« gendered computers | Main | The Turing Game (Amy Bruckman) »

January 06, 2004

why are bloggers mostly straight white men?

Women are often purported to be the primary social network maintainers, the communicative sex. Yet, the more time i spend in blogging land, the more i realize how few women blog. (Major props to the women listed on the right!) In response to a conversation about blogging as an equalizer, i wrote a note today that blogging is a privilege. Assuming that my perception is accurate, i'm pretty convinced that bloggers (note: not LJers or other journalers) are primarily straight white men. Given that this is a sociable technology, this seems rather suggestive that blogging is not an equalizer.

I'd love to hear why misbehaving's readers think this is. Why do *you* think bloggers are mostly straight white men?

Posted by zephoria at 02:44 AM in General | Permalink

Comments

Just wanted to find out what you base your post on because I hadn't thought that most bloggers are straight white men and I don't particularly care whether the blogger is male or female when I read. Blogs don't necessarily indicate the gender of the writer. How do you know? Your comments regarding blogging being a privilege (on Zephoria) seem to me more indicative of class than gender.... From my own observations, most bloggers are definitely younger: teens, 20s, 30s, etc. with their own computers, internet access, and armed with the comfort with technology, the leisure, and the means to maintain a blog as well as surf the Internet on a near daily basis to help fuel those blogs. This speaks to me more strongly of a class issue (maybe education since many students have access to the net for blogging) rather than a gender issue, or are you just interested in gender only for the sake of this post (since this is a site devoted to women and technology)? Just curious about what facts/numbers/etc. that you're relying on. And why not include LiveJournal and Typepad people, etc? Is there a particular type of blogger that you're trying to talk about? If you could articulate your thought a little more, I'd appreciate it.

Posted by: b at Jan 6, 2004 3:17:40 AM

I agree with b, I'm suspicious of claims that more men than women blog - how do we measure that?

There are obviously class issues with blogging - you need computer access, leisure time, skills, and it's easier to do if you have some self-confidence. All these are scarce goods.

Personally I come across as many woman-authored as male-authored blogs, but that probably has a lot to do with the way I follow links and the ways in which I read. The problem with deciding what's "typical" of bloggers is that you can't know what you're not seeing - you can only see the cluster you happen to frequent, and occasional outreaches from there.

Posted by: Jill at Jan 6, 2004 5:26:16 AM

A study released recently showed that there are more female bloggers than male. "Blogging," however was separated from "journaling" in that more men "blog" about politics than perconal life. I found this to be a rather disparaging finding because it seemed tailored to the idea that the personal isn't political in any way shape or form, or furthermore that female opinion is less notable than male opinion. By this criteria, if I inject any subjectivity into my politics, it appears I'm "journaling" rather than "blogging."

If I can find that study, I'll link it here.

Posted by: Ms Lauren at Jan 6, 2004 9:38:38 AM

Found it:

"Equal Numbers, Different Interests"
http://www.blogcensus.net/weblog/archive/8.htm

Posted by: Lauren at Jan 6, 2004 9:53:44 AM

I'd have to take the "more male than female" argument with a huge grain of salt as well. However, for the sake of that argument, I'd submit that one may find fewer women bloggers due to the nature of blogging itself, inasmuch as it is an immediately disconnected medium. Yes, blogs incite conversation and have the potential for making connections, but it doesn't always happen. One still just posts into the ether hoping something will come of it. Personally, I know a lot of women who don't like that. When they speak, they want to be heard, to be understood, and connect immediately. If they don't for whatever reason, they tend to feel uncomfortable. I'm not sure that men (in general, mind) have this same desire. From what I've seen they just want to get their ideas out there, see what happens, and go from there. If nothing happens, it doesn't mean the idea doesn't have merit, or that the blogger isn't worth reading. It just means a conversation didn't spark. Perhaps this is why one sees more active female LJers, for example -- the community is built-in. There is a greater probability of making a connection quickly, of being heard and, therefore, validated.

Yes, women seem to be the ones with the most communicative mojo, but it needs somewhere to go. For many women, it may not be enough to just get the idea out there. They may also need to know who's receiving it, and how it's received in order to continue to keep posting. With respect to the younger crowd, I don't think this need is as strong because they get it every day at school, with friends, etc. The blogging simply is an extension of the social life they already enjoy. For older women, though, many of whom may not be heard routinely, may not have an extensive social network already in place because of work, family or other obligations, this assurance becomes more important. And when they don't get it, they post less frequently, or they become "journalers" which relegates the reader to mere witness instead of active participant in a conversation. It's a lot easier, then, to post because one isn't waiting for a conversation.

