February 22, 2005

Estrogen Week: Oh Where, Oh Where Have the Fee-males Gone?

Yes: Again that question is asked--

. . . if you take a look at the Blogosphere Ecosystem, which for all its faults is probably the closest thing we have to a consensus measure of popularity for political blogs, you will find exactly three women in the top 30: Michelle Malkin, La Shawn Barber, and Michele Catalano. (There are a few group blogs in the top 30, but those are very heavily male dominated too.)

That's a grand total of 10% of the most popular political blogs. And to gaze even more deeply into our collective navel, that 10% is 100% conservative. On the liberal side, Wonkette weighs in at #33 and TalkLeft at #48 and that's it for liberal women in the top 100, unless I've missed someone.

So what's up? There aren't any institutional barriers in the traditional sense of the word, which means either (a) there are fewer female political bloggers and thus fewer in the top 30, or (b) there are plenty of women who blog about politics but they don't get a lot of traffic or links from high-traffic male bloggers.

And again the question is answered in the most self-serving terms possible--

My guess is that it's a bit of both, and the proximate reason is that men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing both writing it and reading it. Since I don't wish to suffer the fate of Larry Summers 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.
"Imagine" is right; there's certainly no critical thinking going on here. Having proposed the most supportable theory, that "there are plenty of women who blog about politics but they don't get a lot of traffic or links from high-traffic male bloggers," a theory supported by a quick review of his own blogroll, Drum concludes instead that the delicate flowers of blogdom are averse to the medium's "fundamental viciousness." What can you say to that beyond, "Bitch, please" . . . ?

I don't want to use myself as a counter-example, as I've more or less phased out any political blogging per se (and one of these days I'll get into why I've done that). Besides, I'm not a liberal blogger. But hundreds of other women bloggers on the left end of the spectrum write about politics every day. They're out there, for those who can be bothered to look.

As for whether conservatives are more inclusive in this regard . . . that may have to be a whole 'nother post. My short answer would be "yes and no." I don't think it's necessarily better, but it is different. I can't imagine, for instance, emailing the admin of a new blog portal for conservatives to request more diversity on the blogroll, and getting such a polite and (seemingly) well-intentioned response as this. More likely, I'd be lectured on how conservatives "don't go in for all that quota and diversity crap." And depending on the manners of the person administering the site, it might or might not be implied that I was a man-hating Communist feminazi who was simultaneously on her period and in need of a good lay. (I think most conservative men are civil and well-mannered, but the ones who aren't really, really, really aren't. Perhaps that's the "food fight" nature of the medium that my vagina makes me naturally "uncomfortable" with; yet I suspect that no one has ever suggested Mr. Drum was in need of a blowjob because he expressed an unpopular opinion.)

Then again, it's difficult for me to imagine needing to send that email in the first place, seeing as how Blogs for Bush, in contrast to PEEK, has no shortage of women on its blogroll. This, I think, is mostly because Blogs for Bush, unlike PEEK, was built from the ground up; willing participants simply sent in their URLs and got added to the roll. PEEK's hierarchical, we-select-the-best-blogs-for-you approach naturally hinders the diversity of that selection.

That's what's interesting to me about this--that a grass-roots approach, one you'd think would be a natural favorite on the left, seems to be more favored by those on the right. And there is the clue for liberal women bloggers: Link each other; force each other to "bubble up" through the Ecosystem. I first saw this approach taken by a conservative female blogger: Write up a link-collection post, aiming to include blogs with less traffic than your own; specify that you will include any bloggers in the next day's link collection who trackback that post (which they'll gladly do, if they're newer, smaller, or just that hungry for traffic), and watch your inbound links (and thus, your Ecosystem ranking) rise. Like the bubble sort algorithm it resembles, it's neither the quickest nor the most efficient way to pop to the top, but it has the benefits of being effective over the long term and inherently cooperative in nature, and these merits, I think, more than compensate for the drawbacks.

Posted by Ilyka at February 22, 2005 01:22 AM in estrogen week

It must be spring. Or a full moon. Or both.

