Why So Few Female Bloggers and Opinion Writers? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Why So Few Female Bloggers and Opinion Writers?

I'm doing research to use in my first-ever opinion-writing seminar, and I ran across this piece about the dearth of women opinion writers and bloggers—and white maledom that dominates so much of the blogosphere (not here, though. Hah!). It's interesting and provides links to other relevant pieces. Take a gander:

The blogosphere, which consists almost entirely of opinion writing has also come under fire, as the most high profile bloggers tend to be male. "Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?" the aforementioned Steven Levy asks in this week's issue. Reporting on a recent blogging conference he writes, "a couple of the women at the conference—bloggers MacKinnon and Halley Suitt—looked around and saw that there weren't many other women in attendance...They were, however, representative of the top 100 blogs according to the Web site Technorati—a list dominated by bigmouths of the white-male variety."

Blogger Halley Suitt suggests that it's an issue of white people linking to other white people, (and by extension, I presume, men linking to other men.) "It appears that some clubbiness is involved," concludes Levy.

And he may be right, but I'd wager that it's not the sort of clubbiness he implies it is. It's a reflection of another sort of clubbiness that's much more widely acknowledged and also helps explain why there are fewer female opinion writers at major newspapers: the opinion pages of most major newspapers and most high profile blogs cover political, technological and/or economic issues—fields that are all heavily male-dominated.

Previous Comments

ID
107927
Comment

I blogged about this a little while back. It's depressing. I think part of the problem is that blog culture is prohibitively macho and driven by machismo--even for me, as I can't stand the posturing of DailyKos and AMERICAblog (though I can't imagine what, other than my male socialization, keeps me going back to that damned Other Blog). Here's a short list of feminist blogs, but really there should be more political blogs run by women that are engaged and feminist without being niche "feminist" blogs. I think one of the things that helps here is that this is a woman-run site with a lot of strong women on it, which leaves the Macho Men who usually dominate the blogosphere all munching together you-know-where kvetching about that Evil Castrating Woman who has the audacity to *gasp* run a web site and *double gasp* put together a newspaper. That kind of misogynistic crap doesn't fly here. I mean, you remember how we tore Rep. Fleming a new one when he patted Ali on the head over the abortion thing. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T19:13:05-06:00
ID
107928
Comment

BTW- For whatever it's worth, most of my colleagues on the About.com News and Issues channel are women. The blogsites for U.S. Politics, U.S. Conservatives, U.S. Liberals, World News, Terrorism Issues, and Race Relations are all women. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T19:16:04-06:00
ID
107929
Comment

Well, I have the same philosophy when I teach. I don't like the same few guys dominate the discussion—and I tell them up front I'm not going to. I got that habit from a law professor at Columbia I studied under in Teachers College; he told people right up front that he wasn't going to allow a few (male) loudmouths to dominate the discussion. He wasn't mean about it, but he did what he said. Made for much more interesting discussion.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-19T19:16:16-06:00
ID
107930
Comment

...are all woman-run, I mean. Sorry. Extremely spaced today; hardly got any writing done... Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T19:16:35-06:00
ID
107931
Comment

That's a great philosophy. I usually self-censor a little bit if I find that I'm flooding a forum with my contributions--and if your posts didn't outnumber mine by a factor of 3:1, I'd be doing that here, too. ;o) In fact, if I were to take a wild guess, I'd say the reason I usually seem to end up posting on feminist blogs is because it's one of the few places where I can post all I want and not worry about creating a macho environment! Speaking of which, this reminds me for some reason of a wonderful conversation I participated in on Feministing. What I said there (re gendered teaching) was: Re gender and pedagogy: A group of friends and I were talking about this over lunch, and we all agreed that the current way of teaching is way too masculine--and I don't mean too boy-centered, I mean too masculine, in a way that hurts kids of both genders. A more cooperative, team-based model--like what we see in Japan--would be far preferable, I think, to our current competition model. One of my lunchmates, who taught in Japan, talked about how hard it was to teach Japanese kids musical chairs because they kept getting up to let another kid have the seat. The average class size over there is 40--and if we're going to be doomed to large class sizes, cooperative learning is the only way we can give kids a superior education. And I think the reason boys' test scores haven't risen as well as girls' have is precisely because of the reason NWP cites--boys in this country, unlike boys in Japan, are not taught to learn cooperatively. They're taught social Darwinism. So what I'd really like to see is the feminization of the public school system, period. I think that would benefit everybody. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T19:19:37-06:00
ID
107932
Comment

