Good Girls Don’t Blog

Posted: July 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Culture, Technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

The blogosphere is all abuzz because of an article in the New York Times about a conference of female bloggers called BlogHer. The article looks at the conference as a sign of a glass ceiling in the blog world where women tend to blog as a hobby, while a lot of men have been able to make their blogs a full time, and highly lucrative, job. Maybe, the piece muses, that’s because women don’t want to be blogger-executives. Or maybe it’s because they can’t get venture capitalists and advertisers to support them.

The feminist blogs are up in arms that the article confirms stereotypes of women. Because the piece focuses on blogs about fashion and family, it implicitly suggests that women don’t blog about anything else. And because it’s in the SundayStyles section, it confirms that women bloggers aren’t real entrepreneurs, who would get profiled in the Business section. Simply by devoting two pages to discussing gender difference, some of these bloggers say, the article has helped to create them.

The piece has a lot of problems, but they would certainly not be solved by treating BlogHer as an ordinary business conference and ignoring the presence of gender altogether. Rather, instead of simply stating that women blog differently or get less funding, the reporter–Kara Jesella–needed to spend more time probing those inequities. This article should have been longer on cultural criticism and shorter on fluffy prose. By spending several paragraphs, for example, on the atmosphere inside a ladies’ restroom, Jesella leaves no room for analysis.

She drops bombs like “women are taught not to be aggressive and analytical in the way that the political blogosphere demands, and are more likely to receive blog comments on how they look, rather than what they say,” then doesn’t explain her point. The feminist blogs had a field day with this statement, because it seems as though Jesella is endorsing this image of women as non-confrontational and appearance-conscious.

What she could have, should have, added was that even though women bloggers aren’t passive airheads, enough media moguls think of them this way that they might have a hard time raising money. Big advertisers might be confident of the success of an angry man’s blog (think of Arrington, Jarvis, or Drudge) and fearful of an opinionated woman. The article really wasn’t about who female bloggers are, but the struggles they face as a result of the way they are perceived. It strikes me as an attempt to expose sexism that falls flat because it’s badly written, not (as the bloggers contend) because its author (a woman, by the way) is a sexist herself.

The whole point of the BlogHer conference is for women to network with one another to get around these kinds of impasses by DISCUSSING gender issues. To somehow cover the conference without talking about the difference between male and female bloggers is just naive, and hardly a productive feminist approach.