Saturday, February 25, 2006

Blogosphere glass ceiling

September 29, 2003
Blog Glass Ceiling Update
One of the most-read entries in this weblog is a post I made some months ago about the blogosphere’s so-called glass ceiling.

I argued that the notion of there being any impediment to the popularity of women’s blogs was clearly nonsense. That such a complaint was even postulated reveals the whining, blaming, conspiracy-theory mentality that underlies much of feminist “ideology”.

From my everyday experience as a blog reader, I suggested there were roughly equal amounts of male and female bloggers. I noted that men’s blogs tended to express opinions about external events, while women were more likely to opt for introspective biographies, and offered this as an explanation for the greater audience share enjoyed by male bloggers (people, I can only presume, are more likely to read weblogs that present or discuss newsworthy subjects).

These hunches have been confirmed by the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education on its blog census site. In an article entitled Equal Numbers, Different Interests, the NITLE “hand-checked a random sample of 776 out of a pool of 490,000 English-language weblogs.”

It was found that “39.8% of bloggers in the sample were men, and 36.3% were women.” (Of the remainder, the blog was either maintained by a group, or the sex of the blogger was not stated or otherwise inferred on the site.)

However, when the researches looked at the category of “personal diary”, which made up about half of all blogs in the sample, “women outnumbered men by about two to one. (56% to 28%).”

Women were less likely to write about other topics. For example, “of the 6.2% of sites in the 'political' category –- sites primarily devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars -- a bare 4% were written by women.”

There's no glass ceiling on the web. But men and women blog differently. Why should this surprise us?

Posted by Michael Heraghty at September 29, 2003 09:07 PM

for newmediajunkies

March 27, 2003
Blogosphere's Glass Ceiling
Patricia Drey, in yesterday's Minnesota Daily, reported that University of Minnesota graduate student Clancy Ratliff is researching into (alleged) gender inequality in the blogosphere.

Ratliff is examining why the most popular (or "A-list") bloggers tend to be male. Her comment indicates there is a conspiracy theory at play. "Men tend to link to other men more often than they link to women," she claimed.

Of course! Men get together in "virtual locker rooms" and hatch plots to prevent women's blogs from becoming popular, refusing to link to them. Hmmm... but don't women, too, tend to link to women's blogs more often than they link to men's?

Maybe there are just more male bloggers than female bloggers? Apparently not, according to Lisa Guernsey, who explored the male dominance of the A-list in the New York Times a couple of months ago:

Women are, in fact, blogging in big numbers. Mr. Rosenberg, who keeps an eye out for new bloggers and links to them from his blog, estimates that the ratio of women to men is something like 40-60, or perhaps 50-50.

So, no equality of access problems. What then? Why are male blogs more popular?

Guernsey asked Virginia Postrel, "one of the few women who is commonly listed among well-known bloggers," who suggested "that the imbalance was probably a holdover from the world of print, where men continue to dominate the opinion pages."

Pardon my ignorance, but what does "a holdover" mean exactly? There are no editors of individual blogs, and bloggers (male and female) are free to promote whatever sites they want. It's not enough to argue that a situation that exists in print journalism is simply "held over".

Guernsey quips that men's sites get "promoted by male journalists". She doesn't offer any analysis to back this up. I would argue that female journalists seem to write as much (if not more) about the phenomenon of blogging than male journalists. Don't believe me? Type "weblogging OR blogging" into Google's News Search, look back through the various articles about blogging that have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the world in recent months (including the two referenced here!). Many, perhaps most, were written by women -- and promote female blogs.

Still, expect feminists to conjure up myriad theories as to why most A-list bloggers are male. The one theory you won't hear -- the implicit theory that they'll bend over backwards to avoid -- is this: that men's blogs are simply better!

For what it's worth, I don't believe that men's blogs are any better (or worse) than women's. But I'm somewhat persuaded by one of Guernsey's arguments, that men and women tend to have different blogging styles:

The Venus-Mars divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their personal lives. Men want to talk about anything but.

Guernsey is having a snide swipe at men. But maybe it's women who are fearful -- afraid to talk about worldly issues. Of course, Guernsey wasn't going to embarrass "sisters" by telling us how much the introspective nature of their blogging reveals about female self-obsession.

Let's face it, a site about one's personal life isn't going appeal to as wide an audience as a site about news, current affairs or other topical issues.

Not that all women write personal blogs; I enjoy Karlin Lillington's blog, for its insightful, informative and up-to-date commentary about what's going on in the Irish IT community and beyond. (Shame about the naff design!)

Conversely, not all men avoid personal weblogs: my own web diary is certainly personal and introspective in nature, if not in the direct manner of a pen-and-paper diary (but the web is a different medium, and the audience is more than one).

I find introspective, revealing (non-whining!) sites more engaging than extrospective, informative ones. The latter have a different function, and may attract more visitors ... but is large-scale popularity the holy grail of blogging?

I think not. I'm with Scottish music artist Momus, who proclaimed (correcting Warhol) that "in the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people."

But hey, I'm just a male, Z-list blogger. What do I know?

(Note: See my update to this post, September 2003.)

Posted by Michael Heraghty at March 27, 2003 03:20 PM

No comments: