Female voices online


by Leon
30th June, 2008 at 1:35 am    

Sunny’s Blog Nation 2008 has generated some interesting responses, discussions and dissections not least about the panel regarding female bloggers.

I’ve been following it all the last few days with real interest and mulling it’s implications (more on that another time). One thing that’s really jumped out as a good starting point for discussion about female/feminist bloggers and the way they’re treated is this by Penny Red:

Set down this: the way that men, and male bloggers in particular, feel when trying to participate in the feminist movement is not dissimilar to the way that women feel when trying to participate in life. That cold tug on the solar plexus when you realise you’re in a world that wasn’t arranged for your benefit, where you didn’t make the rules and where your voice might be less important purely because of your genital arrangement? Remember that feeling. Remember that feeling and imagine it applied to the rest of your life. Imagine not being able to shut down the computer and walk away.

So, let’s lay a gauntlet down: what can us male bloggers do to engage with the feminist blogosphere? Should we consciously link to them to achieve balance in coverage? Why don’t more feminist bloggers get the coverage that other political blogs get?

Update: Unity thinks the answer is to keep it real, couldn’t agree more.


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  1. Sunny — on 30th June, 2008 at 1:47 am  

    So, let’s lay a gauntlet down: what can us male bloggers do to engage with the feminist blogosphere?

    We’re already part of the feminist blogosphere… :)

  2. Amrit — on 30th June, 2008 at 2:05 am  

    ‘Why don’t more feminist bloggers get the coverage that other political blogs get?’

    Do you really need to ask that question? Invoking the f-word is never popular, be it in the newspapers, on TV, or within the blog-o-space.

    Could you male bloggers somehow persuade normal guys not to be terrified of feminism? Even my boyfriend was uneasy with it before I introduced him to Joan Smith.

    For some reason, feminism often becomes too big an issue for feminists – it can become their single issue, drowning out all others or not combining well with other beliefs. That’s another thing that turns men off. But why is that? Is it the whole ‘wrestling the sinking ship to shore’ mentality which results in desperate obsession?

  3. BenSix — on 30th June, 2008 at 2:44 am  

    “Should we consciously link to them to achieve balance in coverage?”

    No, you should start reading them and realise that you should have been linking to them naturally all along.

  4. Amrit — on 30th June, 2008 at 2:56 am  

    ‘Feminism – It’s OK!’ :D

    What Ben said.

  5. Desi Italiana — on 30th June, 2008 at 7:34 am  

    Sunny:

    “We’re already part of the feminist blogosphere…”

    With all due respect, jaanam, no, you are not.

  6. Desi Italiana — on 30th June, 2008 at 7:43 am  

    “what can us male bloggers do to engage with the feminist blogosphere?”

    I would suggest actually READING it, considering the opinions and viewpoints, and writing about those viewpoints with your commentary, agreements, disagreements to give them more coverage (Unfortunately, blogs heavily dominated by men get a lot more coverage than those dominated by women).

    But all too often, male bloggers will pick up feminist issues, give their predictable issue-laden spin on it, and mistakenly think ‘Oh, I just wrote a post on abortion,” (for example), “and I’m really for women’s equality, feminism’ blah blah. To be honest, I find this immensely irritating and patronizing, as if women cannot speak for themselves on the same equal tenor (and they can, but male bloggers are just not noticing it).

    “Why don’t more feminist bloggers get the coverage that other political blogs get?”

    Because female issues are seen as ‘soft issues’, and men take the pie when it comes to ‘hard’ issues, like politics and whatnot. This speaks volumes about us as readers and also us as bloggers.

  7. MaidMarian — on 30th June, 2008 at 9:32 am  

    Desi Italiana (6) – ‘Because female issues are seen as ’soft issues’, and men take the pie when it comes to ‘hard’ issues, like politics and whatnot.’

    Sorry – could you elaborate on that? What exactly are these soft issues that you have in mind that (presumably) you see as undercovered and treated lightly by dint of association with feminism?

    Mars, Venus – name a planet and many on the internet have probably been on it. As ever with the internet, look beyond the hot-air.

  8. Leon — on 30th June, 2008 at 9:43 am  

    We’re already part of the feminist blogosphere…

    All male bloggers?!

  9. Anas — on 30th June, 2008 at 1:09 pm  

    Set down this: the way that men, and male bloggers in particular, feel when trying to participate in the feminist movement is not dissimilar to the way that women feel when trying to participate in life. That cold tug on the solar plexus when you realise you’re in a world that wasn’t arranged for your benefit, where you didn’t make the rules and where your voice might be less important purely because of your genital arrangement?

    Huh? Surely that’s an exaggeration. Are women in general really that alienated?

