Saturday, December 18, 2004

We've (not) come a long way, baby

David Adesnik asks what inquiring minds apparently want to know: "Why don't hot chicks blog?"

[W]omen have a general tendency to be less assertive than men when it comes to demanding attention and rewards for their achievement...First and foremost, my sense is that women shy away from the kind of forceful and often scathing debate that takes place in the blogosphere. Even though women have few reservations about saying scurrilous things about one another (or about men), they seem to have a certain aversion to saying such things in public. You might say women simply accept as given the existence of a double standard that labels aggressive men "ambitious" and aggressive women "bitchy"...Even on a one-to-one level, I have found many more women who shy away from political debate. In almost every organization I have been part of, men have been more assertive about taking a leadership role.I'm not saying that women lack the capacity to speak out and lead or that it's their fault if they don't get ahead because there are no formal barriers standing in their way. I do think that culture matters. And perhaps it matters when it comes to blogging, too.

I've considered this before. Basically, I agree with Adesnik, but have a few things to add. First, many "hot" women (or women considered relatively attractive within a heterosexual American framework, blah blah) find that, in their interactions with men, they are expected to act as though all encounters are potentially romantic, and for a woman who's not physically revolting (or obviously attached and/or lesbian) it can be difficult to engage in political debate without seeming flirtatious. Thus an easy way to avoid arousing jealousy in one's significant other, or just leading on those whom one does not wish to be involved with romantically, is to refrain from debate, since debate could always be perceived of as flirtation. Whereas for men, sexuality never really has to come up, and political issues can take centerstage without any sense of a flirtatious undercurrent.

Also, blogging has a reputation among some people I know of being a half-step up from activities like Dungeons and Dragons. I have a hard time explaining to some of my friends that, no, I've never been a role-player, I'm not into computer games, I don't understand what Magic cards are, but, yes, I have a blog. To some, political blogging is yet another dorky activity, with no obvious connection to "official" political journalism. While few scoff at Maureen Dowd for being a woman and having a NYT opinion column, many assume a female political blogger is a full-fledged member of geek subculture. I happen not to really get much of geek subculture. Not that there's anything wrong that ("that" being geek subculture) but it's just not my thing.

One final reason "hot" women may be underrepresented in the blogosphere is that there's a certain stereotype of a "girl blog", which suggests moping about boys, pining for boys, overanalysis of friendships, and otherwise painful-to-read soul-spilling. When a woman starts a blog in which it is clear that she is a) female and b) not Susan Sontag or Hannah Arendt, people assume they'll be reading about blind dates, children, jeans suddenly being too small, or ex-best-friends' insults. So, a woman starting a political blog has to make a special effort not to go down that road, while men can freely mention their wives (or boyfriends) and still expect to be taken seriously as political bloggers, not just online-diary-keepers.

Of course, the very-hot women of the world are too busy being Uma Thurman or Gwyneth Paltrow or, sure, Natalie Portman, to be wondering why Blogger's been so slow lately. But the same could be said for the world's very-hot men: Is there an http://petersarsgaard.blogspot.com? I think not.

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