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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

Musings on Foucault, Power, and Resistance

In response to my professor's question:

Foucault writes, “We must not look for who has
power . . . and who is deprived of it . . . HS, 99).
Oppression is real: men oppress women; capital
oppresses labor. Is Foucault saying that there are
no seats of power and places of the oppressed in
a given society? Is he also stating that directly
resisting oppression is futile?

I am still trying to find a good way to articulate clearly what Foucault's argument about power is. The example that keeps sticking in my mind is this: If power is possessed by a group or entity such as "men" or "capital," then history would have been quite different; I imagine we would have had one group in power (royalty) and they would always have had the power and always will have it. Instead, we've seen many dictators and others come to positions of authority using unorthodox means. My impression is that this is an example of what Foucault means when he says that "power is exercised from innumerable points" (p. 94). However, it is not easy for me to use that example with confidence, because in The History of Sexuality, Foucault's pattern has been to make definitive statements such as "Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared" (p. 94, which would seem to refute my example) and then to qualify these claims: "Are there no great radical ruptures, massive binary divisions, then? Occasionally, yes. But more often one is dealing with mobile and transitory points of resistance [...]" (p. 96). More to the point, in the quotation above, Foucault suggests that we should not "look for who has power," but that we should look at the "process" of power, how it is exercised and perpetuated. I would argue that Foucault is not saying there are no positions of power and positions of oppression, but, as Jana Sawicki has argued in Disciplining Foucault, "[Foucault] does not deny that the juridico-discursive model of power describes one form of power. He merely thinks that it does not capture those forms of power that make centralized, repressive forms of power possible, namely, the myriad of power relations at the microlevel of society" (p. 20). It is clear, then, that Foucault is saying that there are seats of power and oppressed groups, but he is more interested in the subtleties and complexities of power. To put groups in a binary relation is reductive; for example, to say that men oppress women is to give those categories a monolithic quality and ignore intersections such as race and class and to put blinders on by focusing on one particular phenomenon, such as some radical feminists' critiques of pornography as the locus of men's oppression of women. Some women, in fact, are more able to exercise power than some men.

Most Common Prelim Mistakes?

Hey, I'm wondering: What are the most common mistakes graduate students make on the preliminary exams? I gather that one big problem is lack of clarity in the explication of theory. Is that the case? I just took a midterm which was designed to be a kind of dry run of the 2-hour, in-house prelim and my professor liked my essay because he thought it was clear and I used a lot of examples to explain what Burke was saying. What else besides using examples and clear, plain language can I do to pass the prelims? One person advised me not to talk about how I'm using theorist X in my work, but just to demonstrate my understanding of the theory.

Copyright, Access, and Digital Texts

Charlie Lowe has published an excellent article in Across the Disciplines on open content and the state of our current intellectual property model. It's well worth the read, especially for those who are not all that knowledgeable on IP matters and how they are relevant to composition. Charlie has also posted a comprehensive bibliography of sources on intellectual property in rhetoric and composition.

Thoughts on Burke's "Four Master Tropes"

Today I took a 2-hour no-books, no-notes midterm exam in my rhetorical theory class. I answered this question:

Below are two quite different ways of thinking
about figures of speech.

“’Ornament’ is what goes beyond Lucidity and
Acceptability. Its first two stages [lucidity and
acceptability] consists in conceiving and carrying
out your intention; the third is the stage that puts
the polish on and may properly be called
‘finish’”(Quintilian, Institutes 8.3.62)

“The important is that in metaphor, metonymy, and
synecdoche alike language provides us with a
direction that thought itself might take in its effort
to provide meaning to areas of experience not
already regarded as being cognitively secured by
either common sense, tradition, or science”
(Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse, 73).

In his essay, “The Four Master Tropes,” does
Burke embrace one, reject the other; embrace
both; offer a third view: what? Explain.

Below is my attempt:

Hodgepodge of Random Reading

From my inbox--a new journal, Critical Discourse Studies:

Critical Discourse Studies has been established in response to the proliferation of critical discourse studies across the social sciences and humanities. We will consider for publication papers that meet the needs of scholars in diverse disciplines and areas of study which develop critical perspectives on the relationship between discourse and social dynamics. Relevant areas and disciplines include: anthropology, communication, linguistics, sociology, politics, political economy, education, psychology, media studies, geography, urban studies, cultural studies, management studies, literary studies, history, technology studies, legal studies, philosophy, gender studies, migration studies, ethnic studies and others. We also welcome papers which connect critical academic research with practical concerns and agendas, including those of activist and grassroots political movements.

Becky has posted her proposal for her master's thesis on Revolve. I like the way she's using Kenneth Burke's theory here.

A...dare I say?...vapid speech given by Alan Greenspan on intellectual property. Via Sivacracy.

Feministe has a thorough post on rape culture with a lot of links.

Many of our convictions on bioethics are no longer being represented on Bush's bioethics panel. As if we needed another reason to boot him out of office.

Hydrogen peroxide discovered in Mars' atmosphere.

On Electronic Academic Publishing

Timothy Burke has a righteous rant on why we need to move scholarly publishing to an electronic form. It's all spot-on, but the following paragraphs are really producing the stand up and cheer! feeling I'm having right now:

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