But let me say that there are two problems here that I see--one is that boys and men feel entitled to dominate discussions, and yeah, that's a problem. But the bigger problem is that girls and women don't. I don't see many women, on any blogs, who post with the confidence of a Donna Ladd, and the solution to that is not a glib "the women need to speak up" (in the same way as "the low-income blacks need to go to college"), but an earnest attempt to radically transform society in our own little ways, by doing things like what your professor did. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T19:31:12-06:00
ID
107933
Comment

Agreed. And by modeling confidence and expression. In my writing classes, I work to give people permission to write what's on their mind, as much as anything else. Same here, while at the same time not allowing the bullies who just want to drown everyone else out. Those goobs you speak of who have now started, what, three Web sites to try to scare us into quietness (ha!) have made no secret that they just don't want us here, saying what's on our minds. Women deal with this constantly, and it's a problem. It ties back to why they stay in abusive relationships and so on. They, we, must find our voices. Men, too, but y'all manage to more often over all. Society supports it for you. A couple guys in the roundtable I led last week in San Francisco were almost beligerent over the idea that we moderate our Web forums (of course, neither's paper has a good presence, yet; they'll see). They even challenged why we don't allow blithering racists to say what's on their mind. The main reason, of course, is because they'd run off anyone interested in civil, intelligent discussion. The evidence of that is all over other sites. I'm as comfortable as a person can be with our moderation policy. It's why this site has conversation like I don't see anywhere else.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-19T19:38:48-06:00
ID
107934
Comment

... a good WEB presence, yet ...

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-19T19:39:51-06:00
ID
107935
Comment

Agreed. And the fact that I've put in 3,000 messages here, probably more than on any other single forum in my 16 years of online community participation, is evidence that I think it's pretty special, too. :o)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T20:26:47-06:00
ID
107936
Comment

good point. Its why I am not crazy about some of the other local sites. You just throw a screen name up, no registration, nothing and fire away and say anything you want. If you notice, aside from the owners of un moderated sites, there are not many serious posts or long discussions on those sites either. They degenerate into name calling and juvenile posts. wait a second, was I slamming someone for being juvenile? What is the world coming to?

Author
Kingfish
Date
2006-10-19T20:33:55-06:00
ID
107937
Comment

I'm going to go against the grain here and voice the opinion that much of sex imbalance on the Internet likely has more to do with who has the computers and uses them than any other factor right now. I'm only going on personal experience, but I know far more men than women who use the net on a regular basis - as that evens out, I think the blogosphere will as well. I work in PR/communications, a field that these days is populated mostly by women at all levels, from entry level to ownership. I have worked both with and for women and I can assure you that there are lots of them out there who don't mind dominating conversation - live or online - one bit. I think as usage by women rises the male domination will diminish rapidly.

Author
Mr PR Professional
Date
2006-10-19T21:27:43-06:00
ID
107938
Comment

They degenerate into name calling and juvenile posts. Every time. That's what I told those couple guys at AAN.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-19T22:11:29-06:00
ID
107939
Comment

Every time. That's what I told those couple guys at AAN. That's also why I run head first from unmoderated forums. The nastiness gives me gastric disturbances, i.e., it makes me wanna puke. Why should I hang out in a place where I know I will get attacked for everything I say? I'd rather have another root canal.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-10-19T22:41:29-06:00
ID
107940
Comment

Which reminds me, my copy of the White Male Conspiracy newsletter keeps getting lost. I can't keep up with the trends anymore. ;)

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-10-19T22:43:23-06:00
ID
107941
Comment

PR Professional writes: I'm going to go against the grain here and voice the opinion that much of sex imbalance on the Internet likely has more to do with who has the computers and uses them than any other factor right now. It would be nice if that were all it was, but almost as many women use the Internet as men overall, and there are more women under 30 online than men under 30. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-10-19T22:52:51-06:00
ID
107942
Comment

Which reminds me, my copy of the White Male Conspiracy newsletter keeps getting lost. I can't keep up with the trends anymore. ;) You so craaaaazy. :-P

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2006-10-19T23:08:13-06:00
ID
107943
Comment

I love FARK and the discussion sometimes; however, the ads with the half-nekkid women and the "boobies" tags deter me. Just like television, but worse, I have a hard time visiting most sites without having sexual imagery everywhere. I think the "visual" of the internet makes it a bit harder. I do think the unmoderated thing is an issue, and especially for women. How does a man insult another man? Refer to him as feminine of course! Women have a harder time being taken seriously, become sexualized no matter what, etc.

