November 9, 2007. Welcome to folks finding their way here from Make Them Accountable. Please note that this post is over two years old now. A lot has changed since I wrote it. I have a post up today that's sort of an update.
You know THE Question.
"Where are all the women bloggers?"
As I wrote in Amanda's comments, "That question, 'Where are all the women bloggers?' a babelfish would translate as 'I only know the names of four or five bloggers. You, the guy I'm interviewing right now, and I just learned your name from my producer. Matt Drudge, Glenn Reynolds, and Mickey Kaus. Frankly, that's more names than my head can hold and I'm really not interested in reading any blogs. Can you please say something that will stir up a little controversary on the subject and help keep me awake through the rest of this interview?'"
But I think another way to translate it is, "Hey, fella, how come I have to sit here with you, a boring, pasty-faced white guy, instead of some hot chick in a mini-skirt, and, by the way, do you have Wonkette's phone number?"
There are plenty of women blogging, of course. What there are not are any who are regularly linked to by the top five or six male bloggers (Wonkette is a special case), who are the only ones the producers who book slots for talk shows care about.
I don't think the reason for this is sexism, although sexism always seems to come into play when those top male bloggers try to explain why they don't link to more female bloggers.
I think the reason is an extreme narrow-mindedness---or, to put it more flatteringly, a laser-like focus on a single aspect of human behavior. The top dog bloggers are almost autistically obsessed with politics as it's practiced in Washington D.C.
Or to put it another way: As far as I'm concerned, the most influential and popular female blogger, who also happens to be a hot young chick who looks good in a mini skirt, is not Wonkette. It's Maud Newton, whose name never comes up in these debates, for the simple reason that her focus is the contemporary literary scene and the top dog bloggers don't read books that aren't written by anyone whose byline hasn't appeared on the New York Times op-ed page so they never link to her.
The trouble is that the top dog male bloggers are just not as interested in the wider world as most women bloggers are.
Name your favorite female bloggers and then go over their last twenty or so posts. Odds are very good that at least half those posts, or more, have nothing to do with what is going on inside the Beltway. But look at Kevin Drum's last 20, or Josh Marshall's, or Atrios'.
Then look at the types of posts on other bloggers' sites that they link to. The top dog male bloggers almost always link to purely political posts.
Meanwhile, Avedon Carol, although most of her posts and links are political, regularly links to bloggers posting on a wide-range of subjects
When male bloggers talk about this, they don't discuss it as if there's a difference of focus. They see it simply as proof of the essential soft-heartedness---by which some of them mean soft-headedness---of women. Women aren't up to the hurly burly of political debate, is the implicit and sometimes explicit message.
(By the way, if you happen to think this way, then you haven't read Shakespeare's Sister.)
But the actual weakness is that of the top dog male bloggers and their most fiercely loyal readers.
They have all been consumed by the debate.
They don't have any space in their heads anymore for anything other than politics.
Now, I admire them all and I'm glad they've chosen to fight the good fight. And obviously they are all intelligent guys who know what they're talking about.
But, frankly, they are kind of dumb.
Dumb in the way anyone who becomes too specialized is dumb. Dull in the way anyone who can't talk about anything but his or her own obsessions is dull.
When there is a big issue on the table---the election, the fillibuster, Social Security, I can't get enough of them. But when things in DC are relatively quiet, I can go days and days without visiting their pages and not miss them...and not miss anything.
Often, when I do return to their pages after skipping a few days, it seems as though I never left. The same subjects are being worried and I think, "Hey, this is where I came in."
But here's the thing. I can't do that with many of the men over there either.
Neddie, Tom, Matt (Welch not Yglesias), Roy, Jaquandor, Ratty, Denis, Link, Bora, the Heretik, and lots of the others can be counted on to surprise me with the subjects they've chosen to write about that day.
The divide isn't between male and female bloggers. It's between wonks and writers.
Between editorialists/analysts/reporters and journalists, in the older, broader sense of the word.
Most of the women whose blogs I frequent are writers and journalists in that sense. Their interests are broader, the subjects they tackle are more varied, and their posts are, usually, more discursive. These are not traits that are going to get them lots of links from the top male bloggers who are looking for specifically political and quickly digested posts to link to and quote from.
