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There Are No Girls on the Internet

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"The Internet: where the men are boys, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents."

Common assumption on the early years of the Internet, then a typical joke and quickly becoming a Discredited Trope.

Back in the dim recesses of history, the Internet was predominately populated by computer savvy people, which were assumed to be mostly men, and if you found someone with a female/girly username it tended to be a lie.

As the Internet grew, women became more common. Interestingly enough, men pretending to be women also became more common as well; it soon became apparent that announcing you were female online (and thus a geek girl) was a way to get lots of attention and accommodation from other users, even to the point of some them being tricked into mailing gifts, cash, or passwords. In some circles the backlash was huge and violent, leading to anyone claiming to be female to instantly be accosted with demands of "proof" (eventually codified as "Tits or GTFO").

Of course, proving you are female online is something of a conundrum, since any pictures or voice you present as proof can just as easily have come from a sister, girlfriend, or random site — which thanks to webcams was later solved by asking for a "timestamp", a picture with the current date, time, and a certain message (which could still be pictured with a woman who just happened to be near the actual poster, but it helps). Not proving it or refusing to share pictures means that you would be assumed to be male and only pretending to be female for the attention or (if in a game) free items.

For real women, even a vague mention of a boyfriend or husband as an aside would get these righteous Internet College Males screeching in rage that you were an evil Attention Whore pretending to be female to get things. In response, girls started pretending to be guys just to avoid the harassment.

Nowadays, the lingering sentiment can only be seen as a meme in certain corners of the Internet and in people's assumption that anyone they meet online is male unless obviously otherwise. You can still see this in the gaming community, but that too is fading with time. With the advent of Voice over IP, it's pretty obvious who's female (at least physically) as your voice will "give you away". It's still good to keep in mind that sometimes the software distorts or changes the voice so that people will question your sex regardless.

Nowadays, women dominate communities such as Fanfiction sites, Soap Opera boards, Facebook, Second Life, LiveJournal and its clones (particularly in Journal Roleplay), Tumblr (the successor to LiveJournal for fandom blogging) or MySpace. As such, this is mainly a Discredited Trope these days.

See also Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls, Hackette, G.I.R.L. and Cross Player.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Cowboy Bebop, while the crew investigates the hacking of an old spy satellite, everybody assumes that Radical Edward, the mysterious computer genius who did it, is a male of indeterminate age, race, and apparently species. Turns out Ed is a thirteen-year-old girl (even when looking right at her, it took Faye a few minutes to tell).
  • Part of why so many people were in denial about Tsukasa in the .hack series. The series averts this in general, there are only two cases of a male pretending to be female.

    Comic Books 
  • In Ultimate X-Men, Hank McCoy believes that he is spending his time chatting with a supermodel mutant named Naomi. It's actually the Blob, searching for info on Magneto's death. Cue things turning sour, when Hank accidentally lets it slip that Magneto's still alive and agrees to meet "Naomi", only to have Brotherhood telepaths rip their leader's location out of McCoy's head. Blob even says that everyone on the internet is either guys or guys pretending to be girls.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Cube 2: Hypercube, the (female) protagonist is surprised to find out that the legendary hacker "Alex Trusk" is a girl, as the guy who originally told her about Alex assumed "he" must be male.
  • Gamer: Kable's wife is an actress in that universe's version of Second Life, and she's "played by" a fat, sweaty pervert who likes to use her for cyber-sex.
  • Similarly, the protagonist of the movie Hackers is surprised that fellow hacker Acid Burn is female.
  • The Matrix:
    • Neo is surprised that "Trinity" is a woman, he thought it was a guy. She replies that most guys assume she is a man, mocking the trope.
    • Earlier in the drafts, "Switch" was intended to be a female in the Matrix and a male in the real world.
  • In a variant, the first victim in Surrogates is an overweight male who operated a sexy female surrogate.

