Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Survey: Responses to Open-Ended Questions

On the whole, as Tables 3, 4, and 5 show, survey respondents have varying definitions of what “blogging community” is and varying experiences in their blogging practices. One woman, when asked how she defines “blogging community,” replied:

Do you really want me to answer that right now, when I'm feeling rather pissy about it. It’s mostly male, mostly white and very chummy. I've been lucky to have been "accepted" into the community with open arms, namely due to the "sponsorship" of a couple of great bloggers, both men and women, but its still a very male dominated community. I think the war has a great deal to do with it, as I don't know if even women trust other women's views on something so testosterone-laden as war. More’s the pity.

This respondent highlights a salient political event around which mainstream blogging has formed: the War on Terror. After September 11, 2001, the number of weblogs increased significantly. Many of the most well-known bloggers are pundits, often conservative, who post their critiques of the war and what they perceive as the “liberal” and “politically correct” media. There are, however, plenty of bloggers of all political views.

Perhaps the most revealing comments I received from survey respondents were those that answered the last question: “If you answered no to the previous question, would you like to be more well-known in the blogging community? If so, what do you think it would take for you to get the same level of attention as the ‘A-list bloggers’?” Several of the women said that they would not like to be a well-known, widely-read blogger, preferring instead to write for themselves and a few interested parties:

Ooooh, well, I'm not a famous member of the bloggyworld. Sure, I would love
to have more people read my blog and send me comments. I think if I keep
doing what I'm doing--writing about stuff I care about and know about--that
people who are interested in my stuff will find me. I don't aspire to be an
“A-list blogger”--my impression is that those guys spend much more time than
I have to spare. I have a real life going on in the background here.
Metaphorically--a real concert pianist plays 6+ hours per day. Great, we all
love to listen to that pianist, and I love to read those glorious A-list
bloggers. But...by practicing an hour or two a day, I can play pieces I enjoy, please all my friends, and have a good time. That's the kind of blogging I aspire to.

One unfortunate trend I noticed is the women’s tendency to think that they do not have the writing talent to be a widely-read blogger:

I'm on the fringes - story of my life, and that's fine by
me. The A-listers REALLY have something to say. I just make smalltalk,
party conversation. (I've found that to be the aptest metaphor for my
blog, so I'm sticking with it.) If I wanted to become an A-lister,
I'd have to have something to say, and probably find an overarching
theme. Which I don't think I ever will. And, like I said, that's
fine. I'd much rather sit on the sidelines than be the center of

I would like to be more well-known, but that will take time. Many A-level blogs seem to be focused on one topic and become a daily paper of sorts for those
people interested in that topic. Other A-levels are witty and outrageous. Both groups generally have html skills. If you are writing about more mundane things, as I, it takes humor and exposure to gain a following. I am submitting pieces to other blog portals or on-line forums. And practice, practice, practice.

I'm happy. I don't seek fame or notoriety, I do this for fun. The A-
listers are a list because I read them, and make them that. I'd hate to see
commercial blogs, A-list for a price. The quality would dissolve. A-listers
are talented. They deserve whatever it is they get out of having a
“following.” That’s a big job. I don't have the talent to be an A list *Star*
and it's not my intention, so no expectations.

I think becoming an A-list blogger takes a lot of time and energy - and considerable intelligence and writing talent. I drift in and out of the B list - which
is just fine with me. I don't feel pressure to blog my way to the top, and I write what only what I am moved to write. If I'm good enough, I'll get read. If I'm not, I enjoyed the process of writing anyway.

Other respondents expressed disdain for the A-list bloggers and the concept of popular bloggers:

Most of the well-known A- and even B- listers don't impress me that much. The
spats, hurt feelings and self-importance are a turn-off. I believe it is possible to become better known by doing three things, none of which I am willing to do: (1) read a lot of other journals, comment, and add them to a blogroll (2) write about the same things these folks are covering, and link to their posts and (3) write about controversial, political, and technical subjects, a sort of pretend journalism. The first two are the most important.

I really don't know. I can't say that I don't care. But I'm not willing to
change much of how I blog. The "A list" things is yucky. Blogging has the
potential to create a community in which everyone has the same opportunity.
The A list thing creates hierarchy and it's just not useful.

I've discovered that if you go around and comment and kiss serious blogger ass
you are more likely to become an "a-list" blogger, or at least a "b-list" one. It’s amazing. I don't kiss ass, I don't think people like that.

While not denying the fact that there is an “A-list,” these women clearly stated that they want no part of it. Although these responses do not represent a majority of the respondents, I find them surprising; I had predicted that the members of Blog Sisters would want a high number of readers and a large measure of recognition from other bloggers. Some respondents said that they think the mainstream blogging community has a gender bias, but most did not.

Next: Illustrative Case: Outburst in the Blogosphere