Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Illustrative Case: Outburst in the Blogosphere

In September 2002, Dana Jones posted an email from another female blogger, which read:

I once had this notion that should I get my foot inside the door of the 'blogosphere' then ... I don't know ... money would fall from trees or something. One day I posted a comment on one of those pundit's sites and lo and behold, two hours later the comment had vanished. I took that as a sign that I was not welcome in his comments nor was I ever going to be admitted to the punditry higher circle of knowledge and all things blogging. Whatever.
I got so infuriated with so many things in the blogworld this week that I almost packed it in. Instead, I ranted even more. And I said fuck the people who think they run blogworld and fuck the elitist bastards whose only claim to fame ever will be reaching one million hits on their site meter.

Although this blogger did not say anything about men or gender bias in particular, Jones said that she had noticed a hierarchy in the blogosphere and that the prominent bloggers, almost all men, rarely linked to the women. She said that Glenn Reynolds, whose weblog is considered the most popular on the Web, had linked to her weblog before, but only when she had posted about her sex life or sexual fantasies. Jones then called for a boycott of some male bloggers, suggesting instead that bloggers should promote voices that are not heard as much. Another blogger started a discussion thread on Blogroots, a community weblog about blogging. Forty comments were posted to the thread, and many other people weighed in on the issue on their weblogs. In the thread, some people accused Olsen of producing inferior content and blaming it on sexism, and others simply stated that society is sexist, and the blogosphere is no different. Several said that Jones’s posts about sex undermined her credibility as a “serious blogger.” Mary Smith, a female blogger, posted this:

I'm late to this party, but let me see if I can get this into a nutshell: Dana is upset because when she does get linked from the A-listers, they tend to be links only to her posts on sex. Otherwise, she is ignored. Neither is she on Glenn's blogroll; Dana says he has only "serious" women bloggers in his sidebar. (Full disclosure: I'm on Glenn's blogroll.) This lack of attention from people like den Beste and Sullivan is sexist, she says. They pay more attention to the male bloggers than they do female bloggers.

The problem here is that there are two issues. The first is the issue of sexism: Do the A-listers link more often to male bloggers and ignore female bloggers? Do the guys have an online boys club where they check their buddies out first? Was it sheer coincidence that NZ Bear shot up to the top of the blogosphere? Or was it sexism, as no female blogger has ever garnered the attention he received quite so quickly? (We're talking pre-ecosystem—Glenn Reynolds, Bill Quick, and Stephen Green treated Bear like a long-lost brother returned home. Hey, the guy's my offline friend, I introduced him to the blogosphere, and even I was struck by twinges of envy at his instant results. I had to work my ass off for nearly a year to get the kind of notice and traffic he got in his first month.)

She goes on to say that the sexism in the blogosphere is unintentional, an opinion expressed by many others. In response to the Blogroots thread and the other posts, Jones had a response that coincides with the theories of Chodorow, Gilligan, and Belenky et al.: She apologized profusely. Chodorow, Gilligan, and Belenky et al. argue that women are socialized to base their identities on the relationships they have with other people and to sacrifice their own needs and desires for those of others. Jones, although she was angry about not being taken seriously by other bloggers and the fact that male bloggers were only reading her weblog for her posts on sex, apologized so that she would still be a part of the group. Even though a significant number of other bloggers agreed with her accusing the blogosphere of being sexist, she casts herself as a troublemaker, titling her post “Behaving Badly.” She accepts the blame for the entire debate:

If I were to look at myself with fresh eyes, I would probably not like who I am based on my behavior over the last couple of weeks. I am extremely emotional and far too sensitive. My filter mechanism is flawed and I react without thinking. I attacked a variety of people recently who didn't deserve my harsh and hurtful comments - and certainly not in a public forum. I can be quite immature and self-concerned.

Next: Observation of Linking Practices of "A-List" Bloggers