January 08, 2006
(Sigh) Women & Blogging, Part 72
Posted by Christine Hurt

For our readers who were not lucky enough to attend Friday's "Blogging:  Scholarship or Distraction?" panel (or who were lucky enough to leave early), you missed quite a surreal free-for-all at the end of the Q&A session.  The preceding panel was great, with Larry Solum speaking bullishly on blogging, but more importantly on broader technological advances such as SSRN, Bepress, and Google, Vic Fleischer speaking optimistically, but cautiously, and Randy Barnett expressing the (qualified) view that blogging was good for senior scholars, dangerous for junior scholars.  (Paul Caron has an outline of all three remarks here.) 

However, during the end of the Q&A session, the topic turned to women and blogging, beginning with the question "Why aren't more women blogging," which led to questions such as "Why aren't any women on this panel?," "What does Christine do with her children?" and then, "What do these men on the panel do with their children?"  (Only one person on the panel had children, and they are grown, so that question was poorly researched.)  This panel will be podcast at some point, so I will go back and listen to see if I actually heard what I thought I heard.

Below, the fold, I will give my reasons for why, at the present time, my interest has waned in the "women and blogging question." 

1.  Mere disparities in number of men and women engaging in blogging is not due to any insidious discrimination or hierarchical structure.

Although if one found disparities in the number of women and men being admitted to law school, graduating from law school, being hired at certain jobs or being promoted at them then one would have reason to consider some sort of discrimination on the part of the decisionmakers, this situation is not analogous.  In blogging, there is no gatekeeper or decisionmaker restricting access to blogging.  Unless Typepad is dumber than we think, anyone who wants to have a blog can have one in about 15 minutes.  Any disparity among genders must be due to something else.

2.  Mere disparities in number of men and women engaging in blogging is not due to restricted access to the resources of blogging.

Blogging requires little capital, education, or skills.  So, even if women were being denied access to capital or to educational opportunities, women could still blog.  Women would not have to petition a dean for money or go to a bank or even ask the dean for research support.  Some blogging platforms are free, and most are cheap.  The barriers to entry of blogging are as close to zero as one can imagine.  The questioners at the panel referred to time, and free time could be seen as a barrier to entry to blogging.  However, I have come to believe that we all make time-based choices and we can make time for new activities if we want to do so.  I don't piddle; I don't drink coffee or do the NYT crossword except on airplanes.  I don't watch TV now that Rome is over and I exercise just enough not to die.  This leaves me some time to blog.

3.  Mere disparities in number of men and women engaging in blogging is not due to discrimination by consumers.

Even if no one would read a woman's blog or link to it, that blog would still survive.  Unlike a restaurant or store that needs customers to survive, because the costs of running a blog are so low and the financial advantage of readers/linkers negligible (notwithstanding ads), a blog can survive on the desire of the author alone.  Even if there exists a propensity for men to blog and to link to other men, this should not foreclose women from entering the blogosphere or for remaining in the blogosphere.

4.  I am beginning to think that the disparity may be due to something called a "preference."

Marketers make zillions of dollars a year recognizing that women like some movies, TV shows, books, magazines, and food items, and that men like others.  There is some overlap, but generally there are preference differences between genders.  Why is this hard to accept?  I worked at Baskin-Robbins for a year, and every 16-year old BR employee can guess what kind of ice cream a 35-year woman is going to order.  (In 1986, this was Pralines & Cream.)  We didn't think too hard about why more women than men liked this flavor, and I never thought there was something insidious in the way women were socialized to believe that they like it.  Maybe more men then women like to blog.  What's so hard to understand about that?

5.  It may not always be this way.

As Randy Barnett pointed out, blogging is a safer choice for senior law professors than junior law professors.  Dan Solove's census (version 3.0) doesn't distinguish between ranks, but it is conceivable that more tenured persons blog than untenured.  Because there are more male tenured persons than female, then the numbers both aren't surprising and should be subject to change as time goes on.

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