  • Subverted with a passion in And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?. Hideki/Rusian tried to confess to a girl online, but she admitted that she was actually a guy in real life. However, when his present-day guild decides to have a real-life meetup, not only does the girl he ended up marrying in-game turn out to be an actual girl, but his other two guildmates turn out to be female Cross Players. Also, the first girl ended up being a girl after all, and one of his guildmate's friends, also a girl, ends up joining later.
  • Durarara!!:
    • Izaya uses the female persona Kanra while online. And he's particularly girly online, leading to many fanworks of him cross-dressing to get "in character." Also, it's suspected in the novels that Pure Water 100% is Aoba pretending to be a girl.
    • Subverted in that Setton (a basically androgynous user) turns out to be Celty, and Saika is a girl... well, originally a knife, but NOW a girl...
  • In Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, Mike interrupts his review of You've Got Mail to remind us that not only is Meg Ryan not chatting with us online, but that:
    Michael J Nelson: " one who looks like Meg Ryan is chatting with you, either. No one named Meg is chatting with you... Guys, if there's a void in your life that you think is being filled online, keep in mind the person doing it has a beer gut and is named Dan, and remember that you're also filling a void in his life. Ladies... well, you don't need any advice, because you don't chat online."
  • In Otherland Sam deliberately uses a male-persona online to avoid the annoying moths-to-a-flame effect.
  • In Ready Player One Aech, the protagonist's best friend online, is actually a girl in real life but has a male avatar and persona. Aech is pronounced as in H, and her name is Helen.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • Lampshaded during the Aincrad arc, where the majority of female players were revealed to be male players using female avatars. This also holds true for Gun Gale Online, where Sinon is one of the only girls shown onscreen in the male-dominated game.
    • This phrase is said word-for-word by Asuna in the first episode of the DVD Blu-Ray mockumentary Sword Art Offline.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played straight in The Big Bang Theory: Howard and Bernadette had a breakup caused by him having online sex in a Warcraft Game with a female troll. Turns out the person playing the female elf was actually another male.
  • Doctor Who:
    • From the first episode of the revival: "She? She's read a website about the Doctor and she's a she?"
    • "Blink":
      Larry Nightingale: Me and the guys are trying to work out the other half.
      Sally Sparrow: When you say "you and the guys", you mean the Internet, don't you?
      Larry Nightingale: How'd you know?
      Sally Sparrow: Spooky, isn't it?
  • Ted in How I Met Your Mother was a G.I.R.L. playing WOW. Also inverted, as at one point he met a Girl In Real Life playing a male character.
  • On NCIS, McGee is very taken with a woman he's met in his online gaming program, the one where he's an elf lord. DiNozzo confides to Ziva that it's really him, messing with "Probie" and trying to teach him a lesson that women online aren't to be trusted. It's then subverted when McGee, tipped off thanks to Ziva, turns the prank around on Tony by Pulling the Thread and pretending to be getting a little too serious about the nonexistent woman, to Tony's great consternation.
  • Way, way, averted in Person of Interest, where for quite a long stretch the Big Bad is a female black hat hacker who goes by the handle Root. (Bit of a Genius Bonus there: in the Unix world, "root" is the usual name of the superuser account, which gives whoever's logged into it total control of the system. Windows has the same sort of account but calls it "Administrator", which is the same thing the Machine calls Harold.)
  • Psych: "Poker? I Hardly Know Her!" - Shawn and Gus (well, mostly Shawn, but it was Gus' account) track down a guy by chatting him up online while pretending to be a girl, then asking to meet him. When they meet, the guy says that he should have known they weren't really a girl.
    "All girls on the internet are guys. Except for you, who are actually two guys..."
  • This was kind of alluded to by Drew Carey on Whose Line Is It Anyway? once. His line went something like this: "Welcome back to Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter. Yep, the points are something you'll never see, just like a real lesbian in a lesbian chat room."
  • Subverted in Halt and Catch Fire, which highlights that there actually were quite a few girls on the Internet back in the early days.

    Newspaper Comic 
  • A variation is used in FoxTrot. Jason meets a fellow RPGer who he finds incredibly cool and talented. He is then horrified to learn that the player is a girl after she offhandedly comments that she has to get her bangs trimmed. Turns out it's Eileen Jacobson, who found out his username from his friend and wanted to prove that they could be friends if he wasn't so hung up on her gender.
    • Peter was similarly afflicted, receiving an instant message from a bikini model who shared all his interests and wanted to chat; he assumed it was Jason pranking him, but it really was an attractive woman with football posters on the wall, who responds to Peter's misaimed threats against "Jason" by calling the police.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in VA 11 Hall A: there is a forum that tends to treat men the same way women are often treated on the real-world internet.
  • For a while, some users playing lady Night Elves in World of Warcraft got the idea of stripping off their armor and doing the /dance animation on top of the Ironforge mailbox for tips. Doing so was an immediate way to be branded as a girl (and a scrub). Although in reality, probably a lot of the dancers were guys irl. Whether or not anyone made significant money doing this is still hotly debated as well. Despite the fact that this stereotype is widely believed in the fanbase, Franchise/Warcraft has actually had a large female following since Warcraft III. Also the game's primary fansite [1] was started and is run by two veteran women players: as are several of the most prominent youtubers. For whatever reason though, there is a persistent rumor that there were no women playing the game until the Mists of Pandaria expansion. The reason usually given for this, is that this expansion introduced the Pandaren who are cute anthropomorphic pandas. This is a game that already had cute anthropomorphic cows, absurdly cute werewolves, and the ability to turn into cute animals via the Druid class. Also the Pandaren were introduced in Warcraft III actually. A factoid that the female gamers are far more likely to remember than the male gamers who spread the rumors, which might have something to do with the male leads of that game being particularly attractive.

    Visual Novels 
  • This is why everyone in SC2VN assumes that Reva is male.

