This blog is closed. For more recent content, visit Chris Clarke's new site Coyote Crossing.

Creek Running North

<< A couple of provocative quotes | Main | Friday extinct herring blogging! >>


March 17, 2005

X marks the chromosome

I'm the last person that would want to promote any kind of gender stereotype, and so I've put off writing about a certain issue for quite some time now. But try as I might, the problem just seems to be getting worse and worse, and whether I like it or not I think it's time to say something.

I've been around the Internets for some time now, about a decade and a half, and have been genuinely enjoying the explosion of good writing to be found on blogs over the last three or four years.

But it has become increasingly obvious that the truly well-written blogs, the blogs with incisive commentary and thoughtful analysis, the blogs that are truly interesting and reflect a wide range of expertise are almost entirely written - OK, here goes - they're almost all written by people of one specific gender.

So I have to ask: Where are all the male bloggers?

I mean it's widely known that males have almost the same capacity for abstract thought as women, and language skills that easily match those of a sub-average woman having a bad day. Men have permeated almost every part of our enlightened modern society, from Death Row to Fox News to the World Bank.

But is that quality some exceptional men have that approaches what for lack of a better phrase I'll call "intelligence" reflected anywhere in the blog world? No. Almost without exception, the interesting blogs - the varied, wide-ranging, nuanced and thoughtful blogs - are written by women.

Oh, there are a couple exceptions, to be sure. (No, you in the back there. I'm not talking about Coulter. That's not funny. Sit down.) There are a few Juan Coles and David Neiwerts out there, spunky little troupers who've marched chin up into the world of adult discourse, and who can almost match the big girls in quality. In fact, I think almost all of them are on my blogroll, those rare men who have the tits to take on controversial and complex subjects. So where are the rest of them? Where are the male Roxannes, the male Majikthisen, the Armando Marcottes, the Wonkettemen?

I wonder if this isn't just a reflection of the way society works. We've all been to those family gatherings where the incisive, important discussion of issues of the day happens among the women in the kitchen while the men sit around immobile and silent, staring dully at the shiny television screen. It may well be that we're up against an intrinsic limitation of the male mind here.

I know, I know. You're a man, and you blog, and I'm being unfair to you. You might be right, though I doubt it, because I've seen a bunch of male blogs and found them uninteresting. Men don’t write commentary, don’t come up with new ideas. I'm always looking for blogs to link to for the benefit of my readers, but men just don't provide me with much linkable material. It's almost as if there were two different English blogging languages: call them XXHTML and XYHTML.

Still, if your misinterpretation of my remarks hurts your feelings, I apologize.

But let's take a look at a typical male blogger exchange, which has been slightly disguised and condensed to spare the no doubt fragile feelings of the men responsible:


Blogger #1: Oooh, that New York Times Economist Columnist is such a Bitch. I hate him.
Blogger #2: Oh, get a load of Blogger #1: he thinks he is all that.
Blogger #1: Oh, no, Blogger #2 did not say that. [Little suppressed scream of outrage.] And did you hear what that little Marxist tramp at the Times wrote this week?
Blogger #2: Blogger #1 loves that columnist. I think Blogger #1 is acting like a stalker.
Blogger #1: You take that back. You take that back! I am so gonna sue your little ass!

And so forth.

This male failure to measure up to the standards set by women extends to the blog commenting sphere as well. Even in the rare case of an incisive, well-written male blog post, you are likely to find an appended string of comments along the lines of:

-First!
-First!
-First! Oh, damn.
-First!
-FRIST!!!1!
-BUSH SCKS
-Bush r00lz
-First!
-LOL good post.
-excellent post, and nice design too your blogtexasholdem

Stereotypical though the notion may be, comment strings such as the above do strongly suggest that men talk to one another primarily as social signaling and bonding rather than to exchange ideas. Is it any wonder that male blogs are, at their root, a global "cock party"?

