Signal Boost: Surfing the Third Wave: The Present-Day Feminist Movement Online

If you’re reading this blog, you probably care about issues such as gender studies, feminism, womanism, and women’s rights. I am a graduate student at the University of Delaware, and I’m doing a research study about these issues and how the internet plays a role in people’s beliefs and activism. I’m looking for people like you to fill out a survey about your experiences online. Whether you’re a regular visitor of these websites or have just started checking things out, I would really like to hear from you. Website owners, administrators, and moderators are also welcome! If you’re interested, please click on the link below to take the survey. Thanks!

Link to survey

You may contact the following people if you have any questions about details of this research study or its procedures, if you wish to ask for follow-up materials, or for any other reason:

Nena S. Craven, M.A.
Principal Investigator
+1 (302) 442-0547

Dr. Susan L. Miller
Faculty Advisor
+1 (302) 831-1562

For questions or concerns regarding the rights of individuals who agree to participate in research, please contact:

Chair, Human Subjects Review Board
University of Delaware
+1 (302) 831-2137

About s.e. smith

s.e. smith is a recalcitrant, grumpy person with disabilities who enjoys riling people up, talking about language, tearing apart poor science reporting, and chasing cats around the house with squeaky mice in hand. Ou personal website can be found at this ain't livin'.

15 thoughts on “Signal Boost: Surfing the Third Wave: The Present-Day Feminist Movement Online

  1. I was able to complete it half way due to a combination of inaccessibility isues, my mobile connection, and distractions. The screenreader friendly version didn’t work cause I have too low a version of JAWS.

  2. That was a long and confusing survey – I really wish they’d defined their terms a bit better because I’m really not sure what they were actually asking in places.

    Also, the third-gendering of trans people was not cool.

  3. I apologize for the accessibility issues, Astrid. I can’t change it at this point, but I’ll be sure to make a note of it in my results and to work for an upgrade in future research projects.

    Sorry about the general confusion with terms- some was intentional, because I wanted respondents to define things for themselves, but some is entirely my fault- this is my first large solo research project. I appreciate everyone’s patience and thoughtful answers, as well as the thoughtful criticisms.

    I am also very sorry that the placement of “trans gender” in the survey was offensive to you, Kaz. My intention was to make it possible for people who wanted to identify as trans to do so, and people who identified as male/man or female/woman and did not wish to include either cis or trans in their identity could ignore the third category. This is why I worded the question “in your opinion, which of the following best describes your gender.” I will look further into the matter and see what I can do to make this more clear and inclusive.

    Any additional feedback about the survey is more than welcome, and can be directed to me at

  4. I have never before seen a survey that requires a person to specify their household income (for surveys that require a response to that question, “decline to answer” is always an option).

  5. Thanks for responding!

    Re: the trans question – I’m not trans so take my advice with a grain of salt, but would it be possible to have two questions, one for gender identity “male, female, or (fill in blank here)” and one for, well, trans status “cis, trans*, or (fill in blank here)”? Because as it stands, the juxtaposition of “man, woman, trans” makes it sound as if trans people are never men or women and reinforces cis bodies as being normal and trans as Other.

  6. Stef- the household income question is intended to be a measure of social class, along with level of education. It was my understanding that this was a fairly standard question, but I appreciate your feedback and will keep it in mind when I design future research projects. This is a huge learning experience for me.

  7. Kaz- you’re very welcome. It would certainly be possible to have more than one question, at least from a technical standpoint. I can see your point about how putting trans in the third category seems to make the first two categories cis by default. But it seems to me that the configuration you’re suggesting is also problematic. I was thinking that a person who has gone through a transition but identifies only as a man or a woman, without qualifiers, would not appreciate having to choose. And of course there’s the unfortunate truth that even this group (online feminists) includes a ton of people who have no idea what “cis” even means. Maybe the best would be to do a list with “mark all that you consider to be part of your identity.” Then I could list man/male, woman/female, cisgender person, transgender person, etc. Thanks again for your feedback!

  8. I am trans*. To get specific: trans woman and androgyne (thus multiply gendered whilst a single personality — I try to avoid seeming appropriative of plural and multiple people’s lives ((and sometimes I confuse myself so confusion is fine))). And rather put out by your responses to kaz so far. Because kaz was right: when you’ve got “male” and “female” and “trans” as “pick one of the above” options you are working from and reinforcing the structural inequities that mark cis people’s genders as real normal right and trans* people’s genders as fake abnormal wrong. Whatever your intent was the structural inequities exist and we are keenly aware of their subtleties.

