Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where are the women? Maybe Wente has a point!

Last week, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente upset online commentators with her column that asked why most bloggers are men. One of Canada's top political bloggers, David Eaves, wrote a great piece that poked holes in many of her arguments.

I had a slightly different take on Wente's column, which I read less as a diatribe on the blogosphere (although there was no doubt some of that it) and more as plea for more women's voices in public affairs commentary online.

While she didn't say this in the original column, I read bits of her online discussion, where she clarified she'd written it from the point of view of current affairs. Wente wrote, " I was referring in my column to the type of blogging that refers to news and current events. This is largely -- though by no means exclusively -- a male world, just as radio phone-in talk shows and televsion panels of people analyzing and opining on the days' events."

As a woman deeply interested in matters of public policy and current events, I agree with her.

Let's take Ottawa as an example. In the blogosphere, save for Kady O'Malley at CBC and Susan Delacourt at The Toronto Star, I struggle to think of many more female commentators of any scale in Canada.

Scroll down here, to "Blog Central," at Canada's national newsmagazine, for just one example of what I mean. To be clear, these are all excellent writers who I rely on to help shape my own views on things... I don't wish any of them to stop writing. I only wish Maclean's would add a female or two to its mix.

Of the top 10 political blogs in Canada
, only one (#10) is authored by a woman.

The Mark, a online opinion journal, of the first 100 contributors in the "politics" category, less than a quarter are female.

If we take Eaves' point about columns being a type of blog, in the Globe and Mail, Wente is the only woman with a regular gig commenting on public affairs.

I know there are a lot women blogging and tweeting out there, there's just not a lot of them doing so about current affairs or politics, at least not in a high profile way in Canada. There are also lots of women reporters on the Hill (most of whom tweet, and whose reporting I follow), just not a lot with profile in the commenting scene, either online or off.

The more interesting question to me is why, and if anyone else cares about this, what to do about it. Wente "blames" it on men's propensity to step up and speak out. Maybe we women need to do a bit more of that.

I'll include myself as a guilty party - as a pretty regular blogger (mostly over here)
, I think about my blogging more as a curating and less as opining. Maybe that should change.

Or maybe editors have to do more to hire/encourage women in this way, if Wente's right that they're not naturally predisposed to opine.

Or maybe readers have to demand more of it, and encourage those who are trying.

Or maybe it's just Canada.

I don't know. But I think Wente has a point. Thoughts?

P.S. Thanks to the female-penned The Pundit's Guide and to @tideswaters for reminding me of their great work. And who can forget @withoutayard's awesome blog? If other female policy-wonks want to send me links to their blogs, I'll compile a list and share it online.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My take, for what it’s worth: Political blogs are typically about opinions and controversy. Blogs that are popular challenge the status quo, state their ideas boldly.

I don’t like [unnamed commentators listed here]. None have discussions, all want to share their opinions. I wouldn’t want to sit next to them for a 5 hour flight. But I like their writing. They tell me things I don’t know, and have opinions on those things I don’t agree with.

More men I know then women are OK with not being liked, but having their ideas out there.

More women I know than men are cautious with their statements to not upset people or say something that would cause an undefendable controversy.

That’s why men’s blogs end up being more popular.

What that says about society, and whether that matters or not are different questions.