Friday 1 April 2005

Women Bloggers Just Ain’t Good Enough

“Here’s a different explanation for why the blogosphere is dominated by white males: because they’re the ones producing the best product. Sorry, ladies, but there aren’t as many of us engaged in aggressive, competitive opinionizing and nonstop consumption of politics as our male tormentors.” – Heather Mac Donald

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke, though I wish it were. Earlier this month, Steven Levy, a technology writer for Newsweek expressed concern regarding the lack of diversity at the top tier of the blogosphere.

Levy raises some important points, all shot down by Mac Donald. You see, she believes that the Web is “heaven” and implies that the diversity problems we face here do not compare to the real world because apparently we can be anything we want here on the Web. And as humorous as her words might seem, they do an incredible disservice to those of us who are “aggressive” and opinionated (who me? Not ME!) and blogging.

That the Web is a meritocracy is undeniable. However, it doesn’t get any of us off the hook to simply say “Hey, the Web’s a big place, step up and do your thing.” Barriers to entry are everywhere, if not in technical education and know-how, how about the self-esteem and identity issues that the individual faces trying to get out there? And then what about the vulnerability and pressure of being here? No one ever talks about that oft-challenging side of blogging.

My friends, look at your blogrolls. This came up in the Blogging While Black session at SXSW in March – where attendees were encouraged to examine who they were linking to. I can tell you this, my blogroll sure has become more diverse since I had that little eye-opening experience. Because with the exception of a handful of minority friends, the majority of my blogroll was (and actually remains, even after color-fying it a bit) white and male.

Quotas are a ridiculous idea in my opinion and in that sense I agree with Mac Donald. But to write off the entire diversity concern with regards to blogs and the Web because men are just better at blogging is ridiculous.

There are serious issues underlying the lack of women and minorities in technology, on blogs, in public leadership roles. The Web, as wonderful as it is, and as much a role as it can play in mitigating diversity issues, hasn’t made those issues magically disappear.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 10:14 | Comments (27)

Comments (27)

  1. I am as annoyed with the same excerpt of text.

    I might visit quite a few female blogs or sites that involve creative arts, etc … where men do not dominate. So there are women blogging out there, and it seems in some great numbers. In news, tech, or politics it appears there may be a bias, or some sort of closed club.

    I do believe these differences often have to do with *A* List blogging types linking to the same.

    Additionally, it seems odd, but true that people may view gifted, intelligent, prolific, and opinionated women as some sort of beast (and many of us might know what type of beast that is). While, on the other hand, men who are intelligent, prolific, opinionated, etc … may be seen as some sort of guru , expert, or professional.

    The overwhelming abundance of white males as bloggers != men are better bloggers. It may just mean there are more of them gathering notice.

  2. From my observations, which are limited and few, I find that a lot of the most easy to find bloggers are those in the typical demographic: white and male.
    And I do find everything a bit homogenized because of it.
    If I could find more diverse blogs and opinions within the same fields of interest, I’d link and love equally. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough — maybe everyone hasn’t looked hard enough.
    On the other hand, with some cross-sections of minoral identities (homosexuality, transexuality, etc etc), mentioning them in a public, semi-professional level blog is unheard of.

    Who’d have thought — the internet. Conservative? =\

  3. Its like with most things, people see what they want to see though there is a lack of females there is more than is accounted for.

    My blogroll contains (other than my livejournal friends obviously):
    Males: 7
    Females: 2(including you)

    I disagree with the excerpt too, out of all the blogs I visit, yours is top priority to visit.

  4. My favorite bloggers are women. The men get the headlines because the produce the most offensive content (for the most part). The best “bloggers” are those that are the most personal, and have the most human writing style. I’ve found that most of the best (in my opinion) at doing this are women: Dooce, I Will Dare, Words for Snow and dozens of others. The best bloggers aren’t the most popular. They’re the best because they’re themselves.

  5. I’m continually surprised at how much of a bubble I’m in. I don’t have an external blog and have only just begun putting my comments into blog conversations.

    The articles above just proves to me how much work is needed.

    Quotas are definitely not the answer but having meaningful conversations at workshops, conferences and other meet n’ greets are a good start.

    SXSW only scratched the surface this year. I became aware of some amazing bloggers, who I have only just begun to read. My RSS aggregator is now filled with their latest points of views.

    A few months back I was creating an ad for ’10 years of Rock n’ Roll’. After making the ad I realized that all the faces were white and male. I brought this up to others. They, too, were surprised. We were able to make some modifications. () I was still dismayed by the weak attempt to give the ad a more proportional representation.

    I say this story only b/c if I hadn’t had said something, this ad would have gone out as is.

    We all need be mindful sure it may take a little work but these little changes could make shifts in our daily thinking enough to cause tremendous change.

  6. I think that one of the beautiful things about the web is that we don’t have to know what sex or race a blogger is at all. When sexuality issues are removed from the table, the only thing remaining is the lucidity of the content. That is not to say that I discourage diversity, au contraire, I just think that diversity should be gaged by the spectrum of our posts, not the color of our skin or our sex.

  7. An additional problem is that many of us new to the blogging scene dont really know who to link to in our blogrolls, and therefore go looking around and find the same few well-known names who, with the honorable exception of your good self, do indeed seem to be white and male. Maybe if we delve a little deeper, (perhaps into blogrolls of luminaries such as yourself), we might find (and link to), a greater diversity of opinion and writing styles.
    I am open to some good suggestions to start me off.

