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Whither The Female Bloggers?

In the course of reading blogs, it becomes readily apparent that blogging is perhaps the most male-dominated "industry" in America right now.

Is there a gender gap in blogging?

The Pew Research Center recently studied the demographics of blogging, finding that 57% of blog creators are male (the study findings, found here, are in .pdf format).

In the early days of the internet, far more men than women were online, but women rapidly narrowed the gap in the late 1990s. Some studies around the turn of the century even declared that more women than men are on the internet. However, the latest research shows that 61% of men and 58% of women use the internet.

Are women just less interested in politics?

According to the survey research, on the internet, at least, apparently so.

Examining the Pew data yields these findings:

In summer of 2000:
20% of men sought information about the political party conventions, while 12% of women sought that information.

In summer of 2004:
17% of men said they had looked on the internet for news about the campaign the day before, while only 8% of women did. This is consistent with 2002 and 2000, where more men said they had looked up information about politics on the internet in the past day.

Also in summer of 2004:
In terms of just getting general news online, 34% of men said they had used the internet in the past day for that purpose, while 21% of women did.

In summer of 2004:
57% of men and 42% of women said they had ever used the internet to find political news. 77% of men and 66% of women had ever used the internet for general news.

In February 2004:
19% of men and 14% of women said they had ever read someone else's blog.

Meanwhile, however, more women than men use the internet for shoppping and other activities.

So there are signigicant gender differences.

Kevin Drum, of the Political Animal blog, sparked much of this discussion, noting that only 10% of the most popular blogs are written by women:

"...I'll refrain from speculating on deep causes — it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know — but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women."

Female blogger LaShawn Barber finds it "ironic" that Mr. Drum would complain about a lack of women bloggers, then fail to link to her blog on the subject.

Female blogger Lorie Byrd, of the group blog Polipundit.com, has this to say about the subject:

"I see no bias against female bloggers. I would even say that in the future, it could even be an advantage to be a female blogger because they are currently not quite as common as male bloggers are. We could enjoy something of a novelty factor, at least until we overtake the men. (Did I just write that? I may have just spoiled the secret conspiracy of blogging chicks to take over the blogosphere. Sorry, sister bloggers.)

I will say that just from personal experience, though, just in general, I don’t run into as many women who are interested in politics as I do men interested in politics. There are plenty of women on the cable news and talk radio shows talking about politics, and an ever growing number of female politicians, but in my life I just don’t run across as many women that are interested in politics."

Female blogger Betsy Newmark says it shouldn't matter:

"I just don't think that way of who's a woman and who's not. Who gives a flip. It's the content that matters, not the chromosomes. That's one of the many reasons that I think Susan Estrich is silly to be so obsessed with counting up the numbers of women on the LA Times opinion pages. Like Kevin Drum, I have no speculation on why there are fewer top women bloggers. I just don't care."

John Hawkins puts it succinctly:

"Women on the whole are less interested in politics than men, therefore less women create blogs, thus the female talent pool in the blogosphere is smaller than the male pool, which leads to the dearth of 'A-List' female bloggers.

In other words, there aren't as many really successful female bloggers because percentage wise, there aren't as many women who are interested in doing political blogging. It's just that simple."

Outside the Beltway blog notes an interesting (probably unscientific) phenomenon:

"...more interesting than the overall male/female gap, though, is the ideological one. As Kevin notes, the two most popular female bloggers are conservatives. So are are four of the top six (Catalano and McArdle are libertarian moreso than conservative, but they both supported the Iraq War and President Bush's re-election, so we'll count them for our purposes). Since American women are far more apt to vote Democrat than their male counterparts, this is rather surprising."

The Sundries Shack opines:

"...women are less inclined than men to grab a megaphone and shout their opinions to the rest of the world. That may be because of nature, it may be necause of nurture, or it may be, as I suspect, a combination of both.

I just don’t expect that any time soon we’ll see an equal number of female opinion-givers as we’ll see male. That, it seems, is just the way things are."

Another female blogger that gets a lot of attention, especially in the mainstream media, is "wonkette" Anna Marie Cox. Her blog is full of raunchy political gossip, and her style is profoundly modern-feminine.

Then there was the bizarre story of the Libertarian Girl, who turned out to be a man all along, pretending to be the girl in a picture of a Russian mail-order bride (as noted by Wizbang).


Libertarian Girl (now Libertarian Man of Mystery) on this subject:

"It’s funny how there have been some posts in the blogosphere saying that the political blogosphere was a boys club that discriminated against women, as evidenced by how few politics bloggers were women. Boy were they completely off the mark. It’s ten times easier for a woman’s blog to become popular."

WILLisms.com tends to believe there is a lot of room for women in the world of blogging. However, the world of blogs is competitive, sometimes cutthroat, and it sometimes takes stamina to keep up.

But we can also apply something from the way men and women respond to political surveys and focus groups. Men tend to give answers more quickly to opinion questions; men also tend to always have an answer for every opinion. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to take their time in answering opinion questions, often deciding they "don't know." In many ways, the blogosphere is a big focus group.

In blogging, being first is sometimes more important than being best. This very post, for example, is probably about 2 days too late to get much play in the blogosphere, as people have already moved on to other, bigger, better topics.

Blogging is about frantic deadlines. Women, generally, are not.

By the time women have formed a well-developed answer they are comfortable with, it is too late to post about it. Meanwhile, men have answers for everything.

It starts early, too. Little boys are more willing (and faster) to raise their hands and answer questions than little girls.

Later in life, men are inherently more willing to blurt out an answer than women in a group setting. The same goes for blogging, the ultimate group setting.

This is all from political science and social science research.

Clearly there is a gender gap, but it probably has less to do with sexism or chauvinism (such as male bloggers refusing to read or acknowledge female bloggers) than with genetics and self-selection. There is plenty of room for women in the game of blogging, but it's likely that women just aren't as interested as men in playing.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 February 2005 02:05 PM



Posted by: Joy at June 25, 2005 06:39 AM