Jennie Rigg made a recent post which got me thinking about the blog-roll on here. I composed it in two, short, bursts of organisation, where I dumped the contents of my blog aggregator into links dialogues. Wasn’t really thought about; it was just ‘list o’stuff wot I read’ and ‘list o’stuff about beer wot I read’. The outcome was this:
- Craig Murray
- Liberal Conspiracy
- Penny Red
- People’s Republic of Mortimer
- Police State? (UK)
- Jennie Rigg
The beer blogs remain unchanged, so you can reference them from the sidebar. After reading Jennie’s thoughtful series of posts, I read archive material from all of the female-led or run blogs she listed, adopted some (though not all) into my aggregator and adjusted my blog-roll accordingly. Then it occurred to me to analyse the starting conditions and the results of the update; fortunately, I have a tendency to back up such things before I change them. The results were quite interesting.
If you take that list as a whole, I count four collaborative blogs, three blogs by men, and four blogs by women. The collaborative blog contributor lists are all male-dominated, and only one is run by a male/female editing team. If you split out beer from politics, the image is slightly different as I only managed to find one good lady’s beer blog; whereas on the politics side the score is three to one female.
In making the new roll I included the new blogs I’d found via Jennie’s link but I also included several blogs I’ve started reading since I last remembered to fiddle with the blog roll. The beer-blog roll hasn’t changed, so I’m going to ignore it for the time being. My previous score was 3 female-run blogs, 1 male-run, and two collaborative of which one is male-edited and the other is a male/female team project. The new list counts 3 blogs by men, 8 blogs by women and 6 collaborative blogs, of which 2 are male-dominated, 3 specifically female, and 1 split.
I started doing the personal online journal thing because I needed content to test the perl script for updating an online journal that I’d written. This was mumble years ago, I’d not heard of LJ yet, and I was doing the thing primarily as an excuse for a coding project. I was an active poster on /. and read various other, similarly technical blogs. I eventually got on Livejournal because suddenly I was missing all the social events. “Why didn’t you tell me about your [ party / theatre trip / visit to London / wedding / delete as appropriate ]? I’d have loved to come!” “… But I posted it on Livejournal!” I got really tired of that kind of thing so I started actively using it.
I was eventually persuaded to start reading political and current affairs blogs by the ever-industrious Penny, by way of her persuading me to start working on this thing. That was the first time I began to notice the phenomenon Jennie is taking the blokosphere to task for. You see, my anecdotal impression from 1999 to this year was that the blogosphere was massively, disproportionately dominated by women.
In my LJ friend circle, nearly all the interesting posters were women: all the prolific posters were women; all the communities worth reading seemed to be started and run by women. Most of the contributors to any given comment thread were women; and most of the comment threads that were political at all were about masculine privilege, about abortion rights, about the strains of being a single mum, about trying to work with the kind of salesman who thinks Ethics is the county his next shag will come from.
In the wider blogosphere, my initial link stock came via Penny Red, which was going to tilt the stats towards women and socialists anyway. On the other hand, I suspect I have a taste for the perspectives offered by female political bloggers who are not single-issue; Alix Mortimer is an exceptional writer, as is Penny herself, but I read them both for their thinking more than their writing. I’m acutely aware of the process of Othering, having been thoroughly Other myself for most of my life. Perspectives besides mine are how I avoid perpetuating that problem.
I have no idea if LJ use is statistically dominated by women; all I know is what I tended to get linked to. When I broke out into the wider world of political blogging, I noticed that the vast majority of the contributors and comment ranters on LibCon were men. What I hadn’t realised is why: LJ is a ghetto within the wider blogosphere, which I just didn’t know until about a year ago. It’s perceived as a kind of nature reserve by the ‘serious’ bloggers; and (so far as I can tell) as a refuge for the
thin-skinnedeasily-triggered by those who use it obsessively. As far as I can tell, no-one from outside the pale really pays much attention to what goes on in there, except when there’s a generalised trainwreck like RaceFail09 to gawk at.
My impression that blogging was female-dominated seems to have come from spending time on LiveJournal. In technical and political circles, blogging seems to be dominated by men. That led me to thinking about chronological contexts. 10 to 15 years ago, the people technically sophisticated enough to think of blogging about politics or science or economics, who were also in a position to actually know anything about those fields, were mostly men. Our society still has a major skill, interest and experience gap in all of those fields; a partially self-perpetuating one, because they are all fields whose male over-representation has developed intense social traditions, mid-way between rugby club and monastery. The imbalance is shrinking as women are offered more opportunity, but also (in my observation) as the younger generations come through.
It is the children, not the gender warriors, of the 80s who are changing the prevailing cultures in politics and science, because they are able to be confidently themselves without being confrontationally female. With each cohort since the PC revolution, more women have proved that they don’t have to act like men to beat men at their own games. That trend seems to be bourne out by such projects as the Huffington Post, GeekaChicas and ABW.
I’ve been recently arguing that one of the problems the human species manufactured for itself in constructing the Great Machine was that we have systematically ignored half our creativity pool for several thousand years. More eyes on a problem is good provided communication and decision making are clear and streamlined; the Open Source movement has illustrated the power of distributed mind-share. The more we integrate perspectives such as those of Ben6 and Sunny Hundal with those of P.C. Bloggs or Charlotte Gore, the better our ability to respond, to change, to debate, to persuade and to improve.