Author
emilyb
Date
2006-10-20T08:04:12-06:00
ID
107944
Comment

Thanks Tom, for the links to the data on women and computers. I was going to have to search for that stuff myself, because everything that I've read shows that women are heavy users of computers. And, given their styles, would seem to be likely bloggers. My thoughts, which are unsubstantiated by data are: 1. Women have other/better things to do besides sit around blogging. Work, kids, families, elder care, etc. Most studies still show that the work outside of paid work is still largely done by women. 2. Women tend to be better at maintaining social networks, and so often have other outlets for this type of chatting. 3. Many men seem to think that every thought they have is important, and rush to post it. As to why there are so few women who write opinion, my guess is it's one of those vestigal bits of institutional sexism that has been slow to change. But, it appears to me that the trend is towards more and more women finding their voices.

Author
kate
Date
2006-10-20T08:10:34-06:00
ID
107945
Comment

Tom, thanks for the link. I think the first 3 bullet points summarizing the report reinforce my position-here they are: 1. The percentage of women using the internet still lags slightly behind the percentage of men. Women under 30 and black women outpace their male peers. However, older women trail dramatically behind older men. 2. Men are slightly more intense internet users than women. Men log on more often, spend more time online, and are more likely to be broadband users. 3. In most categories of internet activity, more men than women are participants, but women are catching up. I'm not saying other issues aren't a factor, but I think it's mostly a numbers game right now and not reflective of some societal flaw. On another front on this thread, moderated forums are definately the way to go.

Author
Mr PR Professional
Date
2006-10-20T08:37:34-06:00
ID
107946
Comment

You're missing the forest for the trees, Mr. PR. The bigger problem, as far as blogging and publishing about "serious" issues, is that our society is not yet real fond of women doing this kind of thing—until you push forward, do it anything and earn respect despite the people who try to shout you down and intimidate you out of expressing your opinion. Another serious problem is that publications like The Clarion-Ledger don't seem to care that they do not have a serious woman columnist (meaning about serious issues) and do not have a woman on their editorial board. If they used that old-saw excuse that no women are "qualified," I think I'd go over personally and choke them with their ugly-a$$ ties. It's not true; they just don't make it a priority. Therefore, the state's largest newspaper doesn't have a serious woman columnist that young women can use as a role model to help them know that they can speak out about serious issues. Online, arrogant men troll around and try to shout women down at every turn with belittlement and continual posts and fact-challenged statements delivered with feigned confidence. We have a few of those right here in Jackson. But this is a forum where we just don't allow them to control the dialogue. That is uncommon. Men are used to being in charge.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-20T10:03:37-06:00
ID
107947
Comment

Tom, the Internet can be the great equalizer if women realize it. They can start their own blogs, talk about serious issues and get in online communities. However, it goes back to that self-esteem problem; so many women are seen and not heard growing up that they do not have the confidence to address the world's problems and challenge the yuck-yucks. That simply needs to change. Iron, you don't need a newsletter to see the problems of our patriarchal society. Making fun of that fact in no way negates it. However, we all have the power to change it, and we're doing it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-20T10:06:21-06:00
ID
107948
Comment

Which reminds me, my copy of the White Male Conspiracy newsletter keeps getting lost. I can't keep up with the trends anymore. ;) Lost? Okay. Whatever you say. Just don't mind the bonfire in the backyard. Weenie roast, anyone? :)

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2006-10-20T11:12:12-06:00
ID
107949
Comment

Weenie roast? Now, that's a double entendre. Hardy har har.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-10-20T11:31:44-06:00
ID
107950
Comment

Iron, you don't need a newsletter to see the problems of our patriarchal society. Making fun of that fact in no way negates it. However, we all have the power to change it, and we're doing it. Humor aside, I'm sure that as more parts of society get used to having a voice we will hear more of them. I just don't see a big conspiracy behind the lack of women blogging. For myself, I feel the more voices in the debate, the merrier.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2006-10-20T21:58:50-06:00
ID
107951
Comment

