Why So Few Female Pundits, Redux

Meryl Yourish has weighed in to the Why So Few Female Pundits? debate with one, two, three posts (and counting?)

Her arguments are that the Drum thesis, with Joyner concurring, that women in the aggregate are less willing to engage in political mudslinging than men is flawed because:

    1. There is a woman who is ranked ahead of all men in the sport of . . . climbing.

    2. There are other measuring sticks for blog popularity than the Ecosystem.

    3. 57% of the people who read blogs are male.

    4. Popular male bloggers don’t link to female bloggers as often as they link to male bloggers.

    5. Kevin Drum perpetuated this trend by not linking to the women bloggers he mentioned in the post about why more women bloggers don’t have a lot of links.

Interesting points. Off the top of my head (because male bloggers don’t have to do any research–links and traffic just come a’ flyin’) I’d say:

    1. I didn’t know that. Granted, I didn’t know that climbing was a sport. But, still, I’d have guessed that climbing rewarded strength and a long reach (although, presumably, also a lower body weight) and guessed males would dominate like they do in virtually every other sport. (Again, in the aggregate. Lots of women are better in lots of sports than, for example, me.)

    It may well be, too, that there are enough individual women who are geared for the nature of the political punditry that the aggregate doesn’t matter. There are several combative women out there running political blogs, several of them good. Their number certainly seems small, though, in proportion to the males. This is admittedly unscientific, but I’ve been reading and linking blogs for two years plus now.

    2. This is true. Of course, the Ecoystem and SiteMeter average daily visits are the ones that I’ve seen mentioned about 99% of the time blog metrics have been cited anywhere. Perhaps the female bloggers use different metrics, though, and I’ve missed them because of my male-centric reading habits. Of the ones Meryl listed, though, (Technorati, Blogstreet, and Daypop) I still find male blogs predominating. So presumably, the measuring stick doesn’t much matter.

    3. Also true. Could it be that, in general, male blog readers prefer to read male bloggers’ opinions? It’s possible. Michelle Malkin, La Shawn Barber, and Wonkette have managed to skyrocket to the top of the Ecosystem in short order in this milieu but that’s only three compared to five or six male/mostly male sites. Then again, it’s only a 14% margin (57-43). This doesn’t seem sufficient to explain why the overwhelming number of the top 100 blogs (as ranked by linkage) have male principal authors.

    Of course, this creates another question: Why are 57% of the readers of blogs male? Are males more interested in politics in general? More interested in the type of political discourse that takes place on blogs?

    4. Is there evidence that male bloggers link the female bloggers to whom they refer less often than they do the male bloggers? Or is this just another way of saying that male bloggers primarily read male bloggers?

    Meryl notes my Traffic Jam as an example, taking a random sampling and finding that my links are almost exclusively to male bloggers. That wouldn’t surprise me, since the blogs on my blogroll trend toward military-security coverage, a domain dominated by males much moreso than the blogosphere as a whole. In today’s installment, for example, I only link one female (LaShawn) of the five gender-known bloggers. (My sexist assumption is that the people who run this site are male, but plenty of women use the F word creatively, too.) Still, there are numerous woman bloggers on the ‘roll, one of whom is also a member of the OTB editorial team, and I’ve linked several of them in posts over the last couple of days. (Eight links to Meryl alone in just this post!) There’s no general conspiracy at OTB to keep the sisters down.

    5. True again–although he did in fact link the gals in question once the faux pax was pointed out to him. Still, as I noted at the time, bloggers often mention large numbers of sites in passing without linking to them. Unless there’s a trend at Kevin’s site of which I’m unaware of subconsciously dissing the ladies, it seems an implausible explanation.

Clearly, good writers of either sex can do quite well in the Blogosphere, regardless of the ranking metric. For whatever reason, males have tended to dominate, though. I’m not sure we’re closer to answering the question than we were when Kevin raised it.

Maybe we should ask Malkin. She’s at #5 in the Ecosystem despite the lack of stale blogroll links, #12 in average daily traffic, selling BlogAds at $80 a week, and also has a popular syndicated column and two successful books.

Update (1813): It occurs to me that the better question may be, “Why are some blog(ger)s more successful than others?” Overall blog traffic is up, presumably biting into the audience of other venues. But there are only so many eyeball hours available. Whether it’s links, traffic, ad sales, or whatever, most blog(ger)s are going to remain relatively obscure. Blog(ger)s who are in the top 100 of the Ecosystem or the upper 10% in traffic are exceptions.

