If anyone is a superpatron of that giant library called the Internet, it\u2019s me. What heaven! A global library that never closes! Last year, I logged more than 1,000 leisure hours online. That works out to about three hours a day visiting sites to read, bank, buy, track, map and research--and that\u2019s not counting the hours online I put in at work. I didn\u2019t, however, spend two seconds at any of the large commercial sites aimed at women, such as iVillage, WomenCentral, Oxygen.com or Women.com. Why should I? What do these sites have to offer me? Fashion tips? No thanks. I have a teenage daughter. Parenting advice? I turn to coworkers who\u2019ve been there, done that. Dating dilemmas? I phone a girlfriend. Millions of women visit these sites. I don\u2019t know any of them.Although they promised us a revolution, these sites are a devolution, hosting content that harks back to the worst June Cleaver-ish prefeminist tripe. The question that drives me nuts is why. Why in 2001, after decades of feminism, countless books, articles, lawsuits and marches, are people--many of them women--pouring millions into building sites that insult my gender\u2019s intelligence and portray us all as dimwits? At a time when women compose 50.4 percent of the online population and make the majority of all household purchasing decisions, can\u2019t these people think of anything better to offer women? Better than all the old-fashioned junk that used to go into the "women\u2019s pages" in your daily newspaper: horoscopes, fashion tips, recipes and advice to the lovelorn. One of the reasons these sites are such wastelands of retro fluff is they want to be women\u2019s sites without being labeled feminist, says Henry Jenkins, the director of comparative media studies at MIT and teacher of a course on gender, sexuality and pop culture. "There\u2019s the notion that if you take a more progressive stance about femininity, you\u2019re going to alienate the most conservative segment of the marketplace," he says. "When they put themselves in that ideological trap, they end up going back to prefeminism and suddenly we\u2019re in Betty Crocker-land."Is it really that bad? Is it really Betty Crocker-land? Perhaps I\u2019m overstating the case. Perhaps these sites aren\u2019t as backward as I think they are. Maybe I should take another look.Dumb And DumberIt\u2019s 9 p.m. when I arrive at Women.com ("Where women are going"), and the lead is "Get Fiscally Fit." Even genderless topics like finances are translated for women who, it is assumed, will be able to understand the rocket science of balancing a checkbook only if it\u2019s presented in the language of body image. "Do you need to put your debt on a diet? Shape up your investments? Check out these tips from our financial expert, Cash Flo." The question of the day at Women.com: "What\u2019s your favorite cardio machine: treadmill, stairmaster, elliptical machine?" "Vote!" the button exclaims as if it\u2019s 1920 and women have just won the franchise. I arrive at iVillage.com, once the hottest IPO on the Nasdaq, now a poster child for the dotcom roller coaster. The Hey-Honey-I\u2019m-Home headline asks, "What\u2019s for dinner?"But what\u2019s this--iVillage is promoting "technologies tailored for women"? That sounds promising. What are these 21st century applications? Let\u2019s see. There\u2019s the Baby Name Finder, a Mothering Style Quiz, a Soul Mate Oracle, the Fragrance Finder, a Mr. Right Quiz and--be still my heart!--a Makeover-o-Matic where you can manipulate photos to try on a new look. While the nation is churning over Roe v. Wade, federal funding for faith-based social service organizations, military spending, missile reduction, tax cuts and even Eminem\u2019s feud with Christina Aguilera, the burning question on iVillage\u2019s Speak Your Mind forum is, "Are you high maintenance in the \u2019getting ready\u2019 department? How long does it take you to get ready for everyday life and special occasions?" Answer: One second to click and get outta here.Over at Oprah.com (part of Oxygen Media), the site\u2019s tag line is "Your Best Life." But there\u2019s nothing about your life here--it\u2019s all Oprah, all the time. Count it: Oprah\u2019s name can be found on the splash page 17 times. And on every page there\u2019s a phot-O of Lady O. Here, in O-land, there are more makeovers than you can shake a lipstick tube at: Glamorous Makeovers, Body Makeovers and Lifestyle Makeovers (for women "who feel lost" or who\u2019ve "lost themselves"). Evangelist Oprah also exhorts her Web audience to be on The Oprah Show--send a friend an "O to Go" audio e-card (with Oprah\u2019s own voice) and e-shop at the Oprah Book Club. The site\u2019s pages are sprinkled with italicized, positively O-prahtic quotes: "OK--I\u2019m sitting here pouring my guts out on the stage." OK! Enough! Get me out of here before I pop an O-ring.All of these sites are overflowing with patronizing banner ads that are as bad as the content. On iVillage, for example, obnoxious ads are just a click away from headlines like "Burn 300 Calories Just by Shopping!" Or take this condescending ad for Cheer laundry detergent: Clothes are: a) something you wear; b) a reason to shop; c) really important to you. Well, that\u2019s a silly question. Thinking Inside The BoxSilly me, it\u2019s now 11 p.m. After surfing all these "women\u2019s" sites, I need one of iVillage\u2019s "21st century solutions"--one of "365 answers to women\u2019s everyday problems," that is. To be precise, I need 21st century solution number 329: How to conceal undereye circles. I\u2019ve got bags under my eyes from eyestrain after glaring at my computer monitor in amazement and disgust at classically backward home-ec curricula repurposed and regurgitated for the Web. They propagate the stereotype of women as not-so-bright creatures who are terrified of anything with a keyboard, squealing Barbielike at the sight of a computer mouse, "Computers are hard!" Yep, we\u2019ve come a long way, baby.The good news is that these sites are dying a slow, agonizing, well-deserved death. It turns out you can go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, especially if that public has two X chromosomes. Women.com and iVillage are hemorrhaging cash and staff, and Oxygen.com is barely breathing. In a desperate attempt to stanch the bleeding, iVillage recently acquired former rival Women.com in a deal that company officials say "creates the most comprehensive destination to meet the everyday needs of women online."But no matter how many iVillages they think it takes, it\u2019s impossible to create a site that reflects all women. "It\u2019s the same problem with all mass media as network TV claims to represent all humans," Jenkins says. "All women don\u2019t want anything; specific women want a variety of things."So which website would I build if it were up to me to create "the most comprehensive destination to meet the everyday needs of women online"? Why, I think it already exists. It\u2019s called the World Wide Web.