Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Women and Poli-Blogging

In case you missed it, Iowa Ennui posted a very nice analysis of the situation, which I've been mulling over for a week or so.

From the March 2004 Columbia Journalism Review Daily(CJR daily link is down), Brian Montopoli summarizes recent data on gender and the blogosphere.
... Click around the blogosphere and you'll see a lot of ideological diversity. Bloggers are posting from left, right and center, from perspectives that range from Libertarian to Marxist. And on the surface, that diversity extends to other arenas: Men and women, recent studies show, blog in roughly equal numbers. A notable exception: 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). ...

... Of course, you probably didn't need Campaign Desk to tell you that. From Instapundit to Daily Kos to Atrios to Andrew Sullivan to Calpundit, men run the poli-blogs with the most buzz -- and the most traffic. There is only one female-run blog, the venerable Wonkette!, listed among the top twenty at The Truth Laid Bear, which ranks a number of blogs by their daily traffic.

By contrast, according to the NITLE study, twice as many women as men write personal diary-style blogs. If the numbers are to be believed, then, outspoken male bloggers all live on Mars, while the more introspective women are blogging away from Venus. ...

Montopoli looks a little deeper into the gender divide in poli-blogging and finds a diversity of opinions as to root causes: women tend to write blogs with variable content making it difficult to find an audience (Bob you’re right on this one); women may not be as obsessive about their blogging habit; and blogs are an outgrowth of the male dominated tech sector. All are reasonable assumptions, and probably explain some of the gender disparity in poli-blogging, but the interesting issue is whether this disparity will continue or if women poli-bloggers are just a little late to the show. I believe it’s a bit of both; we’ll continue to see an increase in women publishing poli-blogs, and yet the rate of growth will probably not create gender based poli-blog parity anytime soon.

If you missed it, read the whole thing.

A side thought I had: the mars/venus thing is interesting, but the implication is that women are more interested in the personal and men in the political. But there are other potential causes, one being a difference in focus.

In one perspective, politics can be looked at as a topic: the governance and accumulation of power. Politics is the "game," with the issues of the day the "plays" being made. Commentators discuss who is staking out what position, whether a given move is a strong or weak one, will the "team" prevail or be outmaneuvered. Please note this analogy does not marginalize the strength of a person's belief in any given issue. On the contrary, each player or commentator generally has strong moral or ethical positions that they feel one political "team" represents better than the other, so they have a real stake in desiring their chosen "team" to prevail on that particular subject. But the ultimate subject is politics itself; the issues are sub-headings.

Another perspective of politics is more issue-driven: the subject is the issue, the politics are only relevant if it affects the outcome. In other words, teams are irrelevant, the players interchangeable, the only thing that matters is the way a particular conflict is resolved, be it for one side or the other. People who come at politics from an issue-driven perspective are just as passionate about political confrontation, but only if it touches on the issue in which they have a real concern. They are less likely to care who the politicians are, and more likely to drop out of the conversation if the issue of concern has been resolved to their satisfaction, becomes a moot point, or is reduced to an endless repetition of previously stated positions or other pointless posturing. (That's not an argument, it's a contradition. No, it isn't . . . )

I don't know if this divide in perspective runs along sex-based lines. What I do know is that I come at the issues from the latter perspective, which is one thing that keeps this from being a political blog. If I find an issue that's interesting, meritorious, and (here's a real key) one on which I have an articulable opinion that hasn't already been done to death, I'll discuss it on my own blog. If instead I find it's just more political sound and fury, I'll refrain. I don't feel the need to add many "yeah, what s/he said" posts reiterating the party line, because I don't really have a party.

I think it would be interesting to do a study on how many "non-political" female blogs actually discuss political issues and the moral, psychological, financial or other implications thereof, without discussing candidates and the game of politics itself. I wonder if it might raise the 'female political blogger' percentages a bit. Just a thought.

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