Except in rare cases (e.g., Washingtienne) the sex of the blogger is unlikely to be a determinative factor in this. Writing well about topics that interest a lot of people and doing a good job of networking are keys to success. I don’t know what the key to superstardom is, though.

FILED UNDER: 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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tig says:

    With a few exceptions, I find the female bloggers have a much higher regular incidence of posts relating to children or cats than male bloggers.

  2. bryan says:

    Name recognition prior to blogging also helps, re: lashawn barber, hugh hewitt and michelle malkin. anal sex jokette Wonkette is also an outlier, because it’s part of the gawker media stable, and so had instant cache (and capital investment to boot)

  3. Kathy K says:

    (Appying my foot to Tig’s ass – I think that’s a female site you reference, James, though I can’t explain why.) Tig: please find more than a very few posts in which either I or MommaBear refer to a child or a cat? And most of those were refering to an Islamist habit of wanting to stone girl-children to death for the ‘crime’ of being raped.

    I still think the disparity in ‘celebrity’ is mainly because female bloggers (including me) don’t push for links. I have put e-mail spam blocks on 8 blog sites for little annoyances like signing me up for ‘notifications’ without my cooperation. I’m considering doing the same for several more. Not ONE of those sites is run by a female. Oh yeah, and several of them are now ‘large mammals’ or above, so the ‘spam the other blogs’ technique they used did work.

  4. Kathy K says:

    Oh… a disclaimer here: I do NOT consider it spam if someone sends me a link to a blog post they think I’ll be interested in (in fact, I like that). I DO consider it spam if they send me an e-mail notification every time they make a blog post.

  5. jen says:

    I think part of it is the self-promotion angle. For instance, James, I sent you that link earlier this week and said that a link back to me wasn’t necessary; therefore, you didn’t link to me. The traffic would have been nice, but I couldn’t say much about that particular story myself and it would have been pointless for you to link to me.

  6. Cassandra says:

    I agree with Jen. In my experience, female bloggers aren’t as aggressive about promoting their sites, and networking counts. I don’t promote VC at all – if I did I would probably have more traffic and more links.

    On the other hand, I’m doing what I want to do: writing because I enjoy it. I refuse to spend time sending posts to other bloggers because traffic and linkage, in and of themselves, aren’t important to me.

    A great example of this in action is that the two greatest spike in traffic I’ve had have resulted from MALE READERS sending my posts to other bloggers.

    I also think there are fewer women writing about politics. Although it grated on me a bit, I can’t argue with Tig’s observation. I rarely write on those subjects, but then I don’t write about what I had for lunch or my last hairdressing appt. either. I don’t run a personal blog, but if I did I’d expect only those interested in personal journal-type blogs to tune in.

    And yes, I think there’s a bit of chauvinism on the part of male bloggers, but for every one who never links to female writers even when they turn out great content, there is one who actively promotes good writing when he sees it, regardless of the writer’s gender.

    I wouldn’t have half the traffic I do have if it weren’t for John Hawkins of Right Wing News, and I’ve never sent him a single post or email asking for his help. Frankly, I consider it a greater compliment if someone – reader or other blogger – finds you on their own and voluntarily reads or links you.

    But that attitude is mystifying to most male bloggers I’ve talked to: they point out that people won’t read or link what they can’t find. And almost to a man, they are more competitive than I am – they are actively trying to increase their readership.

    Perhaps to some extent women’s relatively smaller market share in the blogosphere reflects their own internal priorities?

  7. Jim Henley says:

    Someone in some comment thread recently (Crooked Timber) wrote that “The higher you look in the blogosphere ecosystem the more assholes you see.” So there’s that. Some of the rest of it is Kathy’s point about self-promotion. But I also think there are other factors. Frex, some men may feel uncomfortable lambasting a female blogger over something she’s written with the same gusto that, say, The Poor Man will lay into PowerLine. But I think there’s also a default tendency of men to read men and link to them. As Samuel R. Delany once said in the heyday of the science-fiction fan press, “There are no sexist editorial decisions to be made, only non-sexist ones.” That is, when sexism is the default, it takes a conscious effort to break out of it.

    A double-nested irony. I’ve always thought that you, James, went out of your way to find female links for the Traffic Jams. (I think it’s important to distinguish the links you select from the trackback opt-ins.) But I’ve also always put that partially down to your flirtatious nature.

    You can’t get no respect!

  8. James Joyner says:

    The self-promotion thesis looks promising. A casual scan of my recent Traffic Jam posts shows almost no female bloggers linking themselves, even though I get 10-15 linkers a day on it.