gender and blogging

Having recently read this entry by David, this entry by Geoffrey, this one by Chuck, and this by Jason, I was surprised to read this:

Does anybody else find it sort of odd that academic blogs (or at least the ones I am most interested in…. the pseudonymous variety) seem to be heavily dominated by female voices whereas more “serious” blogs that don’t really address personal stuff (political, or the academic blogs like Crooked Timber or non-pseudonymous ones) seem to be more male dominated?

Why do pseudonymous academic blogs seem to be mostly by women? The way to get at the answer is to ask academic bloggers why they blog pseudonymously or under their real name. I’ve addressed this question a little in the past.

Why do women tend to write about more personal stuff than men do? The evidence doesn’t bear out the premise of the question. Do I not write about personal stuff here? (Hint: what do you think you’ll get if you follow the link to the category of posts labelled “Story of My Life”?) Do the male writers I link to above (among others) not write about personal stuff, too? Wtf?

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5 thoughts on “gender and blogging

  1. Forgot to comment on this one before, so a belated point. The blogger did *not* say that men don’t blog personal stuff (or pseudonymously) or that women don’t blog professionally and under their own names, but that there’s a tendency for female and male academics to blog in these different ways. That’d be my general impression too – even though I don’t fit those tendencies either. But I agree that we need more evidence, and we need to ask why it happens, if it does.
    No doubt, there will before long be whole sociological departments devoted to the whys and hows of blogging, and then we’ll know that blogging is ‘in’ and we’re no longer the evangelical vanguard, and we can start harking back to the ‘golden age’ of blogging before everyone else came and ruined it for us…

  2. Blogging and Privacy in the Times

    George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen has an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine that explores the ways in which blogs are redefining the boundaries between public and private. For most bloggers, this type of story is…

  3. Earlier comment posted on the temporary location for this site:

    If you figure out why you’re reacting strongly to this, I’d be interested to hear about it, for sure! I hope you don’t feel the assertion has been shoved down your throat or anything … from my perspective it is just an idea that was raised by Dr. Crazy and seemed worth exploring a bit. Wanted to see what people thought about it — not trying to promote a certain POV or proclaim that it is right.

    I wonder if it is a particular stereotype that gets involved with all of this that is bothersome to you? The stereotypes are troubling — from both perspectives. One could say (pos for men) that men blog serious issues because they are the serious thinkers and they don’t have time for this frivolous emotional blogging stuff. Or one could say (pos for women) that women are more likely to engage in intimate blogging because they’re more attuned to the emotions. I’ve actually not wanted to get into any or all of this stereotyping stuff with the discussion because I’m just interested (right now) in whether or not people perceive a qualitative difference in what is being blogged.

    I do feel a difference, but it doesn’t follow that all men blog like X and all women blog like Y. (Hrm. Perhaps the X and Y should be reversed there?) Perhaps what I’m noting is that the most … not even sure what the right word is here. intimate? self-disclosing? … bloggers that I’ve noted (and they’re not this way in every post, and I’m referring to this circle of bloggers I read, most of whom are in academe) seem to me to be female and pseudonymous. Which is not to say that male and/or non-pseud bloggers don’t want to post on that level at some point in time.

    You’re right, we have no guarantee that the pseud women are women … although I know who a fair number of them in my blogroll are IRL and indeed they are women. Not sure why folks would go to the effort to assume a different gender in a pseud blog, certainly not a number of them.

    There’s been more commenting over in my blog about the nature of the reactions the discussion has garnered. I’ve not had much time to think about it, but you might find it interesting.

    Oh, one last thing: I agree with what Rana says too. And I follow that rule myself … there’s plenty I don’t blog for those reasons … but still think I get to a fairly intimate level sometimes. And the fact that some of my readers know me IRL does contribute to the intimacy of it — and they’d know if I were making things up.

    Posted by: profgrrrrl at December 9, 2004 06:15 PM

  4. Here are a bunch of comments that were posted at this blog’s temporary relocation:

    I tend to agree with you that men certainly do write about personal issues, maybe no less often than women do. I wonder what you think about New Kid’s point (in the comments to profgrrrrl’s post) that she “see[s] personal female bloggers talking about how they feel and personal male bloggers talking about what they do.” I do write about how I feel some, but probably less often than many of the female bloggers I read. Then again, there’ve been some looming family crises this semester that I really wanted to blog about but couldn’t because my blog isn’t pseudonymous and because some of my family reads the thing (as do some of my students, and the idea of my students reading about the details of my personal crisis, ick!). If my blog were pseudonymous, than I would’ve been writing the kind of “how I feel” personal posts that New Kid mostly wants to reserve as female topics.

    Posted by: Scrivener at December 8, 2004 08:56 PM

    You know, one could also make the exact opposite argument from the “Men don’t share their feelings, but women do” schtick.

    I talk about my feelings all the time, but I do it in person with L, I do it over IM with Chuck and Mike and others. I do it with friends here in town. I do it (sometimes) on the phone with my family. As a result, I don’t feel the need to do it so much on my blog.

    Perhaps those who are sharing their feelings on their blogs (and doing so under a pseudonym) have a hard time sharing their feelings in “real life.” And if the majority of those people are female (I’m not convinced that they are), what does that say about gender?

    Posted by: George Williams at December 8, 2004 09:21 PM

    I’ve been thinking about this some more — and “personal” can be interpreted in various ways, which makes this a more complex issue. Yes, men also blog on what goes on in their non-professional life, but in most cases I personally have felt it had a different quality — perhaps more distanced? Or less likely to delve into a swirl of not-yet-resolved emotions? I think that New Kid’s comment really hits on a part of the issue.

    I wonder what you think if we replace the word “personal” with “intimate.” Not trying to make a case for anything here — just exploring the idea because something about it does feel different.

    I can see and appreciate in Scrivener’s comment that there may be some more intimate topics non-pseudonymous men don’t feel comfortable blogging on even if a part of them would like to write it out. But that comes back to this issue: why is it that more women have chosen to be pseudonymous? This is a choice made at the beginning of a blog (and really can only be undone in one direction, should the writer have chosen a pseud and later let it go). I know I chose mine in part because I wanted to feel free with writing on an intimate level, should I choose to do so.

    Hrm. Thoughts?

    Posted by: profgrrrrl at December 8, 2004 09:23 PM

    Here’s how I would frame the initial questions differently:

    1. Of female academic bloggers, what percentage use pseudonyms?
    2. Of pseudonyous academic bloggers, what percentage are female and what percentage are male?
    3. Of those academic bloggers who share intimate details of their lives, what percentage use pseudonyms?

    Based on my obviously non-scientific reading habits, my answers would be as follows:

    1. A small percentage (see the links on the righthand side of Crooked Timber).
    2. I only know of a few academic blogs written under pseudonyms (certainly less than 10), and I am not sure I know of any written by an author who claims to be male. Jimbo is, I think, only semi-pseudonymous.
    3. I don’t have a good sense of how many academic bloggers share intimate details of their lives, but it doesn’t seem like that many.

    So I tend to think that rather than ask why there are more female pseudonymous bloggers sharing intimate details of their lives than male pseudonymous bloggers sharing such details, we should ask, “Why are are so few academic bloggers sharing intimate details fo their lives?” or “Why is it important for these pseudonymous bloggers who share intimate details of their lives to let us know they work in academia?” What’s an academic blog, anyway? I don’t know.

    By the way, Jill has some independently generated entries that are related to this discussion of what goes on in academic blogs: here’s the latest.

    Posted by: George Williams at December 8, 2004 09:48 PM

    See, and I chose not to blog pseudonymously because I thought it would hinder my ability to write intimately–in the sense that it would mean I couldn’t post pictures of the girls, couldn’t discuss (except in general terms or with details changed) my classes, my family life, etc. I wanted to be able to write my daughters’ names down and talk about what’s going on in our lives.

    Posted by: Scrivener at December 8, 2004 09:50 PM

    I don’t know what an academic blog is either. I’d rather refer to it as a blog by one who works in higher education or something like that (professor is too narrow — I don’t know where the bounds are for these academic groups).

    I like the questions you’re asking — why do so few share initmate details? Or why do those who share these details do so? Of course, all of this is hard to categorize, all could be on a continuum. As for why do the pseud bloggers let us know they work in academe — that’s because it is such a core part of who they are.

    On my profgrrrrl blog there are people who know who I am IRL. People who know me IRL could find it and put 2+2 together if they know me well enough. But just like you I need to blog out these issues about my job — and some of that is where it intersects with personal life. When I started I was talking a lot about being a single academic female — because when you tell non-academic guys you’re a prof you *do* get a weird reaction 80% of the time. But as I found an audience I think I started speaking somewhat to them … getting off-track from purely academic issues to issues that some of my readers relate to. Take my duckling posts from this week — those aren’t about academic life explicitly (although there is mention of how academic life has intersected with how a woman views herself; ack, I cannot separate these).

    I’ve had blogs and been part of online communities under other names where I discuss other issues. One in particular is very personal, stuff I would never ever ever put on the profgrrrrl blog, and deeply under a pseud (I give no clues).

    Eh. I’m just rambling here. Sorry. Have graded too many papers. But maybe something somewhere in some of this will be remotely interesting.

    Posted by: profgrrrrl at December 8, 2004 11:24 PM

    I appreciate the dialogue that’s been unfolding here, as well as on profgrrrrl’s blog. The distinction that she’s drawing between bloggers and their genders obviously emerges out of feminist inquiry into the gendered dynamics of writing–the epistolary, the personal being political, etc. Still, I wonder if these distinctions are still as concrete as profgrrrrl leads us to believe. Of course, I agree that gender plays a crucial role in shaping how we conceive of ourselves as writers, academics, etc. Despite the advances made by first- and second-wave feminists, women face an inordinate amount of discrimination in academia. Perhaps this is one of the reasons so many choose to write under pseudonyms? Part of me wants to dismiss this interpretation as too blue stocking, but I think there’s some value in it.

    I can’t help wonder, though, if we are projecting historically specific concepts of private/public onto a different era. One of the upshots of blogging has been the attenuation of this border (at least the ones that I read). Some bloggers use their sites as a means to “get their work out there.” The blogs I read regularly, though, focus on issues of identity (particularly queer/lgb and feminist), so these distinctions are constantly traversed, problematized, etc. And this is what I enjoy the most.

    I’ve rambled enough here, but let me end with this point. As someone who views interpersonal relationships as crucial to political transformation and progressive politics, I am concerned about the effect technology has on people. They stay inside, basking in the flicker of their monitors. Some blogs enable people to remind one another of how there are people who feel, who are willing to express and share their feelings, and who see these feelings as means for change. While I hope my fears about the sociopathic effects of technology are allayed in the near future, I also hope that more blogs that convey the politics of the personal crop up.

    Posted by: Geoffrey at December 9, 2004 03:51 PM

  5. He Blog, she Blog?

    I don’t really have the energy to link and trackback this discussion to the degree it deserves, but there’s been a discussion lately about whether or to what degree we might speak of gender differences in blogging.

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