Monday, May 15, 2006

Let a Thousand Female Bloggers Bloom

Belatedly, I discovered that The(liberal)Girl Next Door paid me a very nice compliment on her blog. She counted me among some of her favorite female bloggers, following the lead of Jane Hamsher over at firedoglake. What spurred this nice compliment was a meditation on the number of women reading blogs vs. men, and how the liberal blogosphere might influence politics/elections. What strikes me as an interesting issue in both of these posts is the fact that women's voices are underrepresented in policy and political debates. The shrill Ann Coulter or Yes-gal Kate O'Beirne are the "token" female pundits out there in the MSM. In the blogosphere, however, I have discovered a great number of powerful female voices, writers who I regularly rely upon to help me think through a great number of current issues.

What I have been in denial about for months is that women's voices in the blogosphere are marginalized. I have read other female bloggers on this issue, and I have found this interesting, but I quickly dismisssed it as I continued on with my eccentric posts. However, the longer I have blogged here, the more I am conscious of how differently many women, such as myself, write. If you read my blog, then you know that I rarely write blog entries that deconstruct news stories, or that follow closely breaking stories. Many excellent bloggers--male and female--already do this work, and frankly, much better than I could.

Perhaps by not keeping my finger on the pulse of political news, scandals, wonky talk and policy, I have not attracted a huge base of male readers. I could bring myself to see this as an obstacle, keeping me from more effectively impacting public discourse, and therefore aim to restyle my blog. But, to do so would be to betray my own voice. Everytime I have had the inkling to become more news junky-like, I am overcome by a sense of inauthenticity. Sure, I debate political issues all day long in the hallways of work. I follow what's going on in the world with the intense passion of the other lefty bloggers. But, I just don't think my particular talent lies in authoritatively speaking on why this official is bat shit crazy, or this agency failed, or why the Dems continue to fail in the polls. Speaking with such authority would suggest that I am some sort of insider, or that I have a better grasp on these issues than most people.

That is not me.

I see myself wading through these issues with the same questions, doubts, or concerns that I imagine most Americans who pay attention have. So, my blog entries are often long-winded open questions, soliciting views from readers. I write in as personal as a voice as I can, trying to avoid being too self-indulgent, while underscoring to my readers that I am writing from a point of view. Sometimes I take a more decided stance on a position--such as my blog entries on my own college's sexual misconduct policies or abortion debates--but overall, I see this blog space as a mental space: a place for dialogue, exploration and hopefully some insight.

What fascinates me is that my attraction to memoirish, explorative, open-ended questioning blogs is somehow a mark of my femininity. Whether I have been nurtured toward this style or its rooted in my hormones, I am at a complete loss why "voice" is such a gendered issue. Certainly many literary theorists or linguists have smarter things to say on this than I do. While most people would say that I tend to introduce "gender" into every conversation, I have tried to ignore, for as long as possible, the idea that how one writes and what one writes about is gendered. Yet, I cannot deny that while I seek out male bloggers for technical details on a particular issue, i.e. the legality of phone companies handing over call records to the NSA, I am far more satisfied by the "personal is political style" of most of my favorite female bloggers. I have always found that people's stories tend to resonate with me and inform me more than narrow, technical discussions.

I had a debate several years ago on this issue with a friend who hated the New Yorker because of its long, drawn out style, which, he believed, took way too long to get to the meat. He preferred the terse, concise pieces in the Economist. I realized in the middle of that conversation that had the New Yorker not existed, I probably would not be as informed on many issues--national and international--as I am. I need to relate to people when I am trying to understand policy. I rely heavily on empathy to make sense of any political position.

I just cannot bring myself to feel inferior about the way I write. I guess if my livelihood depended on attracting more readers I might care more. But, I don't see the point of changing the way I write or the direction of my blog (not that anyone suggested that mind you). I do think that we should embrace the distinctive gender style--if it does truly exist--of women bloggers writing and use this to energize more women to get involved in politics. I hope that I do play some part in this.

If connecting politics to real people, and particularly their stories, will turn out more female voters, then I say: Let a Thousand (or more) Female Bloggers Bloom!