So, there’s this ongoing discussion about why the blogosphere is mostly male dominated (you know, like the rest of the country), and why aren’t more women blogging, and blah blah? I stumbled across the most recent pissing contest, begun apparently at Matt Stoller’s blog and continuing at Trish Wilson’s, Amanda’s, Feministe, Desfemmes, and Utopianhell.
The comment slurry is mainly contained to Stoller’s blog, where you’ll get all sorts of discussion: mainly from pissed off female bloggers who he’s talked down to, as in this section:
That said, there’s a top-down style to the feminist movement that leaves little room for flat hierarchies that blogging needs to flourish. This is a cultural issue, and can be reflected in a lot of the strategic missteps of these groups. It’s very similar to the lack of blogs in the environmental movement, which is also somewhat identity-oriented, top-down, and reactionary. This is not a slight to these organizations – there are very good reasons why message control was critical and direct mail was a lifeblood, but the era of the atomized organization is coming to and end. And these groups know it, and are changing already. Still, the residual culture is still antithetical to blogging.
There’s also the fact that the male political blogosphere doesn’t help at all. It’s obviously a boys club (with select girls who act like in specifically stylized ways allowed). For instance, my style of blogging is very male – I feel like I have to conclude everything, which leaves less room for the more deliberative communication patterns I find among women. That’s common, but usually in a more extreme version. Guys don’t really feel comfortable saying ‘I don’t know’ or just going through inconclusive cognitive exercises. Jay Rosen does it very well, but he gets flamed quite frequently just for asking questions. The flame war pissing contest that motivates so many communities is another example of boys raising their hands in class and just generally being more aggressive. So Respectful of Otters gets ignored by the ‘big boys’, even though it’s great. There’s also the fact that it deals with uteruses and other stuff that boys don’t have and don’t think of, like career/family conflicts.
I trolled through the comments hoping somebody was going to pick up the really obvious points, here. People did, individually, but the men who hopped in got pissed off, Stoller got really defensive, and the only people who actively engaged with what women were saying were other women.
There are a couple of big reasons that you don’t see women blogging. The first being yes, the blogosphere’s a reflection of our society. You hear more men’s voices. Why? Because women work a double shift. They’re still primarily responsible for child care and housework, in addition to being if not the sole breadwinner for a family, then part of a team effort. Women are already working more hours than men because of the gendered division of labor. Blogging takes time. And money. Unless she’s single, got great child care, or making bank, a women in less likely to have access to the time and financial resources required to get her voice out there: whether in the blogosphere or the public in general. Women are kept busy being so obsessive-compulsive about calorie counting and staying in their highschool dress size in order to be socially “acceptable” that there’s no time to actually get out there and get involved (if I added up all the time I spent angsting about food, clothing, and what my hair was doing, I could run for office – and I’m relatively relaxed compared to some of the women I know who are caught in the gender loop. If you think the artifice of femininity and female oppression is a coincidence, I’m going to laugh).
Women are likely less interested in ranting about politics because, c’mon, people, look at the candidates: they’re old white men. We can relate to them as people, but we’re very clear that there are issues about where we stand and the processes of our bodies that they’re not going to understand and likely, not even going to respect.
Trish had a good point in the Stoller comments:
It’s interesting that this “where are the women bloggers” discussion comes up every three months as if it was something new that the guys were just discovering. There isn’t a dearth of women political bloggers. They are out there, it’s just that I don’t think the more prominent male bloggers really bother to notice all that much. They’re too busy referring to each other. As for women who talk about “uteruses” (huh?) and career/family conflicts, lots of guys talk about their children, families, wanting to spend more time with their families (career/family conflicts), sports, movies, and other stuff (like their dicks?) on their blogs, but when they do, what they say isn’t considered fluff the way it is when women talk about it.
It’s just a bit disheartening to see this same old meme come up every three months as if it’s a brand new thing some male blogger suddenly notices. The “where are the women bloggers” debate comes up quite regularly without any changes or progress being made at all.
She’s right about the perpetual cycle of “where are all the women” discussions… If you want women to be more visible, start linking to more women, comment on their blogs, reprint their posts. Get their names out there. Stop going over the old bullshit, shrugging your shoulders sympathetically, and sighing. If you’re a woman, create a blog, and link to everyone (a good ratio over at Mouse Words is trying to keep to the 50/50 rule: keep 50% of your “linked to” blogs female, and %50 male).
What I found fascinating in the comments discussion was the huge amount of defensiveness on Matt’s part when Trish called him on some of the bullshit. Instead of engaging with her, he accused her of intolerance. He took her posts personally, instead of thanking her for her viewpoint and urging others to engage with her ideas. By dismissing her as “intolerant”, then ignoring her, he effectively silenced her opinions and discussions on her opinions by invalidating them.
And I think he didn’t even realize he was doing it. Shelly called him on it:
What surprised me is that when Trish gives a very mild response, reflective really, you bury her with a staggering display of defensiveness that if you were a woman writer, you would get labeled ‘hysterical’.
What gets me about the whole “men are feminists too” thing is that there certainly are a lot of well meaning guys out there – but most of them get really rankled when somebody (women) disagree about their broad generalizations about “the way women are” or people (women) speak up and say, “Uh, dude, you may not have meant to be offensive, but saying that all I talk about or am interested in is my uterus, and saying a women’s reproductive power is *trivial* (when the prescence or abscence of a woman’s uterus has been the symbol and sometimes method of her oppression for so long) was really fucking offensive.”
If I were to go up to a black woman and say, “I’m a black woman at heart. I totally understand race issues. I’m going to let you into our secret white person’s club,” she would hopefully punch me in the face and tell me and my club to fuck off.
If I’m *really* lucky, I can open a discussion about race and colonialism and culture and subculture with, “Hey, would you mind talking to me?” and if I’m really, really, lucky, somebody who’s a lot different than me might actually answer me, and question *my* assumptions, and maybe we can work together to make a new club.
But let’s not be too hopeful.