    I’d really like a single unadorned text box. Not a list of ticky boxes. Makes more work for you on the stats end deciding which response goes where (especially if you’re doing modal analyses bleh) but that’s always true when doing stats innit? It’s never quite as clear as one would like. Every category has fuzzy edges.

    If you did go with kaz’s suggestion (which is rather good and gets you stats manipulable by script) then you could put a ‘click here if you have questions about this’ link next to the trans*/cis/[intersex]/(tell me more!) thing explaining what cis is and why it is marked and not presumed.

    Not every respondent who is not-cis is going to tell you. the world — of which the internets is part — is still very hostile to the existence of trans* folk and non-binary folk and intersex folk. It is not safe to be out. even on anonymous surveys.

    Speaking of non-binary and intersex: Hey look who got mostly disappeared from your consideration? It’s kinda depressing always being relegated to an etc. Intersex people often consider themselves neither trans* nor cis and don’t fit well at all into binary models of gender and sex and face their own kinds of oppression and erasure. Including misappropriation of their lives and experiences by some trans* folk.

    There are some people who transition to a binary-normative gender identity and consider themselves cis. They aren’t a real large part of the trans* community online or off.[1] It’s nice that you want to be accommodating to them. but the way you actually created your survey was a classic way of Othering trans* folk. We encounter forms that don’t include us and have to try to figure how to fill them out all the fucking time and it’s really damn annoying. (For me personally? Being a person with complicated chronic physical and mental illnesses I get to interact with a whole lot of medical and mental health professionals and I get to do a shitload of communication education ((I’m autistic and sometimes dysphasic and always have problems processing verbal communication)) and gender education ((ever fun: “When was your last period?” “I don’t menstruate.” “Huh?” “I. Don’t. Menstruate.”)) and it’s fucking exhausting.)

    We have written about it. There’s An Introduction to Gender Terminology here and the excellent Beyond the Binary: Let’s Go to the Doctor! at s.e. smith’s other blog.

    [1] Many such are openly hostile to trans* communities complaining we fuck up their lives what with our being all noisy about being trans* and shit. (No seriously. Their complaint runs roughly like this: We remind people that trans* folk exist creating an environment of heightened awareness which makes it harder for them to live stealth. They are highly resentful. These are also the people who tend to do the most of the appropriating of intersex folk’s experiences. They don’t consider themselves trans* at all and intersex seems like a closer fit except they haven’t actually lived those experiences and oppressions and the people who do are Not Best Pleased. Not identifying as trans* is fine — it’s not for me to police that self-identification — but claiming an oppression that’s not yours is a shitty thing to do.) It’s all a big ugly mess and it’s a thing that we’d just as soon cis folk not get involved with. I’m just saying shit is complicated here.
    kaninchenzero´s last blog post ..why share when you can overshare

  9. kaninchenzero- I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about this at such length. I’m sorry that you’ve been put out by my responses so far. I am seriously committed to figuring this out, and to growing as a researcher and an ally.

    I had hoped to build a survey that allowed everyone room to claim their identity without forcing anyone to conform to a binary OR to out themselves if this was uncomfortable or unsafe. You are absolutely right, though, when you say that the outcome of the structure of the survey trumps my intent. Language and structure are extremely important, and it’s obvious that my outcome didn’t match my intent if taking the survey was as uncomfortable for you as you’ve described. For that, I really want to apologize.

    I think that your idea of a simple text box is actually very doable and would not be prohibitively difficult to analyze, and I seriously wish I had thought of it before.

    Unfortunately it is too late for me to edit this survey. But the critiques that I have received about the structure of the survey are going to be included in my dissertation, and are absolutely going to change how I go about future research projects.

    If you would like to talk with me more about this I’ll be monitoring this thread, or you can contact me at Again, I apologize for my missteps and appreciate your feedback.

  10. I did know this survey could not be altered at this stage; I wasn’t expecting you to change that just hoping to provide something that might stick in your head for when you’re next creating a survey.

    Thank you, that’s a very nicely done apology and it’s appreciated.