  10. zohra — on 30th June, 2008 at 11:14 pm  

    Leon, I’m loving it. Nice one.

  11. Sunny — on 1st July, 2008 at 12:56 am  

    Desi:
    With all due respect, jaanam, no, you are not.

    Why not?

    I would suggest actually READING it,

    Already do.

    To be honest, I find this immensely irritating and patronizing, as if women cannot speak for themselves on the same equal tenor (and they can, but male bloggers are just not noticing it).

    This is contradictory. Do you want male bloggers to write about abortion or not? Either they also write about it, or they let women speak for themselves.

    Because female issues are seen as ’soft issues’,

    I think its more that people just concentrate on different issues. I focus more on race, religion and identity… or technology. Some focus on westminster (while I’ve conciously told PP bloggers to avoid Westminster unless its a massive story) and other concentrate only on the environment. Which is the soft issue?

  12. halima — on 1st July, 2008 at 5:42 am  

    Feminist bloggers and females writing blogs are different – no?

    Feminism is for me an ideology – an ism about the difference between the genders, not just about women’s issues – so the difference might be pay, way women get exposure on TV/blogs. For example Red Pepper might be a feminist rag for me, but not the women’s lifestyle pages in the Sunday supplement… and men can be feminists, too.

    Females writing blogs and not getting coverage might be to do with lots of things – but what’s interesting is reactions to it. Personally I find that male2male- blogging and responses sometimes become a bit of a public sparring session (there’s another term for it..which academics are also guilty of)… This puts off female bloggers in the main I am guessing – some of us switch of, a bit like when there’s too much football chat in the canteen …Not taking away from the fact that some women love the sport..

    My younger sister who is a bit addicted on virtual games, says, it’s interesting that when she uses a male alias, the other players (most gamers are male) give her a hard time, when she adopts a female alias – the players even support her! Perhap they’re not as aggressive when playing against a female gamer.

    I guess women like men have different interests among them – difficult to talk of a ‘female blogsphere’.. sometimes the best blogs are the ones where you can’t tell the identity of the blog – does it matter?

    Then there’s the issue of what females are busy doing in their lives – yes men and women have jobs etc and some have kids – but my sense is women still bear the brunt of housework and childcare responsibilities and have less time playing on the internet.

  13. halima — on 1st July, 2008 at 5:57 am  

    Which is the soft issue?

    I am guessing soft issues would be issues of a ‘domestic’ nature – so in the old days women’s place might have been in the ‘private’ sphere and men’s place in the ‘public sphere’ and public sphere was associated with ‘politics’ and ‘private’ with the family….

    These boundaries have been done away with, sure, but the prevailing view is that it’s mostly women that discuss say, childcare, relationships, marriage, in-laws (in South Asian cultures), I think I may be stereotyping here … so will stop.

    You can compare the content of Marie Clare and Arena Mag – after taking into acocunt, Marie Clare does fashion and Arena does glamour – the rest of the content on ‘current affairs and journalism’ is also very gendered. So Marie Clare will do a story say, on relationships or human rights abuses in Somalia, linked to women, and Arena will do one on gang cultures, crime, drugs in Brazil. Yes, there is cross over interest, but in the main, I think magazines and newspapers operate with gendered view on audience development.

    Even the politics gets interesting.

    After taking into account political viewpoints women and wmen consume media differently – and the same has got to be true for blogs.

    The Telegraph is read more by women than men .. and I’d be interested to know the gendered audience profiles of the Guardian, Independent , the FT or the Int. Herald Tribune, Daily Mail etc.

  14. Trooper Thompson — on 1st July, 2008 at 8:38 am  

    Surely, you women don’t want special treatment do you?
    Blogging gives everybody an equal opportunity.

    As for the original statement from Penny Red – “Set down this: the way that men…”, sister, get used to life. It’s that way for everyone. As for complaining that it isn’t arranged for your benefit – whatever made you think that it was?

  15. MaidMarian — on 1st July, 2008 at 9:15 am  

    halima (13) – Yes, the problem that I had with the quote in the article was that it was just so stereotyped that it was impossible to pin down what it was actually talking about. I’m still not really clear. Certainly I have no idea exactly who it is, in the article’s formula, that has a world that is arranged for their benefit, and what arrangement should be made.

    I think that your point about women consuming media differently is a very interesting one and strikes at the core of this. I don’t buy this line that, ‘soft,’ issues are treated as if they were less valid. There is just less internet hot air/bile surrounding them and that is no bad thing and I actually wonder whether some of this is looking at a problem that is not really there.

    To me there is not much to say here beyond that the annoyed need to go and seek better quality internet sites.