Just my opinion, as always, and just for the sake of argument. I'd really be interested in the study that Ms Lauren mentioned so that this post might have some sort of counterpoint. Personally, I don't believe that there are more males than females blogging -- I think it's a tight race, with women perhaps narrowly edging out the men. But I think it is interesting that the bloggers we tend to quote most often happen to be men, which in turn speaks to the differences in communication styles resulting from both gender and class.

Posted by: Jenny at Jan 6, 2004 10:11:43 AM

How do you draw the line between "journalling" and "blogging" these days, and why?

(It is a longstanding debate, by the way. The journalling community, mostly female, came first, and inspired some early webloggers - myself included.)

Posted by: Medley at Jan 6, 2004 10:55:32 AM

The "Equal Numbers, Different Interests" study did a shoddy job, in my opinion, of judging the difference between a journal and a blog. A blog was an archive of political opinion and news stories. A journal was not. Their methods were to check the most recent entries and depending on the number of "journal" entries and "blog entries" the decision to classify the site as a blog/journal lay in the weight applied to either.

If we're talking about "bloggers" by this criteria, white men do make up the majority. I reject this because I don't find politics and the news to be the only "respectable" blogging content matter. Subjective writing does not a journal make.

Posted by: Lauren at Jan 6, 2004 11:33:19 AM

A few notes... First, i came from the journaling community as well. I'm still trying to put a finger on what is so fundamentally different about it because i can definitely feel the differences. One thing is for certain: audience. When i think about bloggers, they want to be visible and they try to get their words out. Journalers are more about recording the daily rhythms, noting what's going on for a local audience. Journaling is more about getting support; blogging is more about conversing around ideas. I do believe that they must be treated separately, even though there's a lot of gray area, simply because the intention, purpose and publicness of their activities are fundamentally different.

And btw: i'm not just talking about politics, but about all forms of discussions meant to be publicly followed.

Posted by: zephoria at Jan 6, 2004 1:12:59 PM

Why does it matter? The blogging world is made up of people taking the time to voice their whatever. Be it their polictical stance, their thoughts about their professional field, or what they had for lunch that day. I don't think the blogging world can be really indicative of any social condition because it depends on the person. If the person feels so compelled to speak their mind, they will.

It's kinda like having a party where the entire world is invited, and then wondering why there is more people of one particular group than any other. Yes some can't make it cause they can't afford the cover charge, some can't afford the costs to get there and some may avoid it cause they don't know how to party. But I think the reason you will find most people not there is because it's not what they want to do.

---

Also concerns me why we would want to 'identify' bloggers in a sense. I've always liked the digital world because there is a level of anonymity. The blogging world is great cause you get personal views of people that you probably wouldn't get because of your biases. If you saw me on the street, you might think "scary pissed off black man", (which is how I am usually described), but if you read my blog, then you would probably think "geeky teddybear" (which is how my close friends describe me).

Posted by: Funkknight at Jan 6, 2004 1:36:54 PM

Blogging is a pretty sad fucking excuse of a social outlet. Why would a girl blog when she could instead go out barhopping, drinking, shaking her ass, flirting with hot guys, and other social activities that feel much more natural and fun to her?

People who blog as a social outlet are those with more intelligence than looks, more opinions than charm, more penmanship than assshakemanship. So to speak.

Posted by: Julius at Jan 6, 2004 1:56:09 PM

Funkknight - do you really believe that everyone has an equal opportunity to voice their opinion? Are you familiar with the arguments behind the notion of "safe space"? Imagine a party where neo-Nazis and the black community are invited. When the black community doesn't show up or leaves rapidly, do you really think the party throwers should just shrug and say "guess they didn't want to be there"? [Btw: for those who are missing the referent, many social networking services are getting inundated with neo-Nazis wreaking havoc.]

The digital world is not anonymous, nor does it exist without identity markers. This argument is very reminiscient of early cyberculture logic. If you want to have a field day, check out Amy Bruckman's Turing Game to see why identity plays out even when it's not written on the body.

But the reason why we think to use our identities as part of the table is because the diversity of experiences is often associated with the diversity of identities. Different experiences bring different perspectives. This is the value of reflexivity.

Posted by: zephoria at Jan 6, 2004 2:06:43 PM

Which begs the question, Julius: why are you here in this sad, fucking excuse for a social outlet?

Posted by: Rayne at Jan 6, 2004 2:09:23 PM

I'm not blogging now, am I? Merely leaving comments.

Nor do I consider this a social outlet in any meaningful sense.

