Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Introduction: Research Question, Methods

  • Blogging communities are ideologically charged, and dominant ideologies such as sexism, racism, and classism influence blogging practices.
  • Most bloggers have a desire to connect with an audience through their weblogs, to gain a readership. Small communities of bloggers form, situated around common interests, but my results will show that among the bloggers with the highest number of readers, women are underrepresented, and that in mainstream blogging, or the “blogosphere” of most widely-read weblogs, it is difficult for women’s voices to enter the conversation.
  • "Blogging community” can be defined in several different ways, but there is an aspect of celebrity involved with keeping a weblog. Women keep weblogs for many different reasons; most do it because a weblog is a personal writing space where one can write about and link to whatever she wants. Blogging is a regular writing exercise, a way for a blogger to gather her thoughts, discover her interests, come to value her own perspective, and refine her opinions on issues that are important to her.
  • Research question: What do women bloggers experience in the blogging community as they define it, and how well are they represented in the most widely-read and linked-to weblogs?
  • Methods: In this study, I used a mixed-method design of a survey, illustrative case, and observation of the number of men and women on the blogrolls of ten of the most widely-read and linked-to weblogs on the Internet. After receiving approval from my university’s Institutional Review Board, I distributed a survey to the members of Blog Sisters, a women-only blogging community. Blog Sisters is a community weblog, meaning that any member of Blog Sisters can post to the main site. On the site is also a “Sister Roll,” where each member is blogrolled. I emailed the survey to the members, which numbered 145, and received twelve mailer-daemon failure delivery notices due to full inboxes or inactive addresses. Of the 133 women who received the survey, twenty-three responded, to make a 17% response rate. I asked fifteen questions, most of which were open-ended, and looked for patterns to emerge in the responses. I coded the responses according to the patterns.

    I also examined a debate that took place in September 2002. Over the course of that month, at least thirty different bloggers debated the claim that the blogosphere—the mainstream blogging community of most well-known bloggers—is sexist. I followed one thread from Blogroots, a community weblog, an angry post from blogger Dana Jones, and another post from blogger Mary Smith.

    Finally, I observed the blogrolls of ten prominent, well-known bloggers. Because blogrolls are such a telling indicator of which weblogs a certain blogger reads and responds to, and because a blogroll functions in part as an advertisement sending readers to other weblogs, I think it is important to pay attention to who the most widely-read bloggers read and invite into the mainstream of readership.

Next: Theoretical Framework, Prior Research on Gender in Computer-Mediated Communication