Friday, March 12, 2004

Why Don't More Women Have Political Blogs?

Dan Drezner pointed me to a CSJ article, The Blogosphere: The Boys 'n' Their Toys. The article explores a recent finding that though men and women start up blogs in equal numbers, Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE). Instead, women tend to write more personal journal style blogs. Why?

The article points to a number of hypotheses: the guys got there first, women express themselves differently, and women shy away from the frat boy fighting of the male political blogs.

Technical point. Perhaps NITLE defines the word political too narrowly. Politics doesn't have to be narrowly defined to current events or international relations. Political science includes the study of public policy, political philosophy, urban studies, women's issues, and comparative politics. Women might be better represented in these areas. For example, the Invisible Adjunct writes about the politics of higher education; Joanne Jacobs writes about the politics of lower education; Allison Kaplan Sommers writes about politics in Israel; Ms. Musings writes about feminism. Also, perhaps women mix their political posts with other topics, and missed notice by NITLE.

There is an annoying assumption in the article that current events blogs are somehow better than other kinds of blogs.

The author of the CSJ article suggests that women aren't interested in politics. ...while women are just as interested as men in spouting off, they're fundamentally less interested than men in spouting off about politics. Hogwash. I've got a PhD in the topic.

Why didn't I start a current events blog? I could have. I'm a big mouth with credentials. Occasionally, I'll have a current events post, but mostly my blog is a mix of personal observations with broader political and social questions, ie. the latest developments in the women's movement or the job market in academia. I didn't start a current events for a number of reasons.

I am a late starter to blogging. I got in after the main hierarchy had already been established. After surfing around for a while amongst the big shot bloggers, they did seem to link only to each other a lot. I rarely saw a link to other women. (Allison Kaplan Sommers recently posted that maybe her latest pregnancy would get her linked by Instapundit, since nothing else she wrote seemed to get her noticed.) The pictures of Salma Hayek or Miss Aftganistan weren't offensive, but it did set up a Maxim atmosphere. There is a fraternity amongst the current events bloggers that does, inadvertently I'm sure, exclude women.

Time. I don't have much of it. To do the current events blogs, you need to be able to write quick draw posts with lots of links. And links take a lot of time. Not only do they have to be programmed in, but you need to read around and wade through comments. Women have less free time than men.

I also felt that, when I got into blogging, current events were pretty well covered by the existing blogs. If I had a burning need to speak up on a topic, I could add a comment somewhere. I wanted to talk about something else. There is still a lot of unexplored area for conversation on the blogs. There is a lot more to politics than the war in Iraq. I would like to see a blog that just focused on health policy or on urban/suburban planning or on race issues.

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