In the late '90s, communications researcher Charles Soukup spent some time hanging out in two highly gendered chat rooms, where he promptly made an observation that's been canon ever since: Men and women use vastly different communication styles online, but when you put the two together, it's the loudest one that wins. All-girl groups, on the other hand, tend to operate according to a more nuanced set of rules – in many cases, quite literally.
's all-female chat room began to diversify into other subjects. Get a bunch of ladies in a private chat, and you'll see all sorts of conversations you wouldn't see typically."Communities are fundamentally different when they're just women," said founder Susan Johnson, giving voice to a piece of old, obvious wisdom that's enjoying something of a renaissance online."The cadence is different, the tone is more trusting...
The stubborn gender wage gap that plagues our industry.
It's this safe environment where everyone can express herself without being trolled all the time."READ MORE: * 'I won't apologise for how I look' * Thousands join social media campaign to name the men who troll them online * 'I'm growing a baby': TV presenter has had it with pregnancy body-shamers * Most women hate their body. Private women's forums are – to be clear – as old as the internet itself.
Despite the fact that women are the dominant users of almost every social network (with the exceptions of Twitter and Reddit), they tend to face severe and sustained online harassment at a rate far higher than men.
In 2014, the Pew Research Centre found that one in four young women has been stalked online – and roughly the same proportion has been sexually harassed or physically threatened.
But it's not just the overt harassment that can make the internet seem less than welcoming to its female guests.There's also the fact that so-called "mixed-gender" spaces tend to default, decisively, to men.But they seem to have proliferated in the past two years, helped along by the rise of messaging apps and growing awareness of both privacy and gender-based online harassment.In addition to Johnson's "gender-gated" social network and projects like the "troll-free" feminist community Femsplain, the past two years have seen a proliferation of invite-only private message threads and closed Facebook groups with names like "Girls Night Out", "Female Founders" and "No Boys Allowed".Because of their private nature, it's hard to come by exact numbers of these groups. And regardless of each group's exact size or platform, they share a common mission: to give women a refuge where they can talk about tampons or wage gaps or whatever else without raising male eyebrows or drawing harassment."It's exhausting being attacked for having any opinion or being cross-examined about a personal experience," said Hannah Witton, the host of the feminist You Tube series "Girl on Girl"."It's like a breath of fresh air to be able to talk about these things without worrying about or expecting (hostile) comments."ONLINE HARASSMENTIt's no longer a secret, of course, that the internet can be unfriendly to women.