Feminism

Another Gender+Blogging Artifact

Here's a source I used in some earlier work I did on gender and blogging in Fall 2002. It doesn't exactly fit with the Where are the women? question, but it's telling nonetheless: Getting Started with Blogging for the Attractive Female Blogger (from September 3, 2002). I find it quite interesting that back in 2002, discussions of gender in the blogosphere dealt with questions of physical attractiveness and whether a given woman blogged about sex or not -- and the effects of those two factors on readership and linking -- and the late-2004 and 2005 discussions are centered more on assumptions such as: Women don't write about politics, women don't enjoy the sporting-event (a.k.a. "food fight," a.k.a. agonistic) character of debates on weblogs, women don't promote their own weblogs as much as men do, etc. Not that this last set of claims just came up in 2004-2005, but it seems to me that bloggers are more interested in talking about them now than the ideas of attractiveness and sexual content. I intend to talk about this slight shift in my dissertation (the prospectus defense was fine, by the way; my committee helped me out a lot, and I think what I've got now is much more manageable and narrow.). The next hurdles are to fill out an application for exemption with the Institutional Review Board and to write a three-page (3!!) dissertation proposal for a university-wide dissertation fellowship for which I was nominated. I also have to write a one-page personal statement, kind of an intellectual history. Maybe I'll post it here.

UPDATE: Then again, it seems the sex-sells issue remains relevant. I had forgotten about Lauren's astute statement addressing it. Durr.

More on Gender and Blogging

Spurred by a couple of recent posts by Kevin Drum and the swift, prodigious response to said posts, I've updated the link portal on gender in the blogosphere. Lauren's right; I do have my work cut out for me. Must prepare presentation for prospectus defense now...

Gloria Steinem Podcast

Brendan Watson, a student at the Missouri School of Journalism, has put up a podcast of a speech by Steinem she gave after accepting the Missouri School of Journalism's Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. I'm thrilled that Brendan emailed me to let me know about it. Listen to her thoughts about journalism -- "the first draft of history."

You know, I met Steinem back in early 2002. :-) Photograph below the fold:

New Issue of JCMC

The new issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication is out, and it features an article on blogs by teenagers. I'm thinking Lanette might find it useful for her CCCC presentation. :-)

Blog Post Online Readers, CC Licensed

There's a good discussion on Kairosnews about free, collaboratively authored, online, Creative Commons-licensed, open-access composition textbooks. As you might guess, I like the idea, but the planning and execution are going to be very tricky if a group actually gets together and does this thing. But as I was writing my comment, it occurred to me how easy it would be to assemble an online reader for a first-year composition course. There's so much writing talent in the blogosphere, and many bloggers have Creative Commons licenses. I might just do it: Find great, essay-style posts that model qualities of good writing style and argumentation, group them into themes, and copy them into my course site. I could use Drupal's collaborative book module. I'm excited! I'm already thinking of posts I might want to use, like for a unit on the war, I'm thinking of Mike's post titled The Photos and Jeanne's And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink: A scattered and contradictory post on responsibility and Abu Ghraib (To be sure, Jeanne doesn't have a CC license, but maybe she'd give permission for her work to be reproduced for educational, noncommercial purposes.). I'm also thinking of Jeanne's recent post titled Democrats, Aristocrats, and the Torturer's Assistants.

Such a reader could be assembled for any class; I'm thinking too of an intro to Gender Studies class. I might use something along the lines of Dr. Crazy's "Why Women's Studies Sucks" series (Part I and Part II, and hat tip to Jonathan for those), and the responses from The Little Professor and others. Ummmm, yeah, my argument would be stronger if these blogs actually had CC licenses, I know (heh), but again, they might allow their work to be used for this purpose. If not, there are many with CC licenses who have excellent work on their blogs, like Rad Geek, Lauren, and many more. The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. Reduced cost to students, more freedom for the instructor to design the course around themes, and more opportunity for the students to be an active audience, conversing with the authors of the work if the students also blog, or even if they don't, as most bloggers have an email address displayed.

Response to "Mommy (and Me)"

Via Prof. B., I see that the New York Times story on parents' weblogs has been published. I'm dismayed but not all that surprised with what's in there, and I'll tell you why.