I pointed out last week on here—somewhere; I can't find it, but it's a longstanding complaint as this post above shows—that The Clarion-Ledger didn't have a single female staff blogger on its new, "improved," Art Deco, Web 1.8 site. I noticed today that reporter Leah Rupp now has her own blog, on top of her beat (I'll never understand papers giving blogs to full-time reporters, but I digress). So, now they have 13 on-staff male bloggers; two female, and only one of them ostensibly discussing serious issues. Rupp inaugurated her new blog yesterday, starting out: As a teenager, I never kept a diary. You know why? Because I was embarrassed to write entries to no one, and at the same time worry about everyone seeing them. Today, the first day of my new blog, I find that writing to a million people who have access to — but probably are not likely to — peruse this little diary, is just as difficult. So, what I want to do is offer you a disclaimer: I am just learning about Mississippi politics. I grew up in Kentucky. I went to college in the even-more-northern state of Ohio. I didn't realize I really, really loved politics or writing, or writing about politics until I got there — little more than five years ago. Then get with it, girlfriend: talk about politics. I mean a young reporter from Kentucky/Ohio seems to be the Ledger's plan for a female take on Mississippi politics, so let 'er rip. Educate us. Make us think. Today at the inauguration, Rupp talked more about technical difficulties than the Mississippi politics she's grown to love: Again, I apologize, technical difficulties. To make it worse, my battery power is RED. That's bad. Whatever happened to a good old notebook and pen? Whatever, indeed. You gotta start somewhere, I guess. Maybe the Ledger will yet find a Mississippi woman to blog about politics. Let's hope.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-01-15T13:44:18-06:00
ID
107952
Comment

OK, I'm going to try not to pick on Ms. Rupp any more ... after this post. Her last post for the evening started out: Hopefully, you're going to be out dancing all night long at Gov. Haley Barbour's inauguration ball. I have this sweet black sequined dress that would have definitely worked for the occasion. Alas, that dress never left the hanger tonight. I was saving it for a ball in Louisiana anyway. It's 9 p.m. — as good as any bedtime I suppose. Thus ends my first day blogging, surely not to be my last, if my bosses have anything to do with it. I will admit, to all of you who are surely not reading this blog anyway, I kind of liked writing in this diary. And ended: The Honorable Terry Burton, chair of the Senate Elections Committee, will preside (did I mention I love his voice?)... but only the Senate can officially decide. Their final conclusion is expected by Monday. OK, Ledger Boyz, this is not what we meant when we pointed out that you have no hard-hitting political (or social, for that matter) commentary by women. If she's going to *blog* about the inaugural, then where is the commentary about the governor's actual remarks and challenges? (Answer: Over in Sid and David's blogs.) This is not Ms. Rupp's fault. She is a REPORTER, and a young one at that. She should not be expected to BLOG her opinion about the Legislature, especially if she hasn't had time to FORM ANY. She makes it clear right in her post that this blogging thing is her boss' idea. This absurd, Ledger. Can you really find no women columnists to add to your staff who have the depth in the state to say something real? They can then blog. If you don't know how to find any, or train some, you have worst problems than I thought. This particular blog is an insult to everyone involved, starting with Ms. Rupp. Give her back her notebook, let her go report her face off, and try a smarter route.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-01-15T22:26:00-06:00
ID
107953
Comment

Good for Ms. Rupp. Today on her blog, she corrects her story from the print version, which they also did online. It's kind of interesting that they made a substantive correction without noting it under the story, which you're not supposed to do (typos and minor things are fine to correct without noting a "correction"); I assume they will run an actual correction in the print version tomorrow. She seems to be an intelligent young woman. As I say above, I feel bad for her that the Ledger is making her blog instead of allowing her to be a *reporter*. I'm not a big fan of reporters blogging, and most should not (unless it's on a different topic than what they are reporting on) for the basic reason that it makes their primary job difficult. But daily newspapers seem to be overreacting to the online threat by completely abandoning basic newsgathering principles. It's not good for the industry, or for young reporters whose futures should be very bright if they are given the time and the space to hone their reporting skills. As I said, though, Ms. Rupp's blog correction about her story says a lot about her journalistic character. Cheers to her, anyway.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-01-21T15:50:04-06:00

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