  • Arthur, King of Time and Space: In the contemporary arc, Arthur and Guinevere first meet when their characters on an MMORPG team up; Arthur initially doubts that Guinevere is really a girl, partly because she's playing a male character but mostly because she also claims that in real life she's not wearing any clothes. (She isn't lying: She's a nudist.)
    • Later, when their MMORPG team all get webcams, it turns out that Tristram is also female (which comes as a surprise to the reader, as well, since in the standard Arthurian tale Sir Tristram is male).
      • Though the big surprise around Tristram being female was actually because she had complained before about her uncle Mark's treatment of his wife Isolde (and she, like Guinevere, played a male character online) as if Isolde was just a trophy for Mark. The other characters thus assumed that Tristram was a guy expressing his frustrated crush on Isolde. Lancelot, as a reflexive homophobe (though he got better about it), definitely took the revelation the worst.
  • Frequently mocked (yet entirely subverted) in Enjuhneer.
  • Two of the characters in Flintlocke Vs. The Horde try to figure out if Cheri the warlock is really a girl. Turns out she is.
  • The Slice of Life webcomic Friday y Innak explains that both the author Kkatman and her fursona, the eponymous Friday, intentionally chose masculine usernames because "I didn't want anyone knowing I was a girl. Lot of freaks on the internet." Innak, Friday's male room-mate, nervously replies "And now that you're one of them?"
  • Gen, of Little Tales, has a very sincere way of telling trolls she's a girl while streaming.
    Gen: Anyone can flash a camera, but it just takes a little bit of cleverness to send a troll screaming, even though you give them exactly what they asked for.
  • Also referenced in this Penny Arcade strip.
  • Sabrina Online mentions this quite early. When Sabrina logs onto a chatroom and the guys go nuts when she announces she's really a girl. Granted it was 1997.
  • On the gaming note, Sequential Art, Pip gets into "Realm of Lorcraft", an MMORPG, and starts going on quests with a player in possession of a hot female avatar. Art convinces him that it's probably a "fat, bald man with B.O." on the other end. Cue the next panel, which shows an actual hot chick, on her bed, with a laptop, unsuccessfully searching for Pip's character.
  • This xkcd addresses this.

    Web Original 
  • This Article from The Escapist.
  • Deliberately averted in The Guild, in which there about as many female gamers as there are male ones.
  • Inverted in Journal Roleplay. Female players outnumber the guys by a lot, and among many sources of drama is the community's tendency to view male players as "creepy".
  • Averted in One Hundred Yard Stare a web original where there are definitely girls on the internet.
  • Averted with Pinterest, a site whose user base is filled with far more women than even Tumblr.
  • Tucker of Red vs. Blue fame says this at one point to his alien baby, advising him, among other things, that "all the girls on the internet are actually dudes".
    • Red Vs. Blue also did this in its "Real Life Vs. Internet" PSA, in a skit with Donut (an Ambiguously Gay male character with pink armor) pretending to be the girl and Simmons playing a skeptical guy.
  • Resident Evil Musicals's creator Shadow Leggy has been constantly mistaken for a guy on the earlier days until she told her fans she was a girl. She even mocks this trope sometimes herself.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Danny Phantom episode "Teacher of the Year", Tucker and Danny don't believe girls play online games. They're extremely surprised to find out the player Chaos, who routinely kicks their butts, is none other than their friend, Sam(antha), who then reveals that 'all' the best players of the game are girls, who know codes and secrets that none of the boys do.
  • In Dino Squad, Buzz gets hooked to an online dino game. The Big Bad finds out and, using various technological means, poses as a teenage girl who plays alongside Buzz and getting to know him a bit. Ultimately, Buzz is lured to an abandoned house after the "girl" shouts that a dinosaur monster is attacking.
  • Parodied in one episode of Duck Dodgers where he is playing an online fantasy game with a party. He initially assumes that the attractive blonde elf in the group is likely fat and unattractive in real life. Later he avoids getting a kiss from an extremely beautiful witch who he thinks the same of (he transformed her from a witch Hazel cameo after all), only for the audience to find out she looked exactly as attractive in real life.
  • On Futurama, Leela enters a chatroom and hears some nerds boasting about their "success" with women. She announces herself as female, only to have the nerds panic at her presence. Meanwhile, another "female" avatar speaks with an obvious male voice.
    • Of course, the chatroom they were in advertised itself as "Filthy," so...
    • Bender then disguises himself as a woman and starts charging by the minute to talk to him.
  • Kyle from South Park plays as a female fire mage in WOW in "Make Love Not Warcraft".
  • In Undergrads, Gimpy (hacker alias G-Prime) catches another hacker hacking his computer. He automatically assumes this to be a male hacker until her name and logo come up: She-Prime. He's initially freaked out.
    Gimpy: Whoever did this is a man of skill! A man of cunning!
    (She Prime logo comes up.)
    Gimpy: A... A girl? A girl!?

    Real Life 
  • If you go by pictures and video, then pictures of girls probably outnumber pictures of guys - at least more than half.
  • In MMORPGs, plenty of cases existed where male players pretend to be girls to get free things. A common joke was that any female character is likely a GIRL (Guy In Real Life).
    • And also subverted when plenty of female players made male characters to avoid harassment.

Alternative Title(s): Tits Or GTFO