Gender and blogs

November 03, 2003

My current study break is to read blogs. I click, I click, I click, and I read. It is like having an entire universe of op-ed pages, academic side notes, and personal revelations.

One of the things that I have noticed about this is just how female the blogosphere is. I went down my blogroll on the left, and while it is about 60/40 male it is not typical. Based on my impressions while surfing, especially on the blogsnob randomizer at the bottom of my blogroll, there are a lot of men with policy and punditry blogs and there are a lot of women with personal diary blogs. As with most gender generalizations, this is of course a question of overlapping bell curves - there are some seriously punditoid (it is a word now) women, and some guys who like to record their emotions and daily life.

I remember when the internet first started to go mainstream - Yahoo had just opened - and the net was a heavily male realm, as were computer games. Women have been moving in, and at the risk of talking out of my ass I would say that women seem interested in using the net to share themselves, while men often use the net to distance themselves from others. I don't know if that distinction will hold up if tested - certainly there are anonymous men and women all over the blogosphere - but it will work as a null hypothesis for me to test in my future browsing.

Women have a long history in information technology. My mom worked for IBM's New York City office installing mainframes the 1950s. Back in those days most of the customer service reps were women. Mom had to go to client offices wearing a hat and white gloves. She is a short woman, about 5'2". She kept a screwdriver in her purse so she could open up the machines and fix what was wrong with them. She still had her Southern accent, she cursed like a longshoreman, and I gather that the overall effect produced cognitive dissonance in the people she worked with.

But, information technology, like most of the engineering-based professions, was a mostly male realm for a very long time. It is only as the web has taken computer use out of the engineering world and into the household world that we have seen these gender changes.

In part this is because the blogosphere, like the larger online society, is itself a part of larger American society. And, as many people have noted, some aspects of the feminist revolution have succeeded to the point where people who deny that they are feminists have internalized the core values of feminism. The college women I work with genuinely can not comprehend the world their grandmothers grew up in, where certain fields and certain life expectations were defined by gender. Male jobs, female jobs - those ideas have to be explained to them. If you tell a modern college woman that she can not be a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer because she has the wrong plumbing, she will think you are crazy. And yet, the same woman will deny being a feminist.

We still continue to debate nature and nurture. We still notice gendered patterns in human behavior. And so while women can and do take up any job field and can and do write about anything they want to, I still see a preponderance of women among the personal blogs and a preponderance of men among the pundit blogs.

Perhaps I am following the wrong link circles and looking at the wrong corner of the blogosphere.

(this seems to be gender day - two posts on gender issues already!)

Posted by Red Ted at November 3, 2003 02:01 AM | TrackBack