied around. Gender would be a factor in the reporting, without a doubt. And yet, the many of exchanges that have been highlighted on blogs are stereotypically male, it seems to me. Those accused of sock-puppetry have engaged in some really unpleasant verbal antics - there's name-calling ('pinhead'), bullying tactics, threats, confrontational behaviour, a lack of proper information (the words 'free speech' have been used a lot, and most often, erroneously), and most of all perhaps, there's been a distinct lack of logic.
Mostly male defenders of the sock-puppets have claimed the sock-puppets themselves are victims of a 'witch-hunt', or a 'baying mob'. They have complained of 'hysteria' aroused by the accusations. These are very interesting terms. 'Hysteria' and 'witch-hunts' are associated with women - two excellent books that explore the history of hysteria and women are Asti Hustvedt's Medical Muses: Hysteria in 19th Century Paris and Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present.
But, of course, the sock-puppets' primary accusers haven't been women - they are men. I've read their accusations and they don't strike me as hysterical at all. They are well-informed, logical, and have been looking for ways to rectify this situation with a clearly-worded letter of protest (you can sign up here: http://nosockpuppets.wordpress.com/). What chimes more with hysteria is the behaviour of the sock-puppets themselves - irrational arguments, or lashing out alternating with sneaky tactics etc etc.
Maybe that's why there are no women doing this. The stereotypical place that women were considered previously as occupying, as hysterical, logic-defying, powerless souls, has now been usurped - by men! And successful, money-making men at that! Now, who could have guessed....