Article in SadieMag

I'll join Jill, Rox, Lindsay, and Deanna in blogging the SadieMag story on women and blogging. For the story, I answered some questions over email and spoke on the phone with Stephanie Schorow, the author of the story, and I recommended that Schorow watch these videos from BlogHer, especially the ones by Halley Suitt and Heather Armstrong. I don't have anything to add beyond what others have already said, but I thought I'd share some comments I made that ended up on the cutting room floor.

1. Are there truly fewer female political bloggers than men? Seems like male-written blogs dominate the top 100 lists (technorati, truthlaidbear) but does that reflect what's happening in the blogosphere?

No, I don’t think there are fewer female than male political bloggers. I think the common understanding of “political blogger” is too narrow and usually refers to a blogger that, first of all, writes about politics narrowly defined. Lots of women especially, but also men, have a broader, more sophisticated understanding of “political” that includes the ways public policy affects individual lives. This view of “political” opens up a space for a lot of personal narrative writing about lived experience, which, again, doesn’t immediately spring to mind when someone says “political blog.”

Second, some of the male-authored blogs in the top 100 lists are more like aggregators or filters, with many short posts per day mostly consisting of links to news stories and to other bloggers’ posts. That’s certainly doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the blogosphere. Plus some of them write about nothing but politics, and that doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the blogosphere either. Most people write about a wide variety of topics.

Also, if you look at the most popular blogs according to the ranking tools (especially Ecotraffic), you’ll also see several of the blogs that are owned by Nick Denton of Gawker Media: Gawker, Defamer, Gizmodo, and Wonkette. Many in the blogosphere read them but think of them more as magazines than blogs. These blogs have several writers, all of whom are paid to blog, and they stay very much on topic.

2. Are female bloggers-- right left moderate -- getting the attention they deserve? if not, why not?

It’s hard to cast it in terms of “deserving” or “not deserving” when we’re talking about blogging. It’s not as simple as saying that good writing will attract a large audience, and bad writing won’t. Blogging is a distributed communicative model, where you have to reach out and gather your audience. You have to link to other blogs so that they can see you in their http referrers, you have to comment on other people’s blogs, send them trackbacks, link to their posts in your posts, etc. You have to write yourself into the network and engage with the medium, and that entails a good bit of what many would consider self-promotion.

So if you think of it as “the best writers deserve the most attention,” well, there are plenty of good writers out there, but we have to find out about them somehow. Some people argue that the people who are at the top of Technorati and the Ecosystem, regardless of whether they’re men or women, deserve to be there because they’ve put a lot of work into updating their blogs constantly and reaching out and connecting to their audiences – and maintaining their relationships with their audiences. (See, for example, Halley Suitt here.)

Still another factor to consider is a blogger’s real-world reputation. If a major league scholar with impressive credentials starts a blog, people are going to link to it immediately. Economist Gary Becker and judge / legal scholar Richard Posner, for example, started a blog together some months ago, and it generated a lot of buzz immediately. Some people might think that if a person has impressive credentials, that means he or she deserves a larger audience.

3. What are some of the best female-written blogs in your opinion? The best liberal blogger? The best conservative blogger? The best in keeping everyone guessing?

Best female-written blogs:
One Good Thing:
Girl Genius:

Best liberal bloggers:
Bitch Ph.D.:
Body and Soul:
Hullaballoo (Digby):
John & Belle:

Also creative endeavors like:
The Rude Pundit:
Wealth Bondage: (“fetish action figures”)
[UPDATE: Totally should have put Fafblog here the first time.]

Best conservative bloggers:
Ann Althouse:
Ilyka Damen (now defunct):
(and though they’re more libertarian/fiscal conservative)
Crescat Sententia:
Marginal Revolution:

4. Do females have a different voice than men when blogging? Or is the Internet truly a genderless zone that levels the playing field? Do females feel more free in writing their opinions than speaking them when they might be shouted down by men - or even by other women?

I wouldn’t say women have a different voice from men. While stereotypes do exist, both feminine (attenuated assertions, claims phrased as questions, an interpersonal style) and masculine (opinions stated as facts, information accompanied by critique, aggressiveness), it’s not at all the case that actual practice confirms these stereotypes.

I hope that women feel free to state their opinions online, but I’m not sure about that. In the course of my research, I’ve seen references to women bloggers who stopped blogging, especially conservative women, but I don’t know why that is. I’ve also read quite a few posts and comments about how women face harassment and threats online, so intimidation might make some women feel inhibited about posting their opinions online. Whether it’s actually the case or not, it’s commonly said that more women blog pseudonymously than men.

5. Some bloggers, such as Digby, are said to be female but keep their gender a secret. Do you think it makes a difference to readers?

Google "jon digby" blog and you’ll see that some people claim digby is a man. But for a long time, I’ve found it interesting that people think digby’s a woman, though; many of his posts are more essayistic than the punditry we see on a lot of the men’s political blogs, where most of the posts are just links to news items or other posts with a sentence or two of commentary.

6. Wonkette has garnered a lot of attention for her site. How representative is she of female bloggers?

Not very. Wonkette is run by Nick Denton of Gawker Media and is more like a magazine. He picked Ana Marie Cox based on some of her prior writing, like on


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Thank you

Wealth Bondage
I appreciate the kind words.

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