Thursday, September 03, 2009

Female Bibliobloggers Revisited

April DeConick has resurrected the spectre of female bibliobloggers, and she's confident that the issue "has nothing to do with the area of [biblical] study". Here I think she's largely right.

As I explained years ago, men are a biologically self-aggrandizing lot, and it's really no surprise to see them dominating certain areas of the blogosphere. In many contexts we have strong impulses to make ourselves look good (while women tend to like making others feel good), and the blog is a perfect venue for self-aggrandizement. Women evidently don't care to draw attention to themselves as much (or at least in the same way) as men do. I'm not saying that blogs serve the sole purpose of feeding our male egos -- we blog for very positive reasons too -- but it sure has a lot to do with it.

When April insists that "women are great talkers to talk about their spirituality and religious traditions", she's absolutely right. My experience has been the same. But talking among friends and acquaintances is different from blogging. It's a more colloquial and egalitarian enterprise, less preachy, and less grandstanding. When we blog, we have the floor, and -- the invitation of comments not withstanding -- it's a monologue more than a conversation.

One of my commenters had pointed out something else, that men have stronger inclinations to "spend inordinate amounts of time in front of their computers", knowing from his job experience "that female software developers are vastly outnumbered by males though their work is just as good if not better". So that's probably another important difference.

April won't like any of this, because believe it or not, she thinks there actually are as many women bibliobloggers out there as men. They're just "invisible": they post on marginal subjects and are thus easily dismissed as unimportant. I share the skepticism of The Biblioblog Top 50 about this claim -- in fact I'm damn near positive it isn't the case -- though with April I reject the Top-50's idea that a "deeper, structural religious bias towards male authority" lies behind the discrepancy.

As with software engineers, women bibliobloggers are obviously just as competent, intelligent, and talented as the men (many of them more so). And they bring important ideas to the table that men can miss. I second Mark Goodacre's suggestion to encourage more women to blog, but I don't think we should be terribly surprised at the inevitable skewed ratios. We know there are inherent differences between the sexes, and the dearth of female bibliobloggers simply reflects some of them.

UPDATE: The Biblioblog Top 50 (who is of course N.T. Wrong, who is of course...) warns against blaming victims and getting into bed with "c-s" -- complimentarians, though a certain vulgarity is obviously intended at the same time. I do get a chortle out of Wrong's obsession with Balaam and the donkey from Num 22:21-35, which he has used before to hilarious effect.


Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

We know there are inherent differences between the sexes, and the dearth of female bibliobloggers simply reflects some of those.

Thanks for the post! I do believe your conclusion here sounds much like Aristotle, who was more convinced of the nature of the differences and dearths of fe-males and wo-men than he could be about his own misogyny and gynophobia. The appeal to static nature is inherently masculinistic and sexist. Women, in contrast, tend to be much more hopeful for change, for births and new births, for the dynamic and super-natural. Isn't that why men need not to be so comfortable and content with their marginalized status, even in (especially in) biblioblogging?

Blogger Richard Fellows said...


I have no answers, just questions. Why do biblioblogs tend to be monologs? Why do people comment so infrequently, and why do the bloggers so often fail to respond to comments? Why, in short, are biblioblogs monologs rather than conversations?

Why are the majority of authors of academic biblical studies books men? Why is the same true of contributors to biblical studies e-lists? It's not just blogs, is it? Is it something to do with the fact that males are bigger risk takers than females, and are therefore more willing to enter the crowded field of biblical studies where there are tens or hundreds of applicants for each job?

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Excellent questions, Richard. Thanks for asking them, though I don't have many definitive answers. I think you're right about men being bigger risk takers, even reckless ones. Certainly studies have shown that women aim for stability (whether in personal relationships or employment) more than men.

That's not a value judgment, of course, just the actuality, and (now in response to J.K. Gayle) acknowledging such inherent tendencies isn't sexist at all. That would be like saying just because human beings have strong biological inclinations toward violence and murder that we can be comfortable with war. Sexism can and should be overcome to a significant extent, but we need to understand its roots before we can do so.

As for a blogger's failure to respond to comments, it often has to do with being swamped by other demands...

Blogger Judy Redman said...

I have been rather slow at reading other people's blogs on this topic, but Loren, Richard and JK, I agree with you


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