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Leslie REGAN SHADE (2002), Gender and Community in the Social Construction on the Internet

New York, Peter Lang
Barbara Crow
p. 253-254

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1Surprisingly, there have been few interventions on the part of Canadian feminist scholars in the area of women, gender and the Internet. However, there is one Canadian scholar, Leslie Regan Shade — activist, policy advisor and theorist —, who has been working in this area since the inception of the internet. Indeed, in the last two years, Professor Shade has published an edited collection on Communication Studies in Canada with chapters on the internet Mediascapes : New Patterns in Canadian Communication with Paul Attallah (Nelson, 2002) and another edited collection, e-commerce vs. e-commerce : Communications in the Public Interest with Marita Moll, on the relations of the internet, public policy and capital (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2001).

2Gender and Community in the Social Construction on the Internet is an updated and revised edition of the dissertation Shade completed in McGill’s Communication Studies program. Divided into seven chapters, the introduction reviews the feminist scholarship on technology generally and considers the terms gender, community and the internet. Feminist scholarship on other forms of communication technologies such as the telephone and television is reviewed and connections are made between this literature and what we can understand about the internet. Shade then examines women’s participation as activists and consumers on-line with a conclusion outlining future research in this area.

3While I appreciated the breadth of the book’s contents, I would have liked the concept of gender to be understood in its full complexity. Women and gender are often referred to synonymously in this book. The gendered analysis is implicit in the ways the hierarchy of labour, expertise and use of this technology play themselves out ; but it is not made explicit in terms of its implications for masculinity and femininity. The book’s focus is on women’s participation on the internet with much less consideration of the ways gender, race, disability, sexuality and class intersect, mediate and modify women’s participation on-line. I hope that Shade pursues these rich lines of inquiry in her next book.

4For those of you interested in women’s on-line participation, this book provides a general overview that is easy to read with an excellent up-to-date bibliography. Shade’s concluding chapter sets out some important areas of research that are yet to be conducted. For example, there is still a dearth of research on how digital technology affects men’s and women’s paid and unpaid labour, little on the relationship between digital technology, social movements, nationalism and transnationalism, and even less on the gendered, classed and racialized use and content of the internet. Moreover, Shade raises probably her most proactive insight on the last page of the book :

We can use the Internet to debate, inform, organize, and mobilize, but at the end of the day, when we finally turn off the computer… we’re still left with the messiness of our lives. We still have bodies that need more than virtual connections, real children who need to eat real food and be reminded to do their homework, real dogs that need their daily park jaunts and real partners and friends that need conversation. No matter how much the tentacles of the new media spread in their synergistic and adulterous couplings — and believe me, we ain’t seen nothing yet! — we are all, at the end of the day citizens. Not (p. 113).

5While we may quibble about her universalization of the citizen — and it is important that we interrogate and interrupt this term. However, it may just be the construct we need to make more explicit the ways in which the material body is required in the production and distribution of this technology. Privileging Canadians as citizens instead of consumers may bring different constituencies together around issues such as access, cost, privacy, surveillance, and labour practices.

6The few of us who research and teach in this area, can certainly recommend Shade’s short and concise book. It provides very current information on the gendered issues of Internet practice and should be included in our courses.

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Barbara Crow, « Leslie REGAN SHADE (2002), Gender and Community in the Social Construction on the Internet », Communication, Vol. 22/2 | 2003, 253-254.

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Barbara Crow, « Leslie REGAN SHADE (2002), Gender and Community in the Social Construction on the Internet », Communication [En ligne], Vol. 22/2 | 2003, mis en ligne le 29 novembre 2013, consulté le 23 février 2018. URL :

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Barbara Crow

Barbara Crow, Communication Studies, York University (Toronto)

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