Posted by Ginny on February 16th, 2006 (All posts by Ginny)
Right now, the blogosphere is the wild & wooly West. It is open to anyone who wants to talk about anything. Guys with guns move through our territory, but it remains an inviting & pleasant place: this is cause for celebration. It doesn’t pay. (A topic being discussed now by Anchoress, Riehl, & Instapundit) But it isn’t very risky: it may waste time but it doesn’t waste much money. For this moment anyone who wants a soapbox can have one.
So, blogs seem a pretty fair test of choice – what do people want to do, what do they enjoy doing? Well, Jonathan’s poll shows that women aren’t as likely to read Chicagoboyz – and, indeed, not so many women are Chicagoboyz. I wasn’t particularly surprised: my daughters refuse to read it (for fear, I suspect, they will find me talking about them) and their mates do (perhaps to check & see what their mother-in-law says about them); my guy colleague reads it fairly faithfully, our two female friends only sporadically. (Of course, they miss my brilliant posts.) My topics are generally those of a late-middle-aged woman. But apparently, men read them more than women.
Why? Certain subjects, genres, and positions characterize this blog. Perhaps a demographer will read this and make knowledgeable comments. But any sensible answer assumes more men are attracted than women, not that women aren’t welcome. Jonathan’s immense civility makes this blog a quite welcoming place for both readers & writers. I would prefer to think that his consistent generousity & tact is not affirmative action at work as much as inbred tact, applied to both genders. (And of course I would prefer that, which is why quotas are not all that affirming.)
Our readers, even when I’m being quite stupid, respond with chivalry. They are a chivalric bunch but my experience & instincts are that women often get softer treatment, even on this frontier. My posts may be ignored but people never stoop to the kind of ad hominem arguments frequent on other blogs and far more often addressed to men. Looking at these responses, other women might decide writing a post isn’t worth the effort but they aren’t likely to fear an attack.
Since I assume we want readers and aren’t all that choosy about their sex, we’d like more women – and, indeed, more men. More, as the commercial goes, is good. I suspect readers who share our interests may remain disproportionately male. Not bad. Not good. Just what it is.
But we see a different approach by AP writer, Mark Johnson; apparently he would see Chicagoboyz as guilty by outcome, no matter how fair the entry and how open the site. In “Study: Women hold few state jobs,” he notes that women hold less than 50% of state government jobs. He (with no other input) reports the findings of The Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University of Albany, which describes this “problem” which “does not appear to be going away.” Well, there is movement – from 23.1% in 1996 to 24.7% in 2006. But those aren’t the strides the Center wants. The lop-sided percentage appears “a persistent social phenomenon.” But is it social or biological, a matter of barriers to entry or a matter of desire? Difficulties are not shown; the considerable political outreach toward women is not mentioned. We see no way to gauge how many women want such jobs. I suspect such positions are not as attractive to women, especially younger ones, as they are to men. I may be wrong, but I’d like some proof that women are clamoring to run and the parties are discouraging them. (Well, Cindi Sheehan wasn’t exactly welcomed but surely that was an instinct for survival – even the Democratic party isn’t suicidal.) The open marketplace can hardly be described as open if some are coerced into opening their stalls in its midst and others are coerced into buying from them.
Access to the Blogosphere as blogger, reader, commentor is open–in fact, it is pretty much asexual & we aren’t always sure which sex we are addressing. But, more than likely, since men and women are different, the results will be. Some women like hawkish, libertarian blogs; some don’t. I write on it, but don’t get thrilled with military hardware. Still, I can see why someone else is.
Why can’t this be viewed – as indeed I think the nature of our audience should be – not as a problem but as an indication of something about the interests of men, the interests of women, and the nature of, well, the human animal? Most of the bell curves overlap – at the edges men & women aren’t all that different. Still, few of these male/female graphs fit perfectly on top of each other (you can stop laughing now and get back to ideas – my, aren’t we adolescent).
We can look at the choices men and women make and ask: “What do those uncoerced, free choices, tell us about human nature?” I suspect something interesting – but then human nature is always pretty interesting.