If you read any of the posts that people wrote from or about the BlogHer conference in the US last week, you’ll probably arrive at the same conclusion I did – a terrific event filled with people who have interesting points to make and thoughts to share.
You may also reach another conclusion – this was an event aimed at women bloggers (men weren’t excluded, though), some of whom wanted to focus only on women and women’s issues.
Fair enough. After all, BlogHer’s mission says:
[…] to create opportunities for women bloggers to pursue exposure, education, and community.
Still, I found the feminism focus in some posts highly distracting.
I don’t read any blog written by a woman because she’s a woman. I read that blog because I find the content interesting.
Like these excellent bloggers: Elizabeth Albrycht. Amy Gahran. Ellee Seymour. Sherrilynne Starkie. Kamie Huyse. Lorelle VanFossen. Aedhmar Hynes. Kathy Sierra. Just a random quick selection from my RSS feeds.
Of course, this may be regarded by some women as a typically male point of view. Well, maybe it is. My point, though, is I believe that gender has nothing to do with what makes a blog interesting or not.
Some women feel the same, too. I think Kathy Sierra says it best of all:
I am “one who blogs” (among many other things). I happen to be a woman. But I am NOT a blogHer, and my male co-author is not a blogHim.
One thing that BlogHer has given me is a load of new (to me) and interesting blogs to take a look at. But not because they’re written by women.
The gender of the blogger really is just coincidental.
You wrote: “I believe that gender has nothing to do with what makes a blog interesting or not.”
Well, I think that depends on the audience. Some people (myself included) realize that gender can play a highly influential if often overlooked or disguised role in many aspects of society, business, education, relationships, media, politics, economics, and more. Therefore, many of us find gender issues (feminism included) to be an inherently interesting topic or angle. So for us, content that addresses gender issues is often more interesting for that reason.
But this, of course, is not true for everyone, and that’s fine. YMMV, as always :D
– Amy Gahran
Neville: You are absolutely correct that gender has little to do with what makes a blog interesting, at least in the business/tech space we inhabit. It is the quality of thought, the writing and the original ideas that make us start, and continue, reading a blog.
Gender does however impact how likely it is that people will find a blog in the first place. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t blogs written by women with high readership and high search engine profiles. There are. But to find most of us, the reader has to take a deeper dive. That’s the fundamental issue that BlogHer responded to when it started last year.
Susan, great point. Another problem that women have to contend with is being taken seriously as an expert in their field. Many studies have shown that media outlets overwhelmingly prefer male experts to female ones.
Here are some interesting facts:
“Men dominate as spokespersons and experts. 86 per cent of all people featured in new stories as spokespeople are men. Men also make up 83 per cent of all experts. Women are much less likely to be considered experts in media coverage. Instead they are more often present as voices expressing personal experience (31 per cent) or popular opinion (34 per cent).”
–The Global Media Monitoring Project 2005
“On the three main U.S. broadcast networks, 87 percent of expert sound bytes are provided by men.”
(Women, Men and Media and The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, 1998)
“Already outnumbered on major network and cable Sunday talk shows by a ratio of 9 to 1, after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, the frequency of American women guests on the shows dropped an additional 39 percent”
(“Who’s Talking?” The White House Project, 2001)
Neville; I also think that gender has very little to do with the quality of writing and thought; however, it seems that overall influence does. Why this happens is so complex as to be impossible to adequately discuss in a comment. But as Carmen amply points out, it does happen and there is plenty of proof. In the past, I have made the the point that in our little corner of the PRosphere, women make up only a small percentage (14% or so) of the top-ranked bloggers, even though Pew says men and women are about equal when answering that they have a blog.
That said, I registered my blog at BlogHer some time ago, but have had a really hard time connecting with the “community” there and and even harder time embracing its ideals. In other words, I have mixed feelings about it all. I might go to the conference in Chicago next year to check it out, but I like a mix of voices, so I hope some more of my male collegues will join me too.
So some bigger issues here which I certainly don’t intend to dismiss.
My point, though, is that gender has no relevance to me when I search for, find or casually encounter ‘interesting things’ via the net. Even if were looking for what people are discussing on, say, feminism, I don’t go out thinking to myself “what are women saying about this?” Ok, I could do that, but I don’t.
Of more interest is the content, the talk. And if I find something that really makes me pay attention, it’s because of that content not because of the gender of the person who wrote it, whether it’s a man or a woman.
Susan, you said:
I don’t see how that is. Or is it that you’re more likely to find a blog written by a man than by a woman? Or am I missing a point here?
It depends on how you discover new blogs. If you search on very specific search terms, I imagine the chances are pretty even.
Where it gets sticky is when you search a blog directory on a broad term like “public relations.” I just did it on technorati (http://www.technorati.com/blogs/public relations) and the first 9 results are written by men. And the 10th is Marketing Profs.
Same with the memetrackers, especially in the tech space -there does seem to be a male bias (see Chris Carfi’s post http://www.socialcustomer.com/2006/08/mr_rivera_tear_.html)
And then there are the lists. Sure there are blogs written by women on the various top-whatever lists, but they are predominantly (still) written by men. And when you look at who they link to, you should not be surprised if their chums are also lots of guys.
You certainly will find blogs written by women — lots of them — but you have to dive deep in a subject. And unless it is YOUR subject, you may just stop at Steve Rubel and Shel Holtz and never find Kami Huyse.
