Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More on Mars v. Venus, in the opinion-sphere (II)

The latest installment of Mars vs. Venus in the opinion-sphere, in response to the debate posted here and here:

I certainly can't speak for Wente, nor do I intend to let her off the hook. Above all, I find it interesting that we've read different things into the same article.

First, I always read her piece to be about current affairs (i.e., see her 4th and 7th paragraphs), although I agree she could have been more explicit. And while she led by talking about blogs, to me, that was really an (albeit inflammatory) example of a larger point about ways in which the sexes express themselves.

Second, she doesn't lament that women don't have opinions. In fact, she says just the opposite: "Opinionizing in public is a form of mental jousting, where the aim is to out-reason, out-argue or out-yell your opponent. Women are just as good at this as men and, in some ways, better." Her point, at least as I read it, is that women develop and express their points-of-view differently than men, and in ways that don't naturally translate into the "opinion-sphere," be it online or off.

I think this is true. Looking beyond the financed, MSM-associated blogs, there aren't a lot of women bloggers on current affairs that have achieved much scale (i.e., only one of the top 10 political blogs is female). Also, of the first 100 contributors to The Mark, in the politics section, less than a quarter are female.

No doubt there is a structural bias against women and it's pretty obvious that the MSM folks don't hire them. What to do about it is the more interesting question. The online world naturally provides an excellent opportunity for females to establish their voices, and they are doing it in many spheres of activity. I'm just not convinced it's happening as much in current affairs, at least not yet.

I think that's partially because there's not an established "demand" for women's voices from the public (which may partially explain why there are few women in Parliament as well, although there's clearly more to it than that). I think it's partially risk aversion on the part of editors. But it's also the responsibility of women who care about politics and public affairs to speak up more, when it makes sense, even if they risk being wrong or offending.

A comment on my original post elaborates this point.

And on a final point, I actually thought her most "sexist" points were about men, not women! So I end where I began: it's always fun to see how different people read differently into the same article. Mars versus Venus!

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