  16. Ravi Naik — on 1st July, 2008 at 10:50 am  

    “But all too often, male bloggers will pick up feminist issues, give their predictable issue-laden spin on it, and mistakenly think ‘Oh, I just wrote a post on abortion,” (for example), “and I’m really for women’s equality, feminism’ blah blah. To be honest, I find this immensely irritating and patronizing, as if women cannot speak for themselves on the same equal tenor (and they can, but male bloggers are just not noticing it).”

    Actually, Desi, you get immensely irritated when any man talks about women issues, specially those who do it with passion. You have made it very clear over these past months whenever Pickled Politics talks about abortion, veil, honour killings, etc. Hell, even in this paragraph you just dismissed men’s opinion’s as predictable issue-laden spin blah-blah. Deal with it, as it’s a turn off for any decent discussion.

    “Feminist bloggers and females writing blogs are different – no?”

    That’s an excellent point, Halima.

  17. Leon — on 1st July, 2008 at 9:05 pm  

    Post updated with Unity’s thoughts.

  18. Desi Italiana — on 2nd July, 2008 at 6:53 pm  

    Ravi:

    “Actually, Desi, you get immensely irritated when any man talks about women issues, specially those who do it with passion. You have made it very clear over these past months whenever Pickled Politics talks about abortion, veil, honour killings, etc. Hell, even in this paragraph you just dismissed men’s opinion’s as predictable issue-laden spin blah-blah. Deal with it, as it’s a turn off for any decent discussion.”

    This following comment is basically a summarized regurgitation of past comments; comments that I do not think you followed up on in the past (which is totally fine, since all of us have lives and cannot read every single comment, come back to certain threads, etc).

    My views on Rumbold’s post on honour killings was to draw attention to the fact that honour killings is something that is spoken about when discussing places like Iraq and Afghanistan, while we completely sidestep the issue of men and boys getting killed. I wrote a long response to you and Rumbold, both of whom accused me of being racist and anti-male, when it was actually Sunny who made that connection in reference to ‘white men’ saving Eastern women in his post. You can revisit that thread to see what I’ve written to both you and Rumbold.

    In terms of the veil and abortion, I have always said that it’s interesting to me how passionate– especially when the opinion is conservative– men get about issues that largely touch women. I’ve never said that men cannot write about female issues; I said somewhere else that I DO think that a woman who has had personal experiences with sexual harrassment would be able to give a lot more in terms of writing something on this kind of abuse, but I ALSO said that a male writer is perfectly capable of writing about something like sexual harassment of females from an interesting angle, and I am all down for that.

    Sunny:

    I had said:

    “But all too often, male bloggers will pick up feminist issues, give their predictable issue-laden spin on it, and mistakenly think ‘Oh, I just wrote a post on abortion,” (for example), “and I’m really for women’s equality, feminism’ blah blah. To be honest, I find this immensely irritating and patronizing, as if women cannot speak for themselves on the same equal tenor (and they can, but male bloggers are just not noticing it).”

    You responded:

    “This is contradictory. Do you want male bloggers to write about abortion or not? Either they also write about it, or they let women speak for themselves.”

    Where did I say that male bloggers should not write about abortion? I didn’t. I said that the general TREND is that male bloggers will write about abortion and think, “Gee, I’m a feminist!” But why not link to several smart blogs on abortion, written by, say, Feministing or Blogher and discuss ideas expressed there?

    I think that both male AND female bloggers should write about things like abortion, but I’d like to see a diversity of opinions, linking to smart thinkers, etc on a topic that ultimately touches on a woman’s body.

    To be sure, I don’t think that women are somehow the ‘true’, ‘natural’, and legit representatives of female issues. I have met women and female writers with shitty mentalities and whacky views. I DO think that often times, conversations get co-opted by male writers, when there are also perfectly capable female writers who also have interesting things to say.

  19. Desi Italiana — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:03 pm  

    Shit, I was using the editing time to add more, but time ran out. Am totally not going to rewrite comment, but the following will suffice.

    To expand and clarify on this:

    “I think that both male AND female bloggers should write about things like abortion, but I’d like to see a diversity of opinions, linking to smart thinkers, etc on a topic that ultimately touches on a woman’s body.”

    “Ultimately touches on a woman’s body” shouldn’t come to mean “Since women are the ones who are most affected, they should be the only ones writing about it.”

  20. Rumbold — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:15 pm  

    Desi:

    “I wrote a long response to you and Rumbold, both of whom accused me of being racist and anti-male.”

    Please link to the specific comments that Ravi and I supposedly made when we called you racist and anti-male, or retract.