Posted by: Julius at Jan 6, 2004 3:10:08 PM

I don't think that we should characterize bloggers as public personalities who want to discuss ideas and journalers as private people who only describe the daily goings-on in their lives because I don't think that wanting to discuss ideas and wanting to be public personalities are entwined. Sometimes, they go hand and hand but I think it would be false to relate the two, and assuming that they do is definitely an assumption that should be questioned. Moreover, just because someone discusses what happens in their life doesn't mean that they're not discussing ideas. Ideas are entwined with people and events. You can think abstractly but at the same time people often get ideas and thoughts from what happens in the world around them. On one hand, and I know that I'm guilty of this too, I'm resistent to the idea of categorizing peoples weblogs in to "journals" and "blogs." But on the other hand, I'm very interested in finding out what kind of distinctions you're trying to make between blogs and journalers and what you find important about making the distinction. I know that I make distinctions between what type of blog has, whether someone is more likely to talk on a personal level or will talk more about politics, literature, art, etc., and it makes a difference in which blogs I feel like reading, but I'm not sure that I find the content differences significant beyond figuring out what I want to read. Blogs are a means to express and talk about whatever you want; right?

And getting back to my original comment, Danah/Zephoria, you never addressed how you had reached your conclusion, whether it was something you read/studied or based on your general experience or a combination of the two. Sorry if you answered this and I somehow missed it.

Posted by: b at Jan 6, 2004 3:47:54 PM

Journals are exhibitionistic diaries. Blogs are newspaper columns written by those who can't get a real job doing so.

There, now aren't you glad I'm around to answer all the hard questions?

Posted by: Julius at Jan 6, 2004 3:55:54 PM

I'm a white male, so I may simply not have the perspective to fully appreciate your point (in the original blog post on Zephoria). I guess it doesn't seem quite right to me to claim that a "proper lady" is really what potential bloggers (which I assume to be women mostly under 40) are taught to be. I don't think anyone is really taught to stand up and say what they believe -- most certainly wouldn't, even white men. I'm not saying that the women's movement is "finished" by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a hard time accepting there is some inherent social barrier that makes women more likely than men to think they SHOULDN'T write a blog. I suspect the preponderance of white male bloggers is more a demographic reflection of the Internet itself -- an issue worth exploring in its own right. I also wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the percentage of blogs written by white men is drastically smaller than the percentage of all potential bloggers that are white men ("potential blogger" is hardly scientific at this point, but basically a person with an Internet connection, some basic knowledge of using web-based tools, knowledge of what a blog is, etc.). If your point is that white male bloggers tend to reference other white male bloggers and the best known blogs are, today, disproportionately white men than I, for one, would totally agree. Do you really think there is some barrier to entry to blogging that disproportionately favors white men?

Posted by: Nathan at Jan 6, 2004 4:01:08 PM

(Ok, so my party analogy was a bad one. Leave it to me to pick an analogy fraught with [recent] problems)

I wasn't trying to argue that the digital world is completly anonymous, but there is a certain level of anonymity that the digital world allows. I am not familiar with all the arguments behind "safe-space" (I can guess what it's about), but doesn't it seem that the extra bit of anonymity helps create a safer space? Personally, I probably would have never setup a website with my personal thoughts on it, if I didn't have some control over how much of my identity people could grab right then and there. My hesitations have relaxed more since I set it up, but you can't find out where I work and such just by going to my website alone.

Nothing will be equal in this world, however the gatekeepers to posting an opinion on the net, is almost nil. If there are then please enlighten me. I just don't see a person that really wanted to post their opinions online, being prevented from doing so. ( I mean this to say actually writing and posting an opinion online, not taking into account the resources. Which is more of a question of being online, instead of blogging).

If one is looking for other bloggers to share the lunch room table with, that's one thing. But trying to say that the blogging world is some kind of indicator of a social status/condition... just don't see it.

Posted by: Funkknight at Jan 6, 2004 5:12:41 PM

I'm saddened that you wouldn't count LJ and other journalers' sites as "blogs." Why not? When I typed 'define blog' into Google and looked at the definitions, most of them explicitly say that a blog is a personal journal available on the web.

Is a blog that doesn't have at least 6 news links with pithy commentary on each a lesser class of blog than one that rehashes the same headlines as dozens of others?

If we dismiss someone's blog because it is too much like a diary, we dismiss their voice as well. And people who take the plunge and begin writing for an audience should be heartily encouraged, not dismissed.

FWIW, my favorite blogs are the personal day-to-day narratives of others. Male, female, it doesn't matter. And yes, my blog falls into the 'journal' category.

Posted by: kimberly at Jan 6, 2004 5:36:45 PM

Not all voices deserve to be encouraged. If you encourage all voices, the really good voices that truly deserve encouragement get lost in the shitstorm. There is something to be said for only encouraging voices of merit, and pissing on the other voices.

