Yet another cultural pillar as supposedly take-it-to-the-bank reliable as the freedoms guaranteed us in the U.S. Constitution has come to a crashing, disappointing tumble. The blogosphere is not wide-ranging, open to all manner of opinions and diverse in its viewpoints. In fact, according to some media reports, it is singularly white, male, somewhat sexist and possibly even racist. What, say you? How did this happen?
Technology brought with it the promise of equal access and distribution for all. Progressive Web sites and blogs were supposed to displace the narrow pre-selected spectrum of viewpoints televised on corporately owned conservative broadcast and cable networks. The Internet would showcase the underrepresented and broaden the offering of mono-vision viewpoints displayed by the nation’s most powerful printing presses. The blogworld, as futuristic and forward-looking as it promised to be, was supposed to be equally female and male, as black as it was Asian-American, Latino and so on.
Yet the just-concluded fourth session of the annual Daily Kos convention (the now-ritual convening of progressive American bloggers) is anything but what was promised. According to The Washington Post reporter who covered the convention, “only a handful of the 1,500 conventioneers — bloggers, policy experts, party activists — are African-American, Latino or Asian. Of about 100 scheduled panels and workshops, less than a half-dozen dealt directly with women or minority issues.”
How and why is it that the garden of digital diversification that was supposed to bloom rampant like kudzu in the South never even took root?
I offer up possible answers.
First among them, perhaps the blogosphere is more female than mainstream media present it. After all, two of the most popular and widely read blog Web sites are female-owned and female-dominated: Huffington Post and Fire Dog Lake.
Maybe, just maybe, those white male policy experts, bloggers and self-promoters extraordinaire at the Kos convention have more time and money on their hands than they know what to do with. Therefore, they are more likely to have the luxury of attending a convention such as this.
Perhaps, on a whimsical note, female and minority bloggers have better sense, so they stay home and get important work done. They are reluctant to waste valuable resources attending a convention/networking opportunity that may offer some benefits, but is hardly a prerequisite to blogging.
In defense of those who did attend, perhaps white male bloggers are more aggressive in their marketing and self-promotion techniques. That would explain why they attend this annual Internet ritual and, in the process, drive more traffic and attention to their Web sites.
Assuming the Post is right, however, maybe proponents of natural selection are correct in their presumption that women are the more, perhaps overly sensitive gender. This would not explain the lack of minority representation in the blogosphere. But it could help explain the paucity of women bloggers.
The Post reported: “A panel called ‘Blogging While Female,’ … was an aberration … (with) … an overflow room of about 75 (in attendance) mostly women, a few of them minorities. ‘How many of the women in the audience blog?’ asked a panelist. Nearly three-fourths of those present raised their hands. ‘How many of you get harassed?’ The hands stayed up. They complain of being harassed online for their views on issues such as abortion rights.”
Maybe men and women have different definitions of “harassment.” As someone who has written often on tough topics such as abortion rights and gun control, I’ve been the target of a myriad of unpleasant e-mails. Maybe other women would read these messages as threatening or harassing and give up. I just hit the “delete” button and move on. Maybe women bloggers should adopt a more “male” attitude to achieve equality in the blogosphere.
My final thought: Perhaps we are a nation that is woefully uniform in our political thinking. Maybe Ralph Nader was right and there isn’t much variance between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. Maybe liberal men think like liberal women. Therefore, liberal male bloggers stand in for or represent the views