Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 2, 2004
BLOG: One For The Ladies
Lots of stuff going on today about women in the blogosphere. Are females underrepresented? Has Wonkette become the media's official spokesperson for the female portion of the blogosphere? Are we destined to just be cute and adorable playthings? Or is the whole idea of sexism in blogs just a manufactured tale thought up by people who just aren't making the time to find blogs that aren't already on their small links list?
Well, looking over my own blogroll - which, given the concentration of baseball blogs, is bound to be male-dominated - I see five female-authored blogs (Michele, Bookworm, Erin O'Connor, Meryl Yourish, and Jane Galt), plus NRO's Corner, which is male-dominated but moderated by Kathryn Jean Lopez, one of the most active contributors to the group, and The Command Post, at which Michele is one of the ringleaders. Other female bloggers I've linked to - only sporadically - would include Dana at Note-It Posts, law blogger Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage, Baldilocks, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, and, of course, Wonkette. Not nothing, but clearly a minority.
Here's the thing: at the dawn of blogilization (late 01-early 02), the leading blogs were overwhelmingly white, male, bespectacled, between 30 and 50, pro-war, centrist/libertarian on domestic issues, and dominated by academics and professional writers, especially those with ties to the New Republic (Reynolds, Sullivan, Lileks, Kaus, Volokh, Marshall, Goldberg, den Beste, Welch, Jarvis, C. Johnson . . . each of them hits several if not all of these points). The image stuck, and those guys ascended to a sort of firmament.
While people have to be pretty dim to ignore the likes of Michele, Jane Galt, and Yourish, Wonkette is indeed one of the few female bloggers who has the paid position, journalistic background, etc. to get instant credibility with the media - other female bloggers tend to be civilians, as it were, rather than journalists or academics (Merritt may be something of an exception, as a sometime TV pundit).
You see, in the blogosphere, when it comes to influencing the media, there are still two classes of bloggers: the credentialed in-crowd and the civilians. Bloggers who are professional journalists are in the in-crowd, however much they may (like Sullivan) maintain a contrarian pose that costs them with employers inside journalism. Bloggers who are academics get the entree as well; besides having jobs that permit them to blog at length during business hours, journalists respect academics. Look at how Drezner slid easily into a column at The New Republic. (If you're young enough, like Matt Yglesias, you can write your way into the in-crowd. If you're old enough to have a job and a mortgage, you're out of luck).
My conclusion here: Michele is among the best and brightest of the "civilian" bloggers. And we ought to be a happy bunch, since we've come a long way from the days when civilians had no hope of getting published. But except for Wonkette, few female bloggers are part of that in crowd. The fault isn't the blogs themselves; it's the who-you-know nature of journalism.
(It may also be that fewer women are interested in writing political blogs; Yglesias explains the gender gap as it pertains to men vs. women following politics).