Another Debate About Women in the Blogosphere

Here we go again. Like clockwork, at least once a year, someone starts a dust-up about whether the blogosphere has enough women bloggers.

The Washington Post started the latest one with its assertion that Yearly Kos seemed dominated by white middle age males. Could have fooled me and I was there.

Jane at Firedoglake responds.

I have nothing much to add except to reiterate what I wrote in 2005, I am Woman, Hear Me Blog?

Maybe it's just me, but I am much more attuned to whether the blogger or opinionator has a voice I agree with and find readable, than whether s/he is male or female. There's only so many hours in the day, and I just don't spend many of them reading blogs and columnists who are going to make my blood pressure rise.

I saw an equal number of females and males over the four days at Yearly Kos and almost everyone seemed younger than me. It didn't matter to me one way or the other. I'd also point out that many of those who attended Yearly Kos were not bloggers at all but employees of progressive organizations, media outlets and candidates who were able to attend because their employers (or their campaigns) paid for it.

As for site demographics which also seem to be a topic around the blogosphere today, here are the latest for TalkLeft, from the recently completed Blogads Reader Survey:

The bottom line: TalkLeft's focus is the rights of those accused of crime and the protection of all of our constitutional rights and civil liberties. While Democrats are far from perfect, there's no question in my mind they score better than Republicans in these areas and will appoint Judges more attuned to preserving these rights. It's for these reasons TalkLeft strongly promotes Democrats running for office.

Everyone is free to blog and to read blogs. Blogging takes time and commitment but very little money. It's just not a male/female or white/minority issue. Think of all the conservative women bloggers out there who make you want to pull your hair out and you'll get my point.

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    I was at YKos and I'd (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Maryb2004 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 10:34:49 AM EST
    say that it was about 50/50 male/female.  It was, indisputably, mostly white.  I don't really know what middle aged means and I'm very bad at guessing people's ages, but there weren't many people there under the age of 30 (probably because of the cost).

    Like you, I don't really care if the blogger is male or female, I'm attuned to the voice.  But I decided I would go to one of the YKos sessions devoted to "women's issues" just to check it out.  I went to "Blogging while Female" and only lasted about 15 minutes before I was bored and left.  

    I disagree with one of the facts in this part of the WaPo article:

    A panel called "Blogging While Female," held Saturday morning, was an aberration -- an overflow room of about 75, mostly women, a few of them minorities.

    "How many of the women in the audience blog?" asked a panelist.

    Nearly three-fourths of those present raised their hands.

    "How many of you get harassed?"

    The hands stayed up. They complain of being harassed online for their views on issues such as abortion rights.

    I agree with all of it except the bolded part which leads you to believe that most of the women who said they blogged also said they were harassed.  I didn't see that.   Some hands stayed up. I would estimate that it was less than 25% of the room.

    But the panel, looking around, all nodded their heads and said "almost everyone."  Now, I am not minimizing the problem of harassment but that was just false.  And perhaps the WaPo reporter just went along with what the panel said, and not the facts - although I notice that the statement is vague enough that you don't know how many hands stayed up.

    It was clear that the theme for the day was going to be harassment by e-mail and I didn't have a problem with that.  But don't skew the facts in front of you to fit your theory.  And if you are a reporter, report the truth.

    What does "get harassed" actually mean? (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 02:41:49 PM EST
    The context (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Maryb2004 on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 03:52:09 PM EST
    was a discussion by the panel about sexualized, abusive and threatening e-mails.  

    Although the first audience comment after that came from a woman active in the pro choice movement who advised that it was a favorite tactic of the pro-life movement to find the name of a pro-choice activist (ex:  Susan Smith) and set up SusanSmith.com to harass her. So the hands raised may have represented a broader spectrum of harassment.


    Crazy stuff Mary (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 04:29:00 PM EST
    The main reason I asked is because of this quote:
    They complain of being harassed online for their views on issues such as abortion rights.
    I assumed that meant the pro-choicers had had pro-lifers "harass" them on their pro-choice blogs.

    And it occurred to me that here on TL, when the abortion topic comes up, there are often impassioned comments by both sides and I wondered if those types of "passionate" comments may have been what those who kept their hands in the air were thinking of regarding "be harassed."

    And then from your response I also realized that the "bloggers" in the audience were people who actually have their own blogs with public email addresses and stuff, not like us incognito jamolks who merely comment anonymously on blogs...


    Oh Please! (none / 0) (#1)
    by TomStewart on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 03:20:09 AM EST
    Slow news day at the Washington Post? Why they even bother writing a new article on this when they can just run the other ginned-up one they ran last time I don't know.

    Seems people are always trying to start a fight. This is one of those things that they just write off the top of thier heads, using the kind of research where they lean out of the cubical and ask  whoever walks by to name a couple of women bloggers. "Uh, gee, there's uh.. Michell Malkin, and there's uh... that other chick, who does that one thing...you know, she's on CNN sometimes..."

      Hell, all you need is a computer and an opinion to blog, and sometimes you can borrow both. That's not to denigate those who do it well, but nobody is keeping anyone back from speaking out, woman, man, or child.

    Now, let's get back to talking about what really matters at the WP, Hillary's cleavage!

    Miss Welby (none / 0) (#2)
    by miss welby on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 04:01:51 AM EST
    ciao, nice liberal blog, visit mine in Italy! :)

    I don't know why it isn't a more (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 05:45:54 AM EST
    50/50 female blogging voice in the Dem sector.   Blogs are a lot of upkeep and I haven't wanted to commit to that upkeep.  It surprises me how you work what appears to be a really hectic schedule and keep up the site all at the same time.  It seems you are sort of a natural.  It may not be 50/50 voice dedicated but from most of the photos from YearlyKos I've seen it is 50/50 participation.  I often discover that my perception of the sex of a blogger and the truth are very often not the same.

    Looks like we AREN'T the only ones (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by oculus on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 09:33:06 AM EST
    who don't have our own blogs!

    Send me an email, Tracy (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 06:01:25 AM EST
    I have a suggestion for you: edger10 at gmail dot com

    Wapo (none / 0) (#5)
    by nellieh on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 08:19:50 AM EST
    It appears they are doing what they accuse the Progressive Bloggers of doing: tryng to cause a rift where there is no reason or legitimate cause to do so. What ever happened to the charge that left leaning bloggers were pimply faced kids in their underwear beating on a keyboard? White middle aged males? Who did the live blogging at the Libby trial? Or the judiciary hearings? Or....? What ever happened to shoe leather reporting? They seem to be arm chair reporters now who can't see the forest for the trees.

    women bloggers (none / 0) (#11)
    by sab on Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 07:55:43 PM EST
    My husband thought it was kind of sad that there weren't more women bloggers (but now he can include digby's). Then I rattled off all my favorite blogs, which are mostly women, and very few of which he was aware of, except digbys's, jeralyn, and christy hardin smith and jane hamsher at firedoglake. So maybe we each just read what strikes a common chord with us.

    O please! (none / 0) (#14)
    by jpete on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 12:12:19 AM EST
    When questions of discrimination are addressed, the idea that there are lots of women around at the scene really should be counted as meaningless.

    The issue should be about, among other things, the underlying mechanism that:

    a. make some voices more worth listening to than others;
    b. more generally accord power and influence to one group over another
    c.  provide space for issues that  affect the "discrimination against group" that are proportional  to their number.

    And certainly other things as well.

    links (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 12:44:39 AM EST
    urls must be in html format or they skew the site and will be deleted. I can't edit comments, only delete them. Your subsequent comment with an overly long link extending past the comment box has been deleted.

    See the comment rules and the please use the link button at the top of the comment box.


    Try again (none / 0) (#16)
    by ctrenta on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 04:28:16 AM EST
    As a male blogger I find this very disconcerting. From the WaPost:

    A female freelance writer who blogged about the pornography industry was threatened with rape. A single mother who blogged about "the daily ins and outs of being a mom" was threatened by a cyber-stalker who claimed that she beat her son and that he had her under surveillance. Kathy Sierra, who won a large following by blogging about designing software that makes people happy, became a target of anonymous online attacks that included photos of her with a noose around her neck and a muzzle over her mouth.

    As women gain visibility in the blogosphere, they are targets of sexual harassment and threats. Men are harassed too, and lack of civility is an abiding problem on the Web. But women, who make up about half the online community, are singled out in more starkly sexually threatening terms -- a trend that was first evident in chat rooms in the early 1990s and is now moving to the blogosphere, experts and bloggers said.

    A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males. A 2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the proportion of Internet users who took part in chats and discussion groups plunged from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2005, entirely because of the exodus of women. The study attributed the trend to "sensitivity to worrisome behavior in chat rooms."

    Joan Walsh, editor in chief of the online magazine Salon, said that since the letters section of her site was automated a year and a half ago, "it's been hard to ignore that the criticisms of women writers are much more brutal and vicious than those about men."

    Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post site is among the most prominent of blogs founded by women, said anonymity online has allowed "a lot of those dark prejudices towards women to surface." Her site takes a "zero tolerance" policy toward abusive and excessively foul language, and employs moderators "24/7" to filter the comments, she said.

    Sierra, whose recent case has attracted international attention, has suspended blogging. Other women have censored themselves, turned to private forums or closed comments on blogs. Many use gender-neutral pseudonyms. Some just gut it out. But the effect of repeated harassment, bloggers and experts interviewed said, is to make women reluctant to participate online -- undercutting the promise of the Internet as an egalitarian forum.

    To read more click here.

    I hope that someday male bloggers will step up and recognize the harm we're doing and do our part to put an end to this behavior towards women on the blogosphere.