Ok, I understand. Perhaps this does represent a male-centric focus of mine, but when I search for something on Technorati, say, I search for the topic or the name of a writer and pay little attention to the gender of the writer. That’s the least important thing from my perspective.
But your’re right re memetrackers, lists, etc, now that I think about it – the majority are written by men. And I guess you’re right, too, in that given that majority, most will link to other men.
But so what? I don’t think anyone’s reasons for linking to anyone else is because of their gender. Certainly that isn’t my reason.
Just glancing through my RSS feeds and the lengthy blogroll on this site, I see the vast majority would definitely appear to be links to content written by male writers. Again, so what? I’m linking because I like their writing and couldn’t care less whether the person’s a man or a woman.
Is it just me with this rationale?
One other thing – through my visit to the BlogHer website, I’ve found a good half-dozen interesting blogs that I’ve now started paying attention to and I’ve subscribed to their RSS feeds. They’re all written by women, but that’s purely incidental to me.
And there in your comment Neville I believe you have exactly summarized why BlogHer exists, and why so many of us think it is important.
It isn’t deliberate on your part to have a predomominantly male blogroll –it just happened as a result of the community you are in, real and virtual. The blogs you read and the blogs you link to are the ones in your reference community.
BUT, when exposed to other thinkers, through the BlogHer site, you found some new blogs that appeal to you. That for the most part you may not have found without the BlogHer site and conference.
That’s the goal. To get more visibility for these blogs, and women, so they can then be evaluated on their merits. I think it would be a huge win for everyone if all of our reference groups were just a little bit bigger, a little more diverse.
Absolutely, Susan – BlogHer has given me access to other thinkers and writers who I would probably have not encountered otherwise and whose content appeals to me.
But that appeal is because of their content, not because of their gender. Another example – I subscribe to your RSS feed because of the content, ie, your thinking. If you subscribe to mine, I would imagine it’s for the same reason.
Please don’t think I’m splitting hairs here or trying to be awkward! I’m not.
I can see, though, that by being exposed to others via BlogHer, I’m likely to talk about the writings I read and link to the blog posts. I will likely do that, but not becuase they are women.
Still, I can also see that such talking could help raise the visibility of those women bloggers. And that’s absolutely fine with me!
I’m like you Neville. Gender doesn’t enter into what I read and what I don’t. But not everyone is like you and I. You don’t have to look very deeply to see the various biases on display in the PR blogosphere. Right v Left. UK v USA. Male v Female. Our community reflects our society.
Neville, you make excellent points. And Susan counterpoints well. Here’s another viewpoint: I celebrate my womanhood. I write about connecting to women. I have a blog that attracts men and women – who want to sell to women. And, I do a few other things that you, of course, are familiar with. Yet, not a mention of me or my blog… in your excellent list. I often write on business and the net (particularly blogging) which I believe you are interested in. Yet, no mention of my blog on your list.
Sounds like I’m whining…but I just wanted to make the point that women are often ‘left out’ of the conversation precisely because it’s dominated by men. That’s not a viewpoint, it’s a fact of life. Hence, places like Blogher spring up – to give women more visibility. By becoming a ‘member’ of this larger group, some smaller voices can be heard.
You and Sherrilynee may say you’re not affected by gender, but…you are totally affected by it – because you read predominately male voices in the blogosphere. Because those are the voices the blogosphere considers worth returning in a technorati search or a Google search. At the level you’re likely to click on.
Again, we’re (maybe I should say ‘I’ am) not trying to segregate men and women. I’d love the world to be equal in its treatment – but, the blogosphere, like the politics and business, is dominated by male voices. We ladies have to get in where we can. Since there is power in numbers, we choose Blogher.
It was great seeing all the guys there, this year. Despite the label, Blogher, I think having the men attend – and even present – has more positives than negatives. But then, I guess it wouldn’t be Blogher. And, in the end, we’d be back where we are now – a group of high heels in a room full of wingtips.
Still, I found the feminism focus in some posts highly distracting.
This reminds me way too much of the DailyKos dismissal of the “women’s studies set”. Just because you’re sufficiently privileged to find feminism merely “distracting” doesn’t mean it’s not important to many of the other attendees.
[…] Anyway, following BlogHer last month in San Jose, Neville Hobson raised the question of whether gender matters when reading a blog. He said no, he picks blogs based on content, not gender. Conversation ensued on his blog, and then I took it over to mine, mostly because the comment had grown to "post-size." I won’t recap the whole thing here, because there are A LOT of comments on both posts, but I think it would be very interesting to hear the perspective of the "younger set" on this topic. […]
[…] Following the BlogHer conference a few weekends ago, there has been some interesting discussion regarding gender and blogging. Susan Getgood smartly presented it to a younger group of PR folks by posting about it at Marcom Blog. Unfortunately, I think this is that quiet spell between semesters for the students … but I am, like Susan, really intrigued to capture a younger perspective on this issue. From Susan’s post at Marcom: Anyway, following BlogHer last month in San Jose, Neville Hobson raised the question of whether gender matters when reading a blog. He said no, he picks blogs based on content, not gender. Conversation ensued on his blog, and then I took it over to mine, mostly because the comment had grown to “post-size.” I won’t recap the whole thing here, because there are A LOT of comments on both posts, but I think it would be very interesting to hear the perspective of the “younger set” on this topic. […]