Shaula has a great post up about blogging and gender that gave me a feeling of deja vu when I read it, and I knew I would have to post about it at some point. It’s a terrific no-holds-barred on how the the blogosphere is gendered by politics and writing style. It brought to mind something a reader once said to me in an email.
I know I saw your site linked to on someone’s blogroll, but I don’t remember where. I’m pretty sure it was on a female blogger’s list, though. Out of the blogs I read, your blog is linked to by women more often than (straight) men, perhaps even exclusively linked to by women.
I thought of it when I read what Shaula had to say about writing styles and “relevance” in the blogosphere.
Remember the Pew study this summer that showed over half of all blogs are written by women? In the patriarchy of the political blogosphere, these blogs get ignored for being too small (i.e., not important enough), and having focuses beyond just politics (what women call “multitasking)–in other words, talking about issues outside what Kos recently dubbed the ”important shit“: issues like childcare, women’s health, reproductive rights, politics in public education and homeschooling, divorce, child support, and discrimination (not just sexism and racism, but also sizeism, ageism, and ableism). *And* knitting and recipes and quizzes and books. *And*, outside the mighty gaze lowered down from the heavens of Kos et al, politics.
I am constantly astounded (call me naive) at the extent to which the blogosphere is gendered. I find there are two main writing styles, which broadly break out as belonging to male and female writers (with exceptions, naturally, but the broad camps still exist.) The male style is modelled after the corporate media that the writers claim to hate (hmm…feminism and racism could explain a great deal about internalizing negative stereotypes, if they’d only listen). The male/corporate style is agent-less; there is no ”I“ or self in the writing, and rather than voicing personal, and therefore fallible, opininions, instead the authors hand down universal truths (sic) carved on stone tablets. (I tend to think of this style as Mt. Sinai Blogging.) Likewise, the topics are impersonal–about what ”they“ should do in DC or at the DNC or in state capitols.
The female style, i.e., the style I see used by, and represented by, women–predominantly but not exclusively, is a far more personal style. The writers have the courage to say ”I“ and share their own opinions, instead of posing as unquestionable authorities. And, instead of regurgitating or fisking the latest excrescence of the New York Times or the Washington Post, these writers engage political issues in the context of their own lives. … Unfortunately, since writing about your own personal battles with breast cancer, or working at an abortion clinic, or the racism of your children’s new stepmother, aren’t considered ”important shit“ by the polticial blogosphere gatekeepers, and so this quality writing, first-person reporting, about real people engaging real life issues…doesn’t get the spotlight, or the readership, it deserves.
It also reminded me of something Shaula once said about my own blogging.
I think you are a great writer, Terrance, and a wonderful first-person blogger.
So much of the political blogging is ”agent-less“ The bloggers write in an impersonal voice, as if they are merely transcribing unversal truths down from the spheres. Ha! What a cowardly (and stereotypically male) way to write. Whether one’s name is signed or not, it is a form of anonymous blogging.
I think it takes much more courage to reveal oneself through one’s writings. You don’t jump on the blogging bandwagon to add your 2 cents to the news flavor of the week; instead, you post thoughtful articles framed in your own personal worldview and experiences.
Basically, just as my experience in sports, it all boils down to one reality. I blog just like a girl. Or, in this case, just like a woman. Given the alternative, I’d say that’s a compliment. It may be, tho’, one of the reasons I haven’t gone further ”up the ladder“ when it comes to political blogging. It probably helps, sure, that I’m a guy. But the one thing I know in the core of my being is that the personal is political, and vice versa. I write about politics, for sure, but I can’t write about that without also writing about my life as I live it, how I live it, and the ways it’s affected by the political realities around me. I can’t much write about what I think without also writing about or at least referencing what I feel and what I experience.
Maybe race has something to do with that. Being gay definitely has something to do with it, especially lately, when I’m likely to hear leading progressive bloggers say that we’re going to have to set aside gay issues (probably right next to reproductive choice) in order to win some in the next few years, and get back to it later. Maybe. But they can afford to take that position, indeed have the privilege of taking it, because those issues are personal — at least not in the bone-deep sense — to them. For me, it’s every day life, mixed right in there with getting up, going to work, feeding the kid, doing the laundry, and taking out the trash, because it’s part of the context in which I do all of those things.
Taking all of that that into account, I might also add the element of race as a factor of identity, which takes me back to something else I wrote a while back.
I’ll say it again, when it comes to blogging, identity and everything that goes with it—race, gender, orientation, economics, education, etc.—affects what you look at and filters what you see. …how you identify not only affects how you see other people, but whether you see them at all. Chances are the first people you’ll “see”—those first blips on your radar, the people you’ll automatically pay attention to—will be those with whom you share some element of identity. It’s inevitable. That is, unless you make a conscious effort to do otherwise.
Gender and orientation, as much as race, factor into identity. I just don’t know if it’s an innate human tendency to recognize and reference first and foremost those one is most like, or vice versa. I suspect that may be one reason the tiers of the blogosphere sort out as they do, and why the uppermost are largely self-referencing.
Shaula calls the brand of blogging she describes in her post ”naked blogging,“ as opposed to the ”Mt. Sinai blogging.“ If I extend the metaphor a bit, I think ”naked blogging“ is what takes place in the space between the peaks, better known as the valley.
The valley a crowded place, where the air is thicker and the environment practically has walls you can reach out and touch. From down there you can’t help but see the context of your life and the people sharing it with you.
At the peaks, I suspect the air is thinner, and it’s easy to think your point of view is a better one. It means you can see the next peak over, and whoever’s on it. It also means you can’t see eye to eye with a whole lot of other people who know a great deal about life on the ground.
If you ask me, the ”meta-view“ isn’t up there on the peaks. It’s down here, at eye level with everyone else.