Race, gender and the blogosphere

I see that I upset some of my readers with the post on the blogosphere, where I expressed my unhappiness that it was dominated by white men. It was in the context of a Newsweek article that characterized the bloggers as the Resistance at odds with Democratic party insiders.

First, let me say that talking about race does not make me racist. So for me to observe that this so-called democratic revolution in information gathering and dissemination -- which is how blogs are characterized -- is dominated by white men is not racist. It is a problem if the blogosphere reproduces the patterns that have been the bane of traditional media -- not just for me but for all progressives. Or at least I should hope so.

Let's take the gender aspect. I'm not the only woman blogger who is unhappy that women are treated as virtually invisible both in the blogosphere and in media coverage of blogs. Chris Nolan offered ten reasons why this is so, but I'll content myself with quoting four:


#2 [M]prefer to link to and read men like them. As it was in the beginning so shall it ever be. When they wonder where the women bloggers are, what they're really saying is "I don't read any women bloggers."
#3 Even though the "blogosphere" has gotten much larger, most of these men are still reading the guys they started out with three years ago, linking to them and talking among themselves. There's talk of broader horizons, but it's pretty much that: Talk.
# 5 For the most part, blogging is covered in Big Media by either political or tech writers. Most tech writers are men. So are the overwhelming majority of political writers. And most political writers have no idea what Feedster, Technorati or PubSub do. They've never heard of RSS. They're still book-marking.
# 6 Big Media reporters prefer to deal with the "top-tier" bloggers and folks in their own part of the world – the East Coast. That's who they call for TV: Sullivan, Jarvis, Reynolds, Marshall. That's who makes it onto dial-a-quote lists. Those appearance reinforce Big Boy Bloggers' bigger numbers. On Charlie Rose' blog show, the guests were Glenn Reynolds, Anna Marie Cox and Andrew Sullivan, no one west of the Mississippi. No minorities. That's diversity, Big-Media style.
All of those four reasons make me feel very frustrated, especially since women have actually been losing ground in the op-ed pages around the nation. Thirty years after the women's revolution, it's also still damn hard to find a major female byline in the New Yorker -- whose only woman staff writer Caitlin Flanagan is downright retro when it comes to gender roles. And that's why I don't think there is any danger of us succumbing to what one reader called the "creeping bigotry of over-diversification" in any media-related field.

As for letting out my inner demons, there's nothing hidden or femi-nazi about the fact that women journalists continue to be unhappy with this state of affairs. So they well should be. So should people of color and in fact working class Americans, since the U.S. media is also increasingly dominated by upwardly mobile professionals who are far removed from the daily realities facing most of their fellow citizens.

There is a direct connection between who gets access to the megaphone and what gets spoken about. Is there any doubt that if television news was more diverse, the coverage of the hurricane victims, especially in the first few days, would have been more sensitive to issues of race and class?

It's no different with blogs. Take, for example, the ongoing battle of words between Daily Kos and progressive women bloggers, which was sparked by a post where Markos slammed NARAL for giving money to pro-choice Republicans. The point being that emphasizing abortion was just single-issue politics as usual. Yes, many women bloggers took him to task for his view, but how many read their response as opposed to Markos'? (You can read the latest skirmish here)

Visibility is directly connected to power -- the power to shape the debate and influence its outcome. It's naive to pretend otherwise.

So if some of you are disappointed with me for expressing my feelings about the lack of change, you should consider the fact that I may be equally disappointed that some of us are untroubled by things staying just the way they are -- the way they have been for centuries. That would explain why I have such a hard time seeing my position on this matter as even remotely radical.

P.S.: The suggestion that I'm not okay with either white people or men is much too offensive to warrant comment, leave alone a defense.

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