I was interviewed for this story because part of my dissertation research focuses on women's weblogs, many of whom are mothers. When David Hochman was talking to me about the story, he used the words "narcissistic" and "confessional" to describe parents' weblogs, albeit in a questioning way ("Aren't they just kind of narcissistic and confessional?" that kind of thing). As I told him about my dissertation, I tried so hard to explain to and persuade him that "baby blogs" are often -- almost always -- so much more than "the new baby book," that they're a way for parents to express what's on their minds, but children figure in prominently, obviously. By the way, I'm still working on communicating my dissertation topic in a sound bite, but here's my attempt: I'm doing a feminist rhetorical analysis of political discourse on weblogs, particularly an exploration of what gets interpreted as a political weblog and what perhaps doesn't, and how this difference is gendered (a personal-reflective approach to political writing as opposed to punditry). For an illustration, see the difference between this Eschaton post and these posts by Prof. B.* Different in terms of style and topic, but both political, to be sure. I actually emailed Hochman the links to those posts, as well as links to 11D and Laura's excellent Family Politics category of posts. Laura was also interviewed, and her comments -- again, not surprisingly -- aren't mentioned.

It's nothing personal against Hochman. He was friendly and great to talk to, but comparing my initial conversation with him to the finished product I just read, it's clear to me that he'd already made up his mind about "baby blogs," "mommy blogs," "daddy blogs," what have you: "The baby blog in many cases is an online shrine to parental self-absorption." Parents are "insecure," and they crave "attention and validation." And the thing is, I'm sure a lot of people agree with this attitude, as though there's some sense of undue entitlement about wanting to blog about one's experience as a parent. I wonder if those who espouse this view would say the same about political bloggers "proper," who have the apparent decency not to bother us with their personal lives, or if so, very seldom.

* I'm looking at differences, and I realize that what I'm doing may sound very Chodorow/Gilligan/Belenky et al., but I'm not interested in saying "men write this way; women write that way." If you can think of a good way for me to show that I'm distancing myself from theories criticized for essentialism, I'd appreciate hearing it. I'm more interested in the gendering of the discourse itself as well as the Where are all the women political bloggers? question. There's such a pronounced disconnect for so many people in what counts as political writing, from the issues discussed to the writing style/rhetorical approach, and the disconnect is brought up over and over again, to the point that many have likened the debate to a dead horse or poked fun at it, though none as well as flea:

Popular, Liberal Male Blogger: Why don't women blog? I've looked on my blogroll and I don't see any women bloggers. Therefore, they must not exist. Women must not be interested in thinky stuff like politics or computers.

45 Women Bloggers respond in the comments section: WTF? We all have blogs!

Liberal, Male Blogger: I don't mean blogs about tampons**. All women do is talk about feminine hygiene products. I mean, Where are all the women who blog about important stuff; the stuff *I'm* interested in.

45 Women Bloggers: You're right. We only talk about feminine hygiene products. Here's more talk about feminine hygiene products: You are a douche.

Liberal Male Blogger: Wahhhh! You're oppressing me! Censorship! My civil rights are being violated!

One Asshole Woman: I am so embarrassed to be a woman right now! Don't you listen to those hairy bitches, Liberal Male Blogger! *I* understand you!

Liberal Male Blogger: See there? One woman has validated me! That means you all are wrong and I am right!

45 Women Bloggers: douche.

Liberal Male Blogger: Wahhhh!

Repeat in three months with a different blogger. I'll point it out next time it happens.

** Link added to demonstrate the political bent of many women's weblogs.

From around the globe to your frontal lobe

Just some linking:

The Directory of Open Access Journals, via Byron.

Give Us Real Choices, a new NARAL campaign. Although I support the cause, the tactic -- protest "Chastity Awareness Week" in Pennsylvania by requesting a chastity belt -- seems about as rhetorically effective as crowning a sheep at the 1968 Miss America Pageant. I don't and have never lived in Pennsylvania, so I have no real sway over members of the Pennsylvania State Legislature, but I'm posting this anyway. An employee of M&R Strategic Services emailed me asking me to post it, and as it didn't read like link-exchange spam to me, I decided to email her back and ask her a few questions about her organization, including: Did you send this email to other feminist bloggers? What does your organization think of weblogs as a way to disseminate information, awareness, etc.? How does your organization view weblogs' role in activism? She wrote a substantial and very friendly note back and explained that M&R believes it's important to engage the blogosphere in its outreach efforts, and she said she was sending the link to other feminist bloggers. Anyway, I thought it was pretty interesting.

For lack of funding, Wellesley's Women's Review of Books ceased publication with the December 2004 issue. I don't think this should go without being duly noted. Navigating through the directories is cumbersome, but you can access the archives online, or you may search by reviewer name, book/essay title, or author name.

I heart the New York Times today

Good for them for taking a sensible stand.

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