Meryl’s Blogiversary

It’s Meryl Yourish’s third blogiversary. One year is a long time in blog years. A blog that’s been around two years in ancient. Three is an eternity. Put it this way: InstaPundit’s archives only go back to August 2001.

Meryl promises another “major feminist rant,” inspired by John Hawkins (he’s inspired a couple of those!) and yours truly. Apparently, the fact that John wants to be on a desert island with cute blog chicks is evidence of “sexism in the blogosphere,” as is my (granted, repeated) quips linking to Meryl’s posts. I disagree on both counts.

For one thing, there’s a difference between whimsical posts and substantive ones. Clearly, John’s selections to accompany him on the island are the former. I don’t know John particularly well, but I’m guessing that, were he actually scheduled for an extended stay on a remote island, he’d select people with skill sets useful to survival—some ex-Special Forces types, people with medical training, and so forth—rather than just people who, off the top of his head, he thought would be fun company. Second, John chose five guys and five gals, so the list wasn’t purely hedonistic unless he’s bisexual (…not that there’s anything wrong with that…). Indeed, even the women seem to have been chosen mainly for being chipper rather than hot.

I disagree strongly that there’s some sort of anti-female bias in the blogosphere. Aside from the meteoric rise of Wonkette to the top ranks almost literally overnight, there are quite a few ladies in the upper ranks of the Ecosystem, a list that rewards linkage rather than simply traffic. Michele Catalano is currently #10* and several others are in the top 100, including Meryl herself.

Certainly, the men far outnumber the women on the list (or any of the others you’d want to use). This isn’t a function of women’s opinions getting less respect than men’s but rather the fact that the list is dominated by political blogs, a category that naturally attracts more male writers. The fact that political blogging really took off after 9/11 and national security issues have dominated the class has also skewed the list towards male bloggers, as those with military experience—especially combat arms experience—have something of an advantage in writing on those topics. Women with military experience, like Juliette of Baldilocks, have done quite well for themselves. Indeed, she’d easily be in the top 100 if she posted more frequently.

For whatever reason—whether mainly owing to innate tendencies or socialization is irrelevant here—male bloggers tend to focus on politics, sports, and other external matters whereas female bloggers tend to write about their personal lives. Of the prominent bloggers, I can’t think of a single male that writes more than occasionally about his family life, his feelings, or the like. (Tony Woodlief was a former exception, but his blogging has been occasional at best for well over a year.) Megan McArdle, Virginia Postrel, and Kathy Kinsley are the TTLB top 100 female bloggers who don’t. The women of the blogosphere are far more likely to have photos of themselves up. They’re far more likely to engage in sexual banter. Michele talks about her “boobies” and Kate about her “damned near perfect ass” far more often than any prominent male blogger talks about his body parts. Partly, this is a function of their audiences being primarily male and that’s just the way men and women interact. And partly it’s just that women tend to be a lot more open about their inner lives than men.

These differences don’t, so far as I can tell, mean that male readers don’t respect the writing of female bloggers. People wouldn’t keep coming back to read Michele, Kate, Megan, Meryl, Kathy, and others if they didn’t enjoy their writing and care what they had to say. They’re all attractive women but that’s really beside the point; indeed, I didn’t know what several of them looked like until recently and only cared out of curiosity. There are lots of attractive female bloggers who are far more sexual—and free with their pictures—than they are who get only a fraction of their readership and linkage. Even Wonkette, who’s largely a creation of a big media publicity machine, wouldn’t keep getting the massive readership she’s attracted if she weren’t very good at what she does.

I’d also note that, for heterosexual men, noticing whether women are attractive to them is second nature. All noticing of differences between the sexes isn’t sexist, just as every disagreement over Israel policy isn’t anti-Semitic. Certainly, a jocular expression of desire to be surrounded by good-looking women while stranded on an island isn’t evidence of sexism. Now, making the women bake all the cocoanut pies while the men build a raft or take naps on the hammock–that’s sexist.

As a blogiversary present to Meryl, I’ll refrain from humorous-to-me innuendo when linking to her posts. For a while at least. Probably.

*I’m discounting Autumnleaf’s Thoughts, which is ranked #10 because of a glitch in the Ecosystem. Which is a shame, because it’s a female blog and would add apparent support for my thesis.

Correction: Michele is actually #8 on the Ecosystem rankings. I had an old version in my cache, which oddly didn’t clear itself.

FILED UNDER: Best of OTB, Blogosphere, Gender Issues, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michele says:

    John’s post stopped being substantive when he referred to his female companions as “easy on the eyes.”

  2. jen says:

    It stopped being substantive? When did it start being substantive? I read Hawkins’ post as 100% spoof with a little bit of butt-kissing to a few of his blog-favorites.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I’m with Jen on this one–I didn’t think it was a serious post. Hell, it’s not even a serious topic.

  4. Mike says:

    “Of the prominent bloggers, I can’t think of a single male that writes more than occasionally about his family life, his feelings, or the like.”

    What about Lileks? While they might not be a blog, his bleats come pretty damn close and get some wide play.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Mike,

    I didn’t think of Lileks, since he doesn’t post in a normal blog format. He is an exception; I’m sure there are others.

  6. Jeremiah says:

    Vinny has been posting about his weight loss fairly often on insignificant thoughts. That’s fairly personal.

  7. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think Vinny is in the top 100 and I don’t read him in any event.

    Several of the top male bloggers–Dean Esmay, Dodd Harris, Stephen Green–have posted on reasonably personal matters. It’s just not as central to their blogs as it is for most of the top female bloggers.

  8. michele says:

    Well, I did the math and it looks like I wrote about my boobies three times in the past year – and context is necessary.

  9. maura says:

    If men are under no obligation to hide themselves, their gender, or their sexuality, why should women be? To level some imaginary playing field? Sounds like a double standard to me, being maintained *not* by – ahem – men.

  10. James Joyner says:

    maura,

    I’m not arguing that women should hide their gender or sexuality, merely that if their sexuality is part of their blog conversation then it’s a part of the conversation within the blogosphere.

    Megan McArdle is stunningly good looking. It almost never comes into the discussion about her blog posts, though, because it’s not a part of her blog. Her posts are almost entirely analytical (indeed, more so than mine, in that I’ve got at least occasional pop culture stuff and other low-substance material) and the reaction to them is almost entirely on the analysis.

  11. Shelley says:

    Read until I got here:

    “This isn’t a function of women’s opinions getting less respect than men’s but rather the fact that the list is dominated by political blogs, a category which naturally attracts more male writers.”

    What a bunch of BS.

    Women write about politics as much, but they do so more quietly, and usually with less interest in celebrating death and destruction…and with less pontificating. Probably because women weren’t encouraged to play with toy soldiers when they were younger, so they don’t carry this fixation into their adulthood. Unlike so many of the guys.

    Most of the guys who write about politics do so because this is their last chance to be the jock at the school prom.