The top dog bloggers are obsessed with politics, but their readers are addicted to politics. Their readers need frequent fixes of anger to keep their adrenal glands pumping and new fully loaded clips of damning facts to arm them in arguments either on their own blogs or around the water cooler or dorms.
Someone looking for another dumb thing Bush said today isn't going to take kindly to being directed to Neddie Jingo's Grand Unified Theory of Lost in which your Neddie connects the TV series to the political theories of John Locke and the rise of Unitarian-Universalim (and Ned thinks those of us who write too much about Star Wars are nuts) or to Nance's light-hearted recounting of the lack of treasures to be found at her new neighbors' garage sales.
They don't care what the Heretik thinks of Edward Hopper's paintings or how since she was mugged Blue Girl has had to struggle with an anguishing clash between her traumatized feelings and her Liberal ideals.
They don't want to read about the trouble Juno is having with a shawl she is knitting or wade through George's review of Austin Pendleton's new play. (They probably would like to know why Juno has declared a sweater moratorium though.)
I've been lucky recently, having been linked to by the Daou Report, Somerby, and Atrios, among others, and I've been grateful for the increased traffic and happy to have a whole bunch of new readers. But the posts those guys chose to link to are not among what I consider my best stuff.
They linked to posts that were more focused on politics than most of my posts (although politics has a way of creeping in everywhere and shame on me for that) and, grateful as I was, a part of me actually resented the links. C'mon, guys, I was thinking, I've written much better posts, why don't you link to any of them? Take a look at all I've got archived under Sketchpad and Now Playing at Cine 1-1000, why don't you?
But they're not going to. Movies, home improvement, and my old girlfriends aren't their thing. Nor should they be. They've got their interests and their jobs to do. They've got their readers to serve.
I can't helping thinking it's their loss. Avedon Carol has linked to several of my political posts, but she's also thought her readers would be interested in what I think of Orlando Bloom. Roxanne has linked to posts of mine on Count Dooku and moving diners and Seinfeld trivia. Neither of them could send anywheres near the traffic my way as Atrios did. But I was just as grateful for their links, if not more so.
But it's not just that the top dogs and their readers are obsessed with politics.
The regular media types are too, only more so.
This being the way the world is then I don't think we can rely on the top dogs for increases in readership and attention from the regular media.
We have to find other paths to fame and fortune.
Amanda thinks the problem can be solved through more sophisticated self-promotion on the part of women bloggers.
Luckily, an idea happened upon me while reading Rebecca Traister's latest article in Salon criticizing the media's love of the catfight. It was obvious all along what female bloggers need to do to garner some attention--an all-out Jello wrestling competition. There's thousands of worthy female bloggers who need the attention, which means that a Jello wrestling contest would drag on for a long time as the various elimination rounds were played out. I have a feeling this is the sort of political writing event that would get massive amounts of coverage on CSPAN and various other news outlets. If we drag it out long enough, before you know it, people will be saying "Atrios who?" and "Matt who?"
I think this is a good idea, especially if it's done in conjunction with an idea I've been pushing for a while.
I think women bloggers should post lots of pictures of themselves in lingerie or swimsuits.
I think male bloggers should post lots of pictures of their wives and girlfriends in lingerie or swimsuits.
That's sexist, you say? Why shouldn't we male bloggers also pose in our boxers and swim trunks?
Think about it. Do you really want us to? Seriously, if we looked good stripped down do you think we'd be spending all our time online blogging? No way. We'd be out there flaunting the goods and hitting on hot chicks in miniskirts, even hot chicks in miniskirts who don't have their own blogs.
Nope. The world will be a happier, more beautiful place if we remain invisible. But we all have attractive wives and girlfriends and we should make the most of our great and totally inexplicable good fortune.
Those of us male bloggers who have husbands or boyfriends should also exploit their partners because even though gay men on the whole keep themselves up better than straight guys, gay male bloggers are still bloggers and like their hetero counterparts are probably not the pretty ones in the relationship.
Anyway, I've got some nice shots of the blonde taken on Cape Cod. I promise signed 8 x 10 glossies to my 500,000th and 750,000th visitors.
My one-millioneth visitor wins a nude. Very tasteful, of course.
There, that should drum up some traffic.