To be fair, the traditional male difficulty with technology may well play a role here, as witness this familiar comment string phenomenon:

"Objectively Pro Saddam"

I hage Andrew Sullivan but that's a good phrase.
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:45 pm | #
--

"Objectively Pro Saddam"

I hage Andrew Sullivan but that's a good phrase.
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:46 pm | #
--

"Objectively Pro Saddam"

I hage Andrew Sullivan but that's a good phrase.
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:47 pm | #
--

Sorry, I don';t know why that posted twice
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:47 pm | #
--

Sorry, I don';t know why that posted twice
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:48 pm | #
--

Sorry, I don';t know why that posted twice
SPQR | Email | Homepage | 03.17.04 - 9:48 pm | #

etc.

I confess to some sadness about the situation. The establishment of a handful of well-written men's blogs on subjects other than the stereotypical "men's issues" - cars, genital size, hatred of differing political thought - would be a huge benefit to the online world. Until then - until more men can learn to blog like women - I guess we're stuck with the old girl's network.

Posted by Chris Clarke at March 17, 2005 07:53 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.faultline.org/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/993

1 blog(s) linking to this post:

Y Chromosomes Behaving Badly
Excerpt: I don't want to sound sexist, so I'll let Creek Running North do it for me: I've been around the Internets for some time now, about a decade and a half, and have been genuinely enjoying the explosion of good
Weblog: What Do I Know?
Tracked: March 18, 2005 06:37 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Comments

You rock.

Posted by: Roxanne at March 17, 2005 08:04 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

I don't read many blogs, so I don't feel qualified to comment on the man vs. woman thing. I can tell you, though, that those of us who try to wring a living from words are, of necessity, not interested in giving away our best work - especially when there are people out there willing to pay for it. If blogging covered the bills, I suspect you’d see a trend toward excellent posts from both sexes.

Posted by: tost at March 17, 2005 08:34 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

It's reassuring to know that's not a sample of your best work.

Posted by: doghouse riley at March 17, 2005 09:02 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Well, THAT dragged my sleepy eyelids open! Hard to get through, though, I was laughing so hard.

I remember eons ago when I worked "in academia" with a bunch of guys. Part of our job was answering email from engineering profs. The guys would reply with one word answers, leaving more questions to come. I'd take the time to send several sentences, with as complete a picture as I thought the person needed. When they called, they always asked for me, and then I had to confess I knew nothing about engineering and if they had a question about their article on neural nets, they needed to talk to one of the guys.

Yeah, you guys are lucky we even let you near a keyboard.

Posted by: KathyF at March 18, 2005 12:14 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

cool post.

Posted by: Craig at March 18, 2005 02:29 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

First thought – this is not really my experience. I’m a new blogger and just compiling my blogroll, so it was a good time to check it out. Check confirmed my first thought – there are more women among my favourites, but not that many more. Blogging is thus a notable exception to the - sometimes depressing - rule that everything which interests me attracts all or mostly women. Among the bloggers I love to read, all of whom write well, copiously, thoughtfully, sometimes emotionally, about some or all of writing, place, nature, meditation and, of course, their own lives and feelings, are: Fred (http://www.fragmentsfromfloyd.com/), John (Diary of a Writing Man: http://www.oldgreypoet.com/ ), Dale (Mole: http://koshtra.blogspot.com/), Gary (http://www.inkmuse.com/imblog/), Elck (http://vernacularbody.typepad.com/), Ernesto (http://neverneutral.blogspot.com/), Andy (http://olderandgrowing.blogspot.com/), Tom (http://middlewesterner.typepad.com/), Pavel (http://www.orionrising.org/orion/) and you.

Posted by: Jean at March 18, 2005 03:51 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

First!

Um, seventh. My bad.

Posted by: the_bone at March 18, 2005 06:40 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Given that one member of each sex posted a decidely bland comment here - "You rock" and "Cool post" don't offer much of substance - I'm a little less sold on the idea than you.

While you've written an amusing and opinionated post, sure to attract attention, it does seem a bit silly.

Despite my having genitals, I don't believe this a purely defensive reaction. With innumerable blogs popping up these days, most newbies are faced with what some sociologists call Shopper's Overload. With so many options, we choose to stick with the blogs of refute, usually those we read about or have recommended to us. Generally, if I was asked to fabricate a number, I think 60% of the well-known, thoughtful blogs are written by women, but there are quite a few excellent sites with content from the limited male mind.

