Why So Few Female Pundits?

The Susan Estrich-Mike Kinsley kerfuffle has brought the dearth of females on the op-ed pages to the forefront. Kevin Drum weighs in with a thoughtful response, observing that the trend seems to have replicated itself in the blogosphere.

Yet if you take a look at the Blogosphere Ecosystem, which for all its faults is probably the closest thing we have to a consensus measure of popularity for political blogs, you will find exactly two women in the top 30: Michelle Malkin and La Shawn Barber. (There are a few group blogs in the top 30, but those are very heavily male dominated too.)

That’s a grand total of 7% of the most popular political blogs. And to gaze even more deeply into our collective navel, that 7% is 100% conservative. On the liberal side, Wonkette weighs in at #33, and the most popular serious political blog authored by a liberal woman is TalkLeft, ranked 48th. That’s it for the top 100, unless I’ve missed someone.

Michele Catalano, who doesn’t do much political commentary these days, is at #36 and Megan McArdle, who does, is at #61. But the point remains a good one.

Kevin articulates the reason most of us would give for the male/female disparity:

[M]en are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing — both writing it and reading it. Since I don’t wish to suffer the fate of Larry Summers I’ll refrain from speculating on deep causes — it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know — but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women.

It’s as good a reason I can come up with.

What I actually find more interesting than the overall male/female gap, though, is the ideological one. As Kevin notes, the two most popular female bloggers are conservatives. So are are four of the top six (Catalano and McArdle are libertarian moreso than conservative, but they both supported the Iraq War and President Bush’s re-election, so we’ll count them for our purposes). Since American women are far more apt to vote Democrat than their male counterparts, this is rather surprising.

Update: Extraneous “The” eliminated.

Update (2140): Betsy Newmark doesn’t care what gender writers are. She (and LaShawn) chide Kevin for not linking the sites he referred to in his initial post, which he’s since done. In Kevin’s defense, I often fail to link top sites if I’m just referring to them casually–especially if I’m doing it serially like Kevin did above. It’s out of laziness or haste rather than a desire to cheat people out of linkage.

Update (2-21): Commenter John Lemon sheds some light on this paradox:

I don’t see the problem here. Michelle Malkin is hot. (Note her sexy windblown hair in her blog picture.) Kevin Drum is not hot. (I don’t care if Kevin has windblown hair or not.) That is why Michelle Malkin is in the top blogs. […] Now if Tia Carrere would have a blog, I would read it.


Excellent observations. Of course, one would think this would lead to more women among the top bloggers. . . .

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Media, , , , , , , , , , ,
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.


  1. La Shawn says:

    I wonder why Kevin Drum didn’t link to my blog? Would have been nice…:)

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    There are too many variables to consider. The Ecosystem rewards early adopters (the age of a blog is a pretty fair predictor of its ranking). Michelle Malkin’s blog is a remarkable exception to that: she zoomed to Higher Being status soon after starting out (name recognition certainly played a part).

    Are women disproportionately represented in the Top 30 of the blogosphere relative to the total number of female bloggers? Relative to the number of early-adopting female bloggers?

    Quite a few of the top left-leaning bloggers are arguably professional bloggers. It may be that on the left side of the blogosphere the egg of a paycheck for blogging precedes the chicken of the activity of blogging. And it may be that left-leaning organization discriminate against female bloggers.

  3. Michael says:

    As far as traffic goes, the stats are different:

    #08. Wonkette
    #11. Michelle Malkin

    La Shawn is not even in the top 250.

    Michele Catalano is #38

  4. Toni says:

    Interesting but not surprising. I have one female blogger friend who I didn’t know was even female after emailing with her for about a month. Then she finally sent from her personal email with her name. She seemed to think that her credibility would be doubted among visitors if they knew her as female. Personally for myself, I started so late, didn’t think it would matter. I’m not nor ever will be a biggie so I don’t worry about it.

  5. paladin says:

    The tide may be turning. My 15 year old son has about an equal amount of male and female friends. Of the females, I’d say about 75% have blogs, but 0% of the males blog.

  6. La Shawn says:

    Indeed. I average only 5,000+ visitors per day. Kevin Drum could have cited women bloggers by traffic instead of links. Perhaps asking him why he didn’t is the more interesting question.

  7. Kevin Drum says:

    “The” Kevin Drum? Is that like “The Donald”? I thought I needed a billion dollars before I could get a name like that.

    One thing worth noting is that there are just way more conservative political bloggers than liberals. The ratio is about 4:1 or so, which explains why there are more female conservatives than female liberals. However, it doesn’t explain the very low number of women to begin with.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Another possible explanation is the disproportional representation of IT folk (who are still mostly male) among bloggers. And that brings us back to Larry Summers.