Posted by: Ith at February 22, 2005 03:49 AM

Wait for it... wait for it... when the comment comes, you'll know which one I'm waiting for.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at February 22, 2005 03:53 AM

Could it be that guys that spend all day on a computer tend to be less comfortable with women? Except for me, of course, right now I'm all sweaty from making love and chopping wood.

Posted by: Hubris at February 22, 2005 01:27 PM

I said this on a couple of comments sections - I think the A-list white guys are really more concerned about whether or not they are as influential as they hope they are. Kevin posted about that two days before he brought up the "women bloggers" question. They crave media attention, and they don't get it in the way they want. I address that point on my blog. So, maybe this "women bloggers" question is just the guys projecting their own insecurities onto us women.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at February 22, 2005 02:18 PM

It's because of the JOOOOOOOOOSSSS!!!

(Was that the one, Meryl?)

Posted by: Jim at February 22, 2005 05:45 PM

Seriously though? I think a big part of it is the glass ceiling, all over again. The bigger bloggers are linking predominately to male pundits. People who get linked by the big guys get more referral traffic and grow at a faster rate than people who don't. The blogsphere is dynamic. There are a load and a half of popular female pundits but their sites are not growing at the same rate as their oft-linked male brethren.

Then again, it does appear that on many, many different human attributes - height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability - there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means - which can be debated - there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. Perhaps females don't do as well at punditry simply because males are biologically prone to do better.

(Heh. That was the one.)

Posted by: Jim at February 22, 2005 05:56 PM

"Biologically prone" would make a great blog title.

I think a mock ecosystem page, reordered to give weight where it's due, titled The Never Laid Bare
or some such mockery, permanently on display, with an option for registering by "the next grunting oaf who can't see the women for the trees" might help inhibit that tired refrain from being trotted out.

The irony is it provides a traffic boost to anyone who asks it.

Another option is to de-link off the blogroll everyone who asks it.

Or what would happen if everyone simply dropped Sitemeter in protest to make the whole game permanently irrelevant? Let NZ Bear have a completely Rightwing ecosystem when most of the liberals drop out.

Just tossing out ideas. Agitatin'. I'm pretty sure the team at AS would vote to follow the lead of blogging women if an organized effort is put forth.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at February 22, 2005 07:27 PM

No, Jim, not yet. You'll know it when I see it.

It may show up on my blog now, though.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at February 22, 2005 07:48 PM

Another option is to de-link off the blogroll everyone who asks it.

Oh wouldn't it be loverly?--Drastic, though.

Or what would happen if everyone simply dropped Sitemeter in protest to make the whole game permanently irrelevant?

sometimes I feel bad for NZ Bear because what's the one thing that truly unites bloggers across the political divide? THAT FREAKIN' ECOSYSTEM. Oh how we hates it, hates it we do. And you would think, since it does lean rightward, that no one on the right would bitch about it, but we do, because it really goes to some people's heads and turns them into arrogant assholes--oh, wait; I see from reading your site that you're already familiar with Le Hindrocket. Never mind.

Posted by: ilyka at February 22, 2005 07:53 PM

Well, I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule when it comes to women being "uncomfortable" with all those vicious mens and their sweaty, muscular political arguing. What I actually have noticed is not that women are all "ew, gross!" when guys get into a whose-political-peepee-is-bigger slapfest, but that male creatures seem to be very uncomfortable when women fight back instead of -- not capitulating, perhaps, but being the cool voice of reason and "now boys..." Or is that just me?

Then again, it has occurred to me that I am really a man. Oh -- and if something awful should happen to the server space that that Ecothing resides upon, you wouldn't hear a lot of tears from my end of the internet.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 22, 2005 11:25 PM


I have noticed, and give full marks to the females of the Blogosphere for being able to engage in Banshee-wail, fact devoid screaming matches just as pointless and rock headed as anything any man can do.

Posted by: Richard Cook at February 23, 2005 04:27 PM

It's good for the digestion!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 23, 2005 08:21 PM

Richard: LOL!

Posted by: Juliette at February 23, 2005 09:05 PM