  8. Hey, I’m a woman and I’ve been blogging since 2001. Granted my blog has a very specific audience (web design teachers) but I do veer off into an opinion post from time to time. And I do a lot of computer book reviews, an unsung service to the masses of computer book buyers. Molly, I’m reading your latest right now so I can write a review of it!

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  10. As a newbe I must state that it is like a club you want to join but you are not sure how or whhere to start or who to contact or what. It is a great challenge and I know all the information is out there for me to learn how to hook in but it isn’t easy. Have faith there are great women out there trying–that may not be me but I know I am not alone in trying to figure all this out. If you have any resouce suggestions I would love it!

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  12. I removed my blogroll after realizing the lack of diversity of its make-up, because it seemed to me that the problem was self-perpetuating. Now I link to specific posts that I believe have merit, and not blindly to blogs in general. This seems to work better for me.

    Lately it has seemed to me that the web standards blogosphere (which is where I spend most of my time) has become very clique-y, and it’s easy to find yourself on the outside looking in. It reminds me of high school in a way, and I am very determined to not repeat that experience! I don’t think web standards folks are being exclusionary by any means, but there is a phenomenon that is happening an I am trying to understand why.

    I missed Blogging While Black, but made it to Where Are the Women at SXSW, and I agree wholeheartedly that the self-esteem and identity issues are as important in cyberspace as they are in real life. Part of the issue may lie here.

  13. I usually find it rather jarring when members of traditional media talk about the Internet, because what they describe is seldom the Internet that I know. Most of the blogs I read and have read over the past few years have been written by women (this one included). I think that the establishment unconsciously seeks out those portions of the web that most reflect their own worldviews and then project that onto the rest of us. It’s quite annoying.

  14. This reminds me of a class I had in human sexuality in college. The professor said, “Today we are going to dicuss the superiorities of each gender over the other. Let’s start with women. Number your paper from one to ten.” He rattles off various reasons, such as longer lifespan, better stress handling, ability to withstand higher pain thresholds, etc., citing numerous biological papers.

    Then he says, “Now let’s list how men are superior to women. Number your paper one to three. “1) Greater capacity for physical strength. 2) Reproduction ability throughout lifespan. 3) Can more legibly write our names in the snow while peeing.”

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  16. The theory that gender is irrelevant online and that “quality will out” is one I keep seeing proposed, frequently by males who sincerely believe they are objective. It’s a lovely sentiment. Unfortunately it ignores the reality that we bring cultural baggage to our online reading. Men’s and women’s “voices” are given different value in the physical world and in print. Saying that you don’t care if a blogger is male or female, just that they write well (on topics of *your* interest) is missing a few points of reality.

    A male handle garners, unconsciously, more respect and authority than a female one (one would expect this gendered authority to diminish as the writer moves away from stereotyped fields like technology and into subjects like, say, gardening. However men’s voices tend to hold more weight even in areas they do not usually dominate. E.G. Women are more fashion astute than straight men, but gay men are even better, apparently.)

    Secondly writers can have gendered writing styles, and readers of any gender will respond to that. (The same holds for writers of a non-dominant ethnicity, if their cultural “voice” is
    different from the dominant culture.) The aggressively opinionated and combative style is one we recognize as “masculine”. Having been socialized differently, I am rarely comfortable joining in on a blog conversation that plays out like a battle of wills. No surprise, we are seeing this particular style get the most attention and respect in mainstream journalism.

    These two factors put female bloggers in a double-bind. Would the first problem be lessened if, suddenly, all gendered names were to disappear from the web? Doubtful. It never worked that way in pre-blog times, when women avoided female handles on their web sites and in online discussion groups. We became invisible. The second problem
    would continue to exist. And writers on subjects coded as male (e.g. anything technology related) would continue to be identified as male unless it was made *extremely* obvious they were female. I’m sure I’m not alone in having received numerous comments from guys online who assumed me to be male due to my participation in, what they perceived to be, a “male” domain. Their surprise and inevitable delight (!) upon discovering my femaleness (I’ve been taken for a French male!) continues to baffle me.

    Until I came upon this blog, I was under assumption that there were few if any women blogging about web standards. This was something I had gathered from my list of blogs, their blogrolls, and the names that kept reappearing. The huge blogroll at put an end to that misconception…oh my. Tons of female bloggers whose names I never once saw mentioned until I broke out of the tiny, self-referential clique I’d mistaken for the entire world. Suddenly I was in a much bigger world, one where everyone had much longer blogrolls and where the same old topics were not repeated to death. (I’m referring to the A List Apart/ circle
    here. Lovely, but limited.)

    “Sorry, ladies, but there aren’t as many of us engaged in aggressive, competitive opinionizing and nonstop consumption of politics as our male tormentors.”

    Whaaaat?! Whose blogs is she reading? Obviously not

  17. I don’t know where are the chick bloggers are. Perhaps they blog anonymously. I usually tend to block my identity (for professional reasons) when posting some of my more obnoxious (laugh) political rants. Sometimes it is just as well to be unknown to the blogosphere…

  18. the Food Blog community is a good mix of male and female. The females are probably in the majority. There an absolute ton of quality stuff coming out of that particular blogosphere. You should check it out sometime. It’s a really sharing space.

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  20. Well, I only link to blogs that I find entertaining, involve expats, and females in academia. That means I have a high number of blogs that aren’t authored by white males.

    Now nothng against white males, but they’re not really blogging in a style or about what makes me sit up and notice. Plus, I find myself butting heads with way too many of them 😉

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  22. I don’t understand why women can’t be as good bloggers as men are. They could and some of them are. The explanation is simple there are much more men doing this and of course the percentage of male good bloggers is bigger.

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