  21. Desi Italiana — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:25 pm  

    MaidMarian:

    “I don’t buy this line that, ’soft,’ issues are treated as if they were less valid. There is just less internet hot air/bile surrounding them and that is no bad thing”

    I do agree with you that there is less internet hot air surrounding issues that people regard to be ‘soft’, but I think that is precisely because they are regarded as soft (in America, abortion is definitely not seen as a ‘soft issue’, but IMO, that is because there are plenty of men who have extremely strong opinions on abortion, like governors and Congressmen who think that abortion runs against god, etc).

    In terms of honour killings, that is mostly in association with the current ‘war on terrorism’ (whether through our invasion adventures, or ‘key allies’ such as Pakistan) which I’ve expressed my thoughts elsewhere on PP, so I’m not going to get into that.

    What I was trying to say was that blogosphere is heavily dominated by males, and much of the content that is written by guys is on what most people regard as ‘hard’ stuff– economics, politics, ‘security’, etc. In contrast, what people mistakenly see as ‘soft issues’ (but are not ‘soft’ at all), such as domestic violence, sexual harrassment, gender and race gap in every sphere, etc, is MOSTLY taken up by either female bloggers, and some male bloggers (whether from excellent and incisive angles or the token, superficial gestures, the latter which some female bloggers ALSO engage in), and I will not name names). I am not just talking about PP—the ‘blogosphere’ I have in mind is the South Asian, South Asian American, and American blogospheres that I’ve been following for years (should have specified what blogosphere I am talking about from the get-go).

    I realize that I might seem like cheerleading female bloggers just by virtue of their sex and/or gender. Not at all. And female issues need to be looked at incisively, whether from a male or female writer. But there are many more male bloggers than females (reasons which Halima touches on in her post).

    (And P.S. I’m not a man-hater either. I have been incredibly lucky to have been exposed to thoughtful and kind men who completely run contrary to popular stereotypes on what men are like, etc.)

  22. Desi Italiana — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:36 pm  

    Rumbold:

    “Please link to the specific comments that Ravi and I supposedly made when we called you racist and anti-male, or retract.”

    Sorry, you are right, you both didn’t call me “racist” or “anti-male”, so tons of apologies for that.

    What you had said what I called you a “deluded white imperialist,” which is what I take as my being racist somehow (ie seeing someone based on their race and using it against them, which I never do); there was also a section of the comments about men vs. women writing, to which Ravi referred to as being ‘ad-hominem’ attacks on my part. My response starts off here.

    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2052#comment-121155

  23. Rumbold — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

    Desi:

    Apologies for the white misunderstanding then. I really didn’t mean to imply that you were racist, just that you were challenging my right to comment on the matter of HBV in Iraq. You did call me an imperialist though. Shall we put it behind us?

  24. Rumbold — on 2nd July, 2008 at 7:41 pm  

    And on this thread Ravi was just trying to point out that sometimes you come across a bit too strong.

  25. Desi Italiana — on 2nd July, 2008 at 9:55 pm  

    Rumbold:

    “Shall we put it behind us?”

    Yes. I’m really sorry again about the racist and anti-male bit on my part; I usually get all huffy when people put words in my mouth because I’m careful about what I write, and I should have accorded the same attention to your comments and not put words in YOUR mouth.

    “You did call me an imperialist though.”

    Distinction: I had said “imperialist mindset” pervading that post in question. And I stand by my thoughts on that :)

    Ok, put away now.

  26. Ravi Naik — on 2nd July, 2008 at 11:00 pm  

    “What you had said what I called you a “deluded white imperialist,” which is what I take as my being racist somehow (ie seeing someone based on their race and using it against them, which I never do); there was also a section of the comments about men vs. women writing, to which Ravi referred to as being ‘ad-hominem’ attacks on my part. My response starts off here.”

    I am glad that you brought back that thread as I didn’t follow up on your reply. I thought you had used race to diminish someone’s opinion on an “Asian” issue. I am very sorry about this.

    However, I do stand by what I said on the gender issue. I do feel that you very often dismiss the opinion of male bloggers and commenters because of their gender. I mean, aren’t you saying in #6 that male bloggers should just shut up on female issues, because otherwise you feel it is patronising to women and it irritates you?

  27. halima — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:28 pm  

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/07/women.politics.internet

    Bit off topic now, but interesting link on women and the blogsphere …

  28. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:38 pm  

    Desi – I don’t link to many environmental blogs and yet I consider myself an environmentalist and I dont’ talk about vegetarianism much but I am a vegetarian.

    This blog doesn’t represent the total some of my views. I see it more as a magazine which has an editorial agenda as such… not just “Sunny’s musings”. Hence, it focuses on specific issues.

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