  9. jen says:

    I’d be willing to bet that a lot of women bloggers who are politically minded don’t necessarily wish to bring the trolls a-calling. I mean, look at the vitriol from the Left that’s spewed at Malkin because of her views. Why would we want to invite that?

  10. bryan says:

    You should also note that Michele Catalano was much higher up in the blog rankings a year ago before she kicked the political stuff out of the blog.

    These days, name recognition is about the only thing that’s going to drive someone to the top of the rankings quickly.

  11. Just Me says:

    I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that men overall are more comfortable with the computer end of blogging.

    There are a lot of women on the various comment sections, so I don’t know that you can argue women don’t like the debate aspect, and it would be difficult to figure out just how many men/women read the various blogs.

  12. El Cid says:

    I think the early adopter theory is valid and the inertia of that will take time to break. Blogging is new, relatively, it is hard to envision how the ecosphere will look in 5 years after real maturity.

  13. John Lemon, Now Extra Sour says:

    First off, “Kevin Drum” and “thoughtful” should not be used in the same sentence.

    Second, I don’t see the problem here. Michelle Malkin is hot. (Note her sexy windblown hair in her blog picture.) Kevin Drum is not hot. (I don’t care if Kevin has windblown hair or not.) That is why Michelle Malkin is in the top blogs. Now, this really doesn’t explain the question, but who cares.

    Now if Tia Carrere would have a blog, I would read it.


  14. John Lemon, Now Semi Sweet says:

    In addition, if that chick in the ad on the upper right of your blog would start a blog, I would read that too.

  15. Elizabeth B says:

    It is possible to figure out how many men/women read a few blogs, specifically those that were surveyed by blogads:

    “They are also far more male — 79%! — than I expected, versus 56% of NYTimes.com’s reader. To be clear, the survey’s responses are a fragment of a sample of a subset.”

    You can see the results here:

    So there is data out there. Of course, there’s data out there about women and mathematics, too, but don’t tell any feminists that. However, I know that here in the blogosphere, data is appreciated!

    I worked in the Air Force as a statistician and knew a lot of mathematicians, both male and female. However, the most brilliant ones I knew were all male. However, I also teach remedial phonics, and more of the reading failures seem to be male. Women seem better at overall language skills than men, and girls seem less harmed by improper teaching of reading than boys.

  16. Kathy K says:

    I think the ‘early adopters’ theory may have something to do with it. And the fact that women who are bloggers are more likely to be ‘diarists’ (I suspect among all bloggers, including personal, you’d find women over-represented).
    I’ll also note that most of my fellow female bloggers are less likely to engage in the kind of self-promotion that puts you up in the top ten.
    Wonkette being an exception.

  17. Katherine says:

    I would like to phrase it differently:

    1) If this is noteworthy, is it because it’s a problem?
    2) If so, why not do something about it?
    3) If not, what the hell’s your point? (One possible alternative is: to make patronizing generalizations about women not having opinions.)

    Based on reading Drum’s blogroll I would guess:
    1) he links to the same blogs that everyone else links to. He makes no effort to link to new weblogs that everyone HASN’T already heard of, and only middling effort to link to the best weblogs rather than the best known.
    2) He updates the blogroll rarely, reinforcing the early adopter thing
    3) He makes a conscious effort to link to conservative weblogs as well as liberal ones
    3) He makes no conscious effort at all to link to weblogs by women.

    As to the “hotness” thing: it is not exactly unheard of for women’s looks to count more than men’s in their professional success.

    One observation: every female blogger I know of who does not blog under an explicitly female name has people assume she’s male–even if she has actually referred to her gender or her screen name sounds more like a women’s name than a man’s.

  18. DJ Drummond says:

    I have some thoughts on the matter, and no, it does not seem to be related to “hotness”.

    There are demographics and social trends involved, if you think about it, as well as at least two clear means to redress the imbalance.

  19. LJD says:

    Has any one verified the actual sex of bloggers Pat, Terry, Joe, Sam, or Jean?

  20. Toni says:

    I don’t agree with the comment from Just Me. I don’t think it has anything to do with women vs men who are IT proficient. I think part has to do with the troll issue but moreso that not as many women as men are news/politics junkies which is primarily what it takes to be a successful blogger. I’m sure there are other reasons but if Michelle Malkin can make it then any woman can make it(this is not to take anything away from Michelle).

  21. don't ask says:

    I’m a female political junkie just reaching the point of bursting with info enough to consider a blog. The big picture has come clearer into focus re: global domination vs. families retaining access to water, food, education et cetera, around the world. Anyone care to comment on global domination? I thought not. This is a conservative blog, after all.