Sexism is one of the most significant and far-reaching social issues on the map today. It routinely rears its ugly head in areas as diverse as politics, religion, education and sports. Not only has it been a problem across industries, but across centuries. It’s still a hot-button issue today, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
It’s not much of a surprise that sexism also plays a major role on online forums of all kinds. Aided by digital anonymity (though genders are often discernible through avatars or usernames), some forum members are emboldened to make attacks on others they’d probably never make in person. Online, the odds of being held accountable for their actions are low. They know this and take advantage of it.
Allowing sexism on your forum, either knowingly or unintentionally, reflects extremely unpleasantly on your forum, your brand and your associated community. Below are 3 tips to help you keep sexism where it belongs — out of your forum.
1. State Your Policies from the Outset
One of the most effective ways to keep sexism at bay in your digital community is to clearly label it as bad behavior in your terms and policies. Actually, go beyond that… let your members know in your terms that sexism is terrible behavior, and will not be tolerated.
Establishing this expectation upfront does at least two things. First, it ensures that all your members are positively aware of the standards they’ll be held to as a participant in your forum. Secondly, it capitalizes on the power of social pressure. Everyone will know that everyone else has read and agreed to your terms on sexism, making it less likely that anyone will step out of bounds.
Consider taking measures to ensure that your sexism statement stands out visiually within your terms and policies. This could include bolding it, closing it off within asterisks (**) or coloring it differently.
2. Personally Thank Your Members
If your forum has existed for any length of time, odds are good that your members have a general idea of who you are and consider your presence and personality a part of the “forum experience” to a certain extent. And if they don’t, you should take measures to correct that. Personal engagement of this variety drives interest in your members and gives a sense of wider connection.
There’s also another benefit to consider when it comes to having a strong personal relationship with your forum members. It offers you a chance to more efficiently enforce your forum terms and policies — including a zero tolerance view on sexism. When you occasionally create a separate thread personally thanking your forum members for their support of your sexism rules, it unites yourmembers around a common goal.
This is a very powerful anti-sexism technique and a strong argument for having a personal relationship with your wider community.
3. Make Sure your Mods Have a Zero Tolerance View
But there’s another important component in all of this; one which can cause a major leak in your sexism defenses if you’re not paying attention. It’s not enough for you to be onboard with gender equality… it’s not even enough for your members to be onboard with it. Your mods have to know that sexism is strictly off-limits in all forms and contexts.
Your mods act as your eyes and ears in the community: keeping order, answering questions and making sure your policies are being respectfully followed. It’simperative that they know sexism is 100% off-limits, so they can shut down any instances of it as soon as they appear. Having mods does nothing for you unless you can count on them to strictly enforce your policies. In fact, having lax mods can be worse than not having any at all.
But if you’re smart about it, you can build a team of mods that act as allies for your ideas and policies.
If you let your forum fall prey to sexism, you’re alienating a full 50% of your potential audience. Even if your forum members are mostly male, you still let your forum’s image and integrity degrade if you allow sexism to fester.
By proactively following the 3 tips we’ve laid out here, you can stamp out sexism in your online community before it has a chance to gather strength and harm your forum.