Patricia Drey, in yesterday's Minnesota Daily, reported that University of Minnesota graduate student Clancy Ratliff is researching into (alleged) gender inequality in the blogosphere.
Ratliff is examining why the most popular (or "A-list") bloggers tend to be male. Her comment indicates there is a conspiracy theory at play. "Men tend to link to other men more often than they link to women," she claimed.
Of course! Men get together in "virtual locker rooms" and hatch plots to prevent women's blogs from becoming popular, refusing to link to them. Hmmm... but don't women, too, tend to link to women's blogs more often than they link to men's?
Maybe there are just more male bloggers than female bloggers? Apparently not, according to Lisa Guernsey, who explored the male dominance of the A-list in the New York Times a couple of months ago:
Women are, in fact, blogging in big numbers. Mr. Rosenberg, who keeps an eye out for new bloggers and links to them from his Salon.com blog, estimates that the ratio of women to men is something like 40-60, or perhaps 50-50.
So, no equality of access problems. What then? Why are male blogs more popular?
Guernsey asked Virginia Postrel, "one of the few women who is commonly listed among well-known bloggers," who suggested "that the imbalance was probably a holdover from the world of print, where men continue to dominate the opinion pages."
Pardon my ignorance, but what does "a holdover" mean exactly? There are no editors of individual blogs, and bloggers (male and female) are free to promote whatever sites they want. It's not enough to argue that a situation that exists in print journalism is simply "held over".
Guernsey quips that men's sites get "promoted by male journalists". She doesn't offer any analysis to back this up. I would argue that female journalists seem to write as much (if not more) about the phenomenon of blogging than male journalists. Don't believe me? Type "weblogging OR blogging" into Google's News Search, look back through the various articles about blogging that have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the world in recent months (including the two referenced here!). Many, perhaps most, were written by women -- and promote female blogs.
Still, expect feminists to conjure up myriad theories as to why most A-list bloggers are male. The one theory you won't hear -- the implicit theory that they'll bend over backwards to avoid -- is this: that men's blogs are simply better!
For what it's worth, I don't believe that men's blogs are any better (or worse) than women's. But I'm somewhat persuaded by one of Guernsey's arguments, that men and women tend to have different blogging styles:
The Venus-Mars divide has made its way into Blogville. Women want to talk about their personal lives. Men want to talk about anything but.
Guernsey is having a snide swipe at men. But maybe it's women who are fearful -- afraid to talk about worldly issues. Of course, Guernsey wasn't going to embarrass "sisters" by telling us how much the introspective nature of their blogging reveals about female self-obsession.
Let's face it, a site about one's personal life isn't going appeal to as wide an audience as a site about news, current affairs or other topical issues.
Not that all women write personal blogs; I enjoy Karlin Lillington's blog, for its insightful, informative and up-to-date commentary about what's going on in the Irish IT community and beyond. (Shame about the naff design!)
Conversely, not all men avoid personal weblogs: my own web diary is certainly personal and introspective in nature, if not in the direct manner of a pen-and-paper diary (but the web is a different medium, and the audience is more than one).
I find introspective, revealing (non-whining!) sites more engaging than extrospective, informative ones. The latter have a different function, and may attract more visitors ... but is large-scale popularity the holy grail of blogging?
I think not. I'm with Scottish music artist Momus, who proclaimed (correcting Warhol) that "in the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people."
But hey, I'm just a male, Z-list blogger. What do I know?
(Note: See my update to this post, September 2003.)