Posted by: Julius at Jan 6, 2004 5:44:51 PM

b - i explicitly used the word "perception" because my observation is not based on any quantitative data. I was surfing through blogdex and the newest "subscription lists" call on Dave Winer's blog. I was thinking about ETech and the treatment of blogging culture at various conferences. I was thinking about how i'm about to go to three conferences where blogging will be discussed excessively by dominantly straight white men.

The reason that i'm trying to tease out a distinction amongst digital daily publishers of text is because, regardless of words, there are underlying differences in what people are doing, why they are doing it and who they are doing it for. That said, it's a very huge range and thus there are definitely ideas in more personally directly posts and definitely personal rants in more publishing oriented posts. There's no clear line and the easiest separation that i've found is through the terms journal and blog. This also has to do with identification. Most LJ folks i've ever interviewed talk about writing journals, not blogging. They don't identify with the huge blogging meme. Of course, that's a generalization and there are some who do.

While there are blogs that i read because the ideas are interesting even though i don't know the author, there are very few journals that i read that i don't know the author. The content is often not relevant to me in those cases. I mean, when my friends rant about their jobs, i want to read about it, but not necessarily when the whole world does. There's a relationship difference.

Nathan - my comment about "a proper lady" on my blog was exceptionally sarcastic, but also pointing out that in most of the world this is still true. That said, i definitely agree that people aren't taught to stand up and speak, but certain groups are quieted more quickly than others. And btw: the Internet is almost at 50/50 now between men/women.

As for self-referencing, homophily is always notable. So, yes, i'd expect SWM to reference other SWM. But this is also what propagates it as not an equalizing space.

Funkknight - i'd love to believe that anonymity creates safer space, but everything that i've ever heard has argued against it. Reflexivity tends to provide safer spaces than anonymity (i.e. owning up to one's privileges in a discussion).

Gatekeeping doesn't have to be about active gate control. In a world where you are heard through community, if community doesn't recognize your voice, you might has well have screamed into thin air. Furthermore, often the gatekeepers are in a different space. For example, if one's afraid of those who hold power over them reading what they write, they are far less likely to voice their opinion for fear of losing something in RL. This is a different type of a gate than the a physical barrier. This is about social barriers.

Kimberly - i'm certainly not into dismissing journals. I think that they are very very important and that's where i come from and they still dominate the majority of what i read daily. But i have yet to go to a conference or a public discussion that includes the journaling community in their discussion of blogging trends. Perhaps language is just conflating this discussion. Some people have started talking about blogs in a meta form (with journals included) while the press, academics and many bloggers don't actually consider the trends in journal land as reflective of their own. I'm trying to consider that segment of the community.

Posted by: zephoria at Jan 6, 2004 7:55:01 PM

more men blogging? absolutely not.

two different and independent studies done in Poland showed that over 62% of Polish bloggers are women, or rather girls (because the same studies say that 75% of Polish bloggers are 20 years old or less).

(actually in the Polish blogosphere you can find more or less 200 000 weblogs)

Posted by: Marysia Milonas at Jan 6, 2004 7:55:19 PM

I'd like to encourage folks *not* to engage in flamewars with "Julius."

Please. Don't feed the trolls.

thanks...

Posted by: Liz Lawley at Jan 6, 2004 7:57:44 PM

It's hard to see how one can both separate blogging from journaling and then say that blogging is social. Blogging that isn't journaling is usually one-way political or technical talk, neither of which is terribly social. Even "look, I found this cool link" style blogging (which is usually the best I can do) isn't very social. It's somewhat akin to starting a conversation with a stranger by saying "hey, I know something cool". That isn't as antisocial as some conversation-starters, but it isn't very social, either.

BTW, any particular reason that the word "straight" appeared in the original post? There are many white male bloggers who are either bisexual or gay, but you would never know it from their blogs.

Posted by: Paul Hoffman at Jan 6, 2004 8:40:10 PM

Why are bloggers mostly straight white men?
Because those are the blogs that you visit.

This was a trick question, right?

1. How do you know the blogger's ethnicity?
2. How would we know their sexual preference?
3. How do we know they are male?
etc.
etc.
etc.

Posted by: meg at Jan 6, 2004 9:02:27 PM

Julius,

You are welcome at our place anytime. We invite and encourage the opinions of all whether we agree with them or not.

The commenting subculture is what we are interested in and I think that while you may not make the point as well as it could be made here to be taken seriously that you indeed have some strong opinions and convictions.

Your comments would be of more value if you left the name of a Blog or a Web site, but some of our visitors don't.

Be nice. We are welcoming you with open arms.

Regards,
meg at Mandarin

Posted by: meg at Jan 7, 2004 12:30:54 AM