Monday, February 16, 2009

Gender and Blogging

Last week I hijacked Jim's blog, bavatuesdays, by making a fairly innocent comment about how his top commenters were (or at least seemed to be on the surface) all men. I was not trying to claim Jim was sexist or anything (as I think Jim knows), but it's a pattern I happened to notice and, quite frankly, that I notice quite often on many male-authored blogs.* I'm not accusing anyone of anything, really. I'm just trying to figure out why this pattern persists, and why it seems to persist in the technical world I tend to inhabit. I'm not sure I can say anything more intelligent here than I did there and I'm concerned that I'm re-enforcing gender stereotypes by even pointing out these habits. I know lots of women in the technical world, but it does seem to me that they participate less in these informal conversations than the men I know (and I included myself; I'm a lame commenter). What are the implications of that, if any?

I know this blog is random and all over the place, which doesn't lend itself to being read regularly by people who are interested in specific topics. I personally like the randomness of it, even while I recognize that it means I don't get linked to by others as often. And I know that randomness is typical of many women bloggers. Although not true of all women, of course, women tend to mush the different parts of their lives together more than men and that tendency is reflected in their blogs. Except Jim's blog is random, too, but it's random in a different way than mine. I'm not sure I've ever seen him post about his kids or his family or personal life, really. His topics may shift, but they never drift to the personal. Maybe men shy away from the personal, both in their reading and posting habits. Maybe women are drawn to the personal and so are not drawn to male-authored blogs. I don't know. I do know there's research out there and I do wish I knew more. Please do comment on this issue if you have thoughts and can point me in different directions.

*For the record, I just want to note that I know that we don't always know what gender a blogger is, nor do we know what relationship their gender has to their biological sex. And further, I also recognize and appreciate that gender is not a category that can be easily divided into male-female. But I do recognize that people tend to do that and that certain patterns related to gender identity seem to emerge and I'm interested in those.