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Summary: Rhiannon Bury’s “Nice Girls Don’t Flame”

This chapter of Cyberspaces of Their Own talks about politeness in two fan-fiction mailing lists with mostly female members: the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade (DDEB) and the Militant RayK Separatists (MRKS). Bury begins with a brief history of etiquette, explaining that women, when in mixed-sex groups, tend to introduce topics and support discussion rather than dominate it. Although this can be interpreted as an indication of powerlessness, it can also be seen as a cooperative (as opposed to competitive) style of speech, focusing on the facilitation of conversation.

Susan Herring (1996) found that women pay more attention than men to observing positive politeness – supportive and congratulatory language and avoidance of flaming – and Bury observes this in the DDEB and MRKS mailing lists. Members never engage in flaming and generally avoid swearing, particularly in an abusive manner. They frequently employ low modality and apologetic language instead of making direct statements to encourage discussion without being abrasive and creating conflict. Even when presenting opposing opinions, they focus on politeness and areas of agreement. Bury suggests that this cooperative approach is what allows these mailing lists to create a sense of community.

Bury, Rhiannon. “Nice Girls Don’t Flame: Politeness Strategies On (the) Line.” Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. 131-65. Print.

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