Saturday, October 01, 2005

Male-Dominated Blogdom

Ed Cook, Jim West, Joe Cathey, and Mark Goodacre ponder the dearth of female bibliobloggers. I think the answer is simple as it is unattractive.

Men have a biological need to impress others more than women. This isn't gender stereotyping (Mark's concern), just verifiably factual, and I noted as much recently in a blogpost about lying and deception. Statistics show that while men and women lie in equal abundancy, they do so for different reasons, the former for self-aggrandizement, the latter for easing awkward situations. We like to make ourselves look good -- what a great vehicle the personal, individualized blog is for this! -- while women incline towards making others feel good. That could be why Amy-Jill Levine is visiting prisons and doing more "useful things", as she sees it.

Blogs feed our male egos like no other internet forum, and there's certainly no point pretending (lying) otherwise, even if we also have positive motives for being involved in this network of shared learning. Stephen Carlson's recent idea for increased team blogging could help address the individualized aspect of the problem -- and kudos to the folks at Better Bibles, though of course even among this team-blog of six, there are no women. Quelle surprise.

UPDATE: Jim West disagrees with my take on the matter. He writes:

Loren has suggested, by the way, that we males blog because it's an ego thing and then he implies that if we disagree with that assessment we are lying. I don't think its as simple as that. For me, its a matter of sharing with others what I find interesting myself.

It’s a matter of this for me too, as I’m sure it is for most bloggers. As I said above, “...even if we also have positive motives for being involved in this network of shared learning.” Certainly we have benign motives as well as selfish ones. Many of us are educators, pastors, librarians; we indeed want to share our knowledge, and in turn learn from others. But so do women. So why aren’t they blogging about these things? That’s the question Jim leaves unanswered.

I’m suggesting that women share their interests with others in less self-aggrandizing ways. The “anonymous female” who responded to Mark Goodacre confirms this, when she says: “I think the main reason [I don’t blog] is that I am just not comfortable with the idea of telling random strangers what I think about things.” We men, by contrast, are very comfortable doing this.

It's not an ego thing- it's an information thing. If it were about ego and I wanted to generate tons of site hits I would blog on things that generate site hits. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and sports. I would talk about Paris Hilton's engagement ending or the Vol's victory over Ole Miss. But those things are Dreck so far as I am concerned so I don't bother with them. Zwingli, on the other hand... well, I could talk about him all day.

Jim may be deceiving himself here, but not me. (Sorry!) For a biblioblog, his site gets a juicy number of hits per day. Contrasting Biblical Theology with “sex and drug” sites is just subterfuge. The topic of religion can actually be a greater catalyst for self-aggrandizement than raw, mundane stuff.

So, in sum, it's not ego that drives we male bibliobloggers, its interest.

I think it’s both. It’s just that we don’t like admitting the first part.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Eric said...

So all of Amy Jill Levine's off-line publications amount to what? the academic equivalent of cookies and milk from your mom? Men blog to compete and show-off, but women don't blog because women, even academicaly ambitious women, don't do these things? C'mon.

I don't doubt bloggers operate with mixed motives. I don't doubt that gender informs how and why people lie. But to explain the dearth of women bloggers on the idea that women (naturally?) just want to make people feel better is nonsense. Surely AJ's own impressive academic record gives the lie to your notion that women are uncomfortable sharing their ideas with the world and therefore avoid blogging. Just because she would rather work with inmates than write for bloggers hardly means that she, or any other academic woman, operates from a less complex set of competing interests than men. Your admittedly "unattracitve" explantion seriously threatens to reduce that complexity, which exists differently for men and women no doubt, by rehashing the most tired of essentializing gender stereotypes.

Your explanation also ignores the complex and uncertain status of blogging in academia. If academic women are underrepresented by academic blogs, might it not in part be because blogging itself is ambivalently recieved by the academic community? Putatively, if women must work harder to get jobs and tenure in the academcy, why would a (hypothetical) academic female "waste" time writing a blog instead of a peer-reviewed article when the latter will likely advance her career more readily? Obviously, I have no hard data that shows that junior female scholars actively avoid blogging for this (or any other) reason. And AJ gave very different reasons for not blogging, but she then is a well-established scholar. Those who remember the "Invisible Adjunct" blog will recall it was run by an academic woman, but then, too, she regrettably left academia for lack of a tenure track position. Junior male scholars, of course, also face this dilema. My point, though, is simply that the small number of academic female bloggers probably has less to do with some posited gender characterisitc (for which examples and counter-examples will always be found) than a number of complex variables, including academic rank, interest in technology, etc., all of which intersect with gender to make a gendered difference.

10/03/2005  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I don't doubt bloggers operate with mixed motives. I don't doubt that gender informs how and why people lie. But to explain the dearth of women bloggers on the idea that women (naturally?) just want to make people feel better is nonsense.

This perhaps didn't come out right. I was trying to indicate a relationship between gender differences across different phenomena. Women certainly do lie to make people feel better, whereas men do so for purposes of self-aggrandizement. And the blog, by its nature, lends itself to a sort of self-aggrandizement. There may be a link here.

Surely AJ's own impressive academic record gives the lie to your notion that women are uncomfortable sharing their ideas with the world and therefore avoid blogging.

Blogs offer avenues of self-promotion in ways that formal, peer-reviewed articles don't. One can pontificate, or "sound off", on a blog where there really aren't any rules.

Your admittedly "unattracitve" explantion seriously threatens to reduce that complexity, which exists differently for men and women no doubt, by rehashing the most tired of essentializing gender stereotypes.

I appreciate your warning against reductionism, and I don't wish to deny other factors you mention, such as:

My point, though, is simply that the small number of academic female bloggers probably has less to do with some posited gender characterisitc (for which examples and counter-examples will always be found) than a number of complex variables, including academic rank, interest in technology, etc., all of which intersect with gender to make a gendered difference.

I would give much more weight to inherent gender differences than you do, though the other variables are significant as well.

10/03/2005  
Blogger Matt said...

Living the Scientific Life is a good science blog written by a woman, well worth a visit.

I wonder if the skewed sex ratio among bloggers has anything to do with a stronger inclination among males to tinker with new technology and spend inordinate amounts of time in front of their computers?

I know from experience that female software developers are vastly outnumbered by males (though their work is just as good if not better).

10/04/2005  
Blogger BruceA said...

-- and kudos to the folks at Better Bibles, though of course even among this team-blog of six, there are no women.

Isn't Suzanne McCarthy a woman?

7/06/2006  
Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Isn't Suzanne McCarthy a woman?

Back when I wrote this in October, I don't think Suzanne was a member. If she was, then my bad.

7/06/2006  

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