    It’s funny how things we don’t even consider as assumptions get in the way, isn’t it? You genuinely were trying to be more inclusive than the usual demographic “are you: male|female” question and knew that it left trans* folk out. So you put trans in that menu. (And got snarled at. To your credit you’ve stuck around and haven’t done the wounded privilege thing.) Discarding male|female as options on a menu is sort of a radical idea when first encountered — even for us. It’s fucking everywhere and if cis binary female or cis binary male is not a very uncomfortable fit for you as a gender identity[1] it’s probably something you rarely think about. We have to think about it every time we’re confronted with such a form, even if our gender identity is female or male and it’s still a radical move to discard those options the first time we encounter the idea. And no menu of options for “how do you identify?” is going to be complete (hence trans*, hence queer, hence kinky). We’re already burdened with an assumption that we’re inherently deceptive so whatever we put down will be wrong. If it’s a doctor’s office we have to out ourselves at some point usually. Since I’m poor I have all original equipment and have only been able to do hormone replacement: For preventative care I get mammograms and checks for testicular and prostate cancer.

    People make jokes about how when there’s health insurance reform they’re going to demand a mammogram and a prostate check because they could (maybe true under the law but it’s mostly a look how ridiculous message spread through the opponents’ media machine). Oh. High. Larious. Yeah nobody actually lives that or needs that or anything.

    There are reasons I call them The People Who Want Us Dead. Their policies kill.

    [1] Cis binary female can and is often uncomfortable due to sexist structural inequities and restrictive gender roles. But most cis women don’t consider themselves men and wouldn’t transition to gain male privilege (transitioning doesn’t work like that anyway; cis binary privilege doesn’t attach so well to trans folk despite what *cough* some people might say). What’s needed is to dismantle the structural inequities and decouple social roles and all those destructive associations from female and male leaving identity and presentation the only remaining aspects of gender.[2]

    [2] I adore footnotes, I do. e_e
    kaninchenzero´s last blog post ..why share when you can overshare

  11. Thanks for accepting the apology, and for all of your feedback. I have added a note to the survey, which will appear above the gender question for everyone who takes the survey from now on:

    “A note about gender: it has been brought to my attention that the placement of “trans person” as part of the third option in the following question about gender may be offensive. Although I can not change the structure of the survey at this time, I want to apologize for any offense. Please answer the question about gender in whatever way is most appropriate to your own identity and safety. Any questions or comments about this matter can be directed to the principle investigator, [NAME], [EMAIL].”

    This is obviously an imperfect solution, and I’m always struggling with how to make formal language sound sincere instead of snotty. As always, I’m open to feedback if you feel like it, and thanks for everything so far.

  12. Nena, I really appreciate how you’ve engaged with the trans community about this. It’s heartening to see someone not just getting it, but being so determined to figure out how to do it better. Thank you! After some of the ludicrous behaviour and attitudes I’ve seen about studies that class trans women as MSM[0] and exclude the possibility of gay trans men, this is a nice change.

    I’ve encountered one situation where I was mostly okay with having gender split out in a similar way: my pharmacy[1] has check boxes for female, male, transgender female and transgender male on their initial form and you’re requested to check all that you feel apply. It took me a few seconds to decide I was okay with it (other than a lack of intersex and non-binary options *facepalm*) because in that very specific case it may be relevant to how much extra info they need to give me. I’ve heard enough horror stories, especially from non-out or early transition women about screwups or weird assumptions being made by pharmacists that in the end it seemed like a good idea to me. I can’t thing of another time where any specific identity list needs to be encoded into a survey though a checkbox list + fill in box seems to be an acceptable compromise as long as it’s carefully & inclusively done.

    [0] Yes we are statistically a higher risk group (especially for those trans women who have sex with men), yes it’s easier to get funding for MSM research & efforts, and yes everyone’s very earnest… but erasing our identities and lumping us in with a group that’s likely to have very different patterns and concerns isn’t going to do us any good and won’t encourage participation.
    [1] Seattlemeds in Seattle, best place for trans issues I’ve ever gone! *love*

  13. Thanks Kate! And thanks again to everyone for bearing with me while I stumbled around a bit. I’m heading for my first full-time academia gig in the fall, which will eventually include teaching methodology- so I promise to pass on what I’ve learned.

  14. (I don’t believe I’ve commented here before, so hi, y’all).

    Nena, I want to thank you for taking the critique of the trans* folk without getting defensive about it. For that reason, I’m reversing my original decision not to take the survey.

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