Also, as tost suggests above, blogs are mostly written by those of us who have a penchant for masturbation; very few blogs are written by people who make a living from writing - though some bloggers certainly hope to parlay a reputation into cash flow - and the higher percentage of strong women bloggers may reflect a societal bias that is still in the process of changing: more men are paid to write for a living, at least in the journalistic realm, which most closely resembles the blog. Hopefully we will see this change, particularly since many women are superior writers, but what it's effect on the blogosphere will be remains to be seen.

At any rate, while I enjoyed reading the post, I thought it trivialized a legitimate observation.

Posted by: Hungry Hyaena at March 18, 2005 09:47 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Chris, that bit about the "firsts" cracked me up. Hang around Atrios much?

Hungry Hyena, I think you are missing the satirical edge of Chris' post. Or, you're missing the larger context in which the original source for the satire operates. This debate about "women bloggers" is a recurring meta-meme among so-called "liberal" bloggers who write blogs exclusively in a political columnist vein. And it's always written in this odd musing tone, as if the blogger is bemused by the strangeness that is women and mystified by biased gender dynamics -- gender dynamics to which bloggers like him contribute. Moreover, each time it's presented as something new and profound instead of the same warmed-over hash of misperceptions about women, blogging, and the poster's position relative to both.

So it's entertaining to see Chris inverting the meme, particularly since this makes it even more clear how stupid the whole thing is. On the one hand, this post shouldn't be taken too seriously, in that it's intended to be humorous mockery. On the other, it needs to be taken more seriously than you are, inasmuch as it points out the absurdity of the perpetuation of skewed notions of blogging and bloggers and women by men who claim to be thoughtful, intelligent liberals.

Posted by: Rana at March 18, 2005 10:29 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Yes, apparently I was missing the satirical edge, as I'd no idea this topic was something that the liberal, political bloggers were musing over. I visit a fair number of those types of blogs, but I guess I've been fortunate enough to miss days when they wrestled with the notion of mystical woman.

I think your concerns about my not taking it seriously enough are misplaced, though. You need not worry about my understanding the gravity of the situation; you see, I'm a thoughtful, intelligent liberal man. I feel you.

Posted by: Hungry Hyaena at March 18, 2005 12:05 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

oh dear! I enjoyed the humour of your tone, Chris, without really realising that the thrust of your argument was intended equally humorously! Partly, I was blissfully oblivious to the line you're parodying - I just don't hang out there... Partly, the gender polarisation really is that much of a caricature in most areas of life (my life, anyway), even if it isn't really quite the case with blogging. Oh well, can't praise those I love to read too often!

Posted by: jean at March 18, 2005 12:06 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Well, Mr. Hyaena, then we're good. :) Not that you need my approval or anything.

I have to say your polite response makes me glad I assumed innocence on your part; I'd have hated to let fire with full bore Rana snark (my usual response on these "women blogger" threads, alas -- it often seems like it's the only way to get heard) only to realize it wasn't warranted.

jean -- it's pretty unbelievable, isn't it? Chris' tone is a bit of an exaggeration, as are his "claims", but not, sadly, all that far from some of the original versions!

Posted by: Rana at March 18, 2005 12:18 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

you see, I'm a thoughtful, intelligent liberal man. I feel you.

Not without her express consent, buster.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at March 18, 2005 12:25 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

bwah!

Posted by: Rana at March 18, 2005 12:40 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Very amusing take on this oft-discussed topic.

Posted by: Z*lda at March 18, 2005 06:17 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Incidentally, Rebecca Blood wrote insightfully about the gender/blogging question on March 18, 2005 [can't find the direct link to the post, sorry].

Posted by: Z*lda at March 19, 2005 08:08 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Most entertaining, excellent turnabout. Did I say most entertaining? With two most entertainings, we will throw in a delightful for free! Charmed, did I say charmed?

Posted by: The Heretik at March 19, 2005 10:42 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs