June 06, 2005
This Word Blog...
Apparently, Duncan was on C-SPAN the other night and got nailed with the "where are all the women bloggers" question. Lance Mannion undertakes the now-rote deconstruction here (although what exactly is this dichotomy between "wonks" and "writers"? Which is James Wolcott, for instance? Digby?). What seems to pop up in his post, though, is that the definition of blogger varies in context. To the political world, a blog is an unabashedly, overtly, conventionally political opinion site. Think Yglesias or Kos or Drum or Willis. And so when C-SPAN wonders about women bloggers, the question isn't so much about women with websites as it is about women who write like, well, political savants. And when the swift and harsh rejoinders from female bloggers hit, they're not pointing to women who spend all day poring over the Washington Post, they're aiming at a larger variety of blogs with broader topic choice that zig-zags along that fuzzy line separating the personal from the political.
The problem, however, is that neither side quite wants to redefine their question into the other's terms. C-SPAN does want overtly political bloggers, Lance Mannion is sincere in his preference for wide topic choice over electoral minutia. Think back to the recent scuffle over where the female op-ed writers were. Pointing to a bunch of female style or arts columnists wouldn't have answered the question because, in that case, both sides were talking about the political sort of op-ed. Not so here. But neither can the two worlds shake hands and ignore each other. The central trouble, as it happens, is that the beltway blogs -- by which I mean the deeply, obsessively political sites -- have attracted an inordinate amount of attention. When the outside world asks about blogs, more often than not they're wondering about James Joyner, Duncan Black, and their many imitators. As a result, the blogs that keep getting promoted, and thus garnering larger and larger audiences, are the beltway blogs, and they keep linking to their brethren because that's what they're interested in, and the cycle spins on.
So when Atrios gets asked where the female bloggers are, the correct answer is all over, but not in the way that interests the interviewer. And because of that, the subset of blogs that males write in larger numbers keeps growing in recognition and influence without bringing the other, less well-defined but more equally-gendered blogospheres with it. It is thus only a matter of time before the first serious work of philosophy comes out about how to create a "just" blogroll. Do we need to retreat to the Original Position and recognize the role of chance in sensitizing us to topics or are all individuals autonomous and informed enough to freely compete for publicity? Crooked Timber, we're waiting...
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This is what I get for being too cute. I think that one of the points of my post is that the "writers" should stop looking to the "wonks" to make their reputations for them. At least, that's a point I wanted to make.
But there is more to life than an appearance on C SPAN or a place on another Whither Blogging panel.
We all want more readers. I don't want to go on TV or the radio, except as a commentator on All Things Considered, that would be fun. But I would like to sell ads. (How's that working out, by the way?) And I would like get some free-lance gigs, so a little name recognition would help.
More links from the big names would go a long way. But I think there can be some mutual assistance here.
I'm working on a post making a case that linking more often to the writers would help the wonks in a couple of important ways.
The distinction between wonks and writers is also a little cute. I just didn't like the sound of specialists and generalists. It sounded too medical.
And you're right, the wonks vs writers forumla doesn't have room for Digby. But he's one of kind.
As is Jeanne D'arc.
I don't prefer the writers to the wonks. I prefer some writers to some wonks, and some wonks to some writers. And I prefer some wonks to other wonks.
You are one of my prefered wonks.
Posted by: Lance Mannion | Jun 6, 2005 11:18:03 AM
We do not yet understand the blogosphere, or how ro utilize it. Read someone this morning saying the left tragedy of the sixties was "coalition politics, bringing a spear to a gunfight" To me, the non-political blogs are more important than the overtly political blogs. The nodes of the network will get smaller, but the entire network will become tighter. An advantage the Democrats will gave over Repubs is precisely our non-political resources.
Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 6, 2005 11:21:00 AM
It's an interesting question. I tend to think Democrats are better at influencing/informing press coverage and raising money while the right has it over us in ginning up scandals and attacking the media. In any case, you're almost certainly correct that these smaller, broader blogs we're talking about are, in the aggregate, more important opinion influencers than we are. That's why I'm only half-kidding above -- the two spheres do need to integrate a bit better. The problem is the polinerds, myself included, like to read other polinerds, and tune out of websites when the content diverges. I'm not defending it, it's just how, for me, it works.
And Lance, thanks ;)
Posted by: Ezra | Jun 6, 2005 11:31:43 AM
I think part of the problem is how you look at politics. Some of the blogs by women discuss matters that are definitely political - feminism being an obvious example - but which may not be the hot topic for your policy wonks. I am much more interested in what is going to happen to the working poor than I am about who said what in the ranks of either political party. Like most of the people in this country, I'm looking for someone to talk about things that affect me - unemployment and wage issues, energy consumption, education, health care, etc. and many of the women bloggers discuss these things without the wonkishness that C-SPAN is looking for. To be honest, if any of the media would like to know how to get the attention of those of us in both the geographic and political centers, they might want to stop interviewing the same damned people about the same damned thing and maybe, just maybe, invite some people to talk about the verifiable effect of policies on individuals and communities in a thoughtful and detailed manner.
Yeah. That'll happen in my lifetime....it's easier to yawp about how there aren't any women interested in politics.
Posted by: Reba | Jun 6, 2005 1:42:23 PM
I use the term "wonk" rarely and with high regard. Ezra, Yglesias, Mark Schmitt, Laura Rozen, and Brad Plumer all qualify. Digby and Wolcott don't. In my view, wonks are people who advance the debate about policy proposals. I don't regard Glenn Reynolds or Atrios (usually) as wonks in this sense. They mostly run link sites.
Posted by: Neil the Werewolf | Jun 6, 2005 3:04:49 PM
Well, it's not as though there are no wonky women bloggers, although, speaking as someone who spent half of yesterday identified on Brad DeLong's blog as 'he', I can see how someone might get that idea.
Posted by: hilzoy | Jun 6, 2005 3:37:34 PM
The problem is that there's a difference between writing about politics and being a wonk, too--I don't think that Beltway politics are really the strength of blogs, anyway. Local politics are by far bloggers' best opportunity to make a name for ourselves in the long run--since I started reading blogs, I've noticed that by the time a political/cultural issue gets the attention of the big name bloggers or pundits, the smaller bloggers have been kicking it around for a long time.
Feminist bloggers in particular are likely to draw our politics and other interests together since the personal is political and all that. This is where we're different from most pundits and in that difference lies our strength.
Anyway, the wonks write about other stuff--you write about movies and music, Ezra, but that doesn't seem to stick to men and give them a bad rep in the same way it does women.
Posted by: Amanda | Jun 6, 2005 9:52:46 PM
Also, Pandagon is a "political" blog and we had a discussion on whether or not nipple play is standard-issue for men now. Gotta side with Lance--that rules.
Posted by: Amanda | Jun 6, 2005 10:02:44 PM
Yeah, but how often do I write about movies and music? The focus of my blog, for better or worse, is almost exclusively politics (and not the personal kind). Indeed, you don't hear anyone doubting Jeanne D'Arc or Shakespeare's Sister on this point -- when women write with the singular focus we're talking about, they're grouped into the same category as I am, so I have to disagree with your implication there.
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