In the comments section of Profgrrrrl’s entry on gender and blogging, Rana writes
I don’t blog on personal things that involve the personal lives of other people. One of my hard-and-fast rules is that none of my friends should have to learn something about our relationship from the blog — either we talk about it first, or I don’t blog it.
My thoughts, exactly. I’ve always thought of one of my rules as I don’t blog other people’s lives. This means that many of my most important interactions, past and present, do not get blogged, although I do talk about them with friends and family.
It’s tempting for many to apply essentialist stereotypes about gender to blogging, but I don’t think the stereotypes hold up. For example, if I’m talking through “intimate” issues (Profgrrrrl’s second definition of the term) in venues other than the blog, it would seem to follow that I’m less likely to talk about them through my blog: why would I need to? But the essentialist stereotype says that, as a man, I shouldn’t want to talk about them at all. Conversely, a woman writing about “intimate” issues on her pseudonymous blog could be doing so because she is not comfortable doing so with her friends and family. An observer might look at these blogs and say, “Aha, those stereotypes are true,” when the behaviors from the whole of a person’s life point to the exact oppposite conclusion.
Frankly, I don’t know why I’m reacting so strongly to the assertion that there are fundamental differences in the way men and women blog, and that men are less likely to be “intimate” in their blogs. I remain unpersuaded that such a difference exists:
- Something other than our impressionistic sense of the blogs we like to read is needed.
- How “intimate” can a blog written under a pseudonym really be?
- How can we be certain that pseudonymous blogs written by people who claim to be women are written by people who are, in fact, women?
I think there’s more to what profgrrrrl was trying to say than you’re giving credit to. I too have the (admittedly extremely unscientific; in other words, I agree with your first point) impression that the most personal–in the sense of “soul-baring” or “angst-filled”–blogs I read are by women. I think that this is the answer to your question #2: there is a great sense of intimacy in reading someone’s worries. As to question three, the obvious answer is that we can’t, absolutely, be sure, and I have occasionally found after reading a blog for a while that my initial impression of its author’s gender was wrong. On the other hand, I have also found, in both my research and my casual blog-reading, that people are often surprisingly astute about guessing broad outlines about someone’s social status from what they write, even anonymously: without wishing to be essentialist about it, I’d say that this is probably because we are mostly *highly* attuned to gender codes, and we mostly tend to internalize them more strongly than we realize; it’s awfully hard to fake it.