Few of the many –
I was thinking about how few women bloggers I read regularly, because there are not too many of us out here in the blogosphere. Then I was looking around at my Technorati site, which has recently been improved, by the way. Reading my own stats (ranked 168,088) raised my curiosity about how other women writers are faring. Looking over the list of “women’s” blogs from the Technorati Top 100 list (ranked by the number of in-coming links), I found these sites:
- The Huffington Post (ranked 6)
- Michelle Malkin(ranked 13)
- Meg at CuteOverload (ranked 45)
- Kathy Sierra (lead of 4 authors) at Creating Passionate Users (ranked 64)
- Stephanie Pearl-McPhee at Yarn Harlot (ranked 91)
Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum wrote an article in February which named a few leading women bloggers and discussed what he thought about our place in the political writing world. I’m quoting some of his conclusions from this rather lengthy segment,
The political blogosphere provides another clue. Although its geeky Usenet roots were (and are) testosterone laden affairs, there are still no formal barriers to entry here, no old boys club in the usual meaning of the word. Yet if you take a look at the Blogosphere Ecosystem, which for all its faults is probably the closest thing we have to a consensus measure of popularity for political blogs, you will find exactly three women in the top 30: Michelle Malkin, La Shawn Barber, and Michele Catalano. (There are a few group blogs in the top 30, but those are very heavily male dominated too.)
That’s a grand total of 10% of the most popular political blogs. And to gaze even more deeply into our collective navel, that 10% is 100% conservative. On the liberal side, Wonkette weighs in at #33 and TalkLeft at #48 — and that’s it for liberal women in the top 100, unless I’ve missed someone.
So what’s up? There aren’t any institutional barriers in the traditional sense of the word, which means either (a) there are fewer female political bloggers and thus fewer in the top 30, or (b) there are plenty of women who blog about politics but they don’t get a lot of traffic or links from high-traffic male bloggers.
My guess is that it’s a bit of both, and the proximate reason is that men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing — both writing it and reading it. Since I don’t wish to suffer the fate of Larry Summers I’ll refrain from
speculating on deep causes — it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know — but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women.
Which begs another question: does this mean that women need to change if they want to enter the fray, or does it mean that the fray needs to change in order to attract more women? As usual, probably some of both. Unfortunately, the blogosphere, which ought to be an ideal training ground for finding new voices in nontraditional places, is far more vitriolic than any op-ed page in the country, even the Wall Street Journal’s, and therefore probably turns off women far more than it attracts them.
La Shawn Barber, mentioned by Drum is ranked 601 on the Technorati 100. TalkLeft is ranked 251 on Technorati. I do not regularly read any of these blogs, but I have just subscribed to Talk Left. Huffington’s post is a little overwhelming to me, though I do occasionally pop by for a peek. I do regularly read others, such as the Mahablog because they are a “good fit” for me, unlike the conservative more popular blogs. See my recent post, “Women are Good Communicators.” Each of us needs that feeling of “fit” in order to return again and again to reading our favorites. Often we do not even know why they are favorites, but they are.
AlterNet‘s Chris Nolan writes a similar article to Drum’s above, but her conclusions are very different. She states that it is in response to an article in Newsweek by Steven Levy around the same time. I quote from the Levy piece because it contains a good way that each of can make a difference in the stats:
Coincidentally, this issue arises just as a related controversy is raising eyebrows in mainstream media. Law professor Susan Estrich has been hammering Michael Kinsley, the editorial-page editor of the Los Angeles Times, for not running a sufficient number of op-ed pieces by women and minorities. Though the e-mail exchange between the two deteriorated into a spitting match, both agreed that extra care is required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual population.
The top-down mainstream media have to some degree found the will and the means to administer such care. But is there a way to promote diversity online, given the built-in decentralization of the blog world? Jenkins, whose comment started the discussion, says that any approach is fine—except inaction. “You can’t wait for it to just happen,” he says. Appropriately enough, the best ideas rely on individual choices. MacKinnon is involved in a project called Global Voices, to highlight bloggers from around the world. And at the Harvard conference, Suitt challenged people to each find 10 bloggers who weren’t male, white or English-speaking—and link to them.
“Don’t you think,” she says, “that out of 8 million blogs, there could be 50 new voices worth hearing?” Definitely. Now let’s see if the blogosphere can self-organize itself to find them.
Women of the blogosphere will be meeting this weekend in California. BlogTalkRadio issued this press release, from which I quote:
Press Release: BTR to Attend BlogHer This Weekend
BlogTalkRadio.com To Announce Women in the Blogosphere Series At BlogHer 2006 Conference
Series to Focus on The Unique Contributions of Women to the Blogosphere
San Jose, CA – July 26, 2006 – Following its successful launch, BlogTalkRadio.com, a service that lets bloggers create and host their own live talk shows, announced the launch of the series, “Women in the Blogosphere.” This series will be featured on BlogTalkRadio.com’s website to celebrate those notable female bloggers who have
contributed their distinctive voices to the blogosphere and are extending the face of new media. The series is being launched at the BlogHer Conference. . .
BlogTalkRadio.com plans to launch its special Women in the Blogosphere series the week surrounding Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2006.
BlogHer, which runs from Friday, July 28th to Saturday, July 29th, explores how women’s blogs are changing their worlds. According to BlogTalkRadio’s CEO, Alan Levy, the conference provides a perfect opportunity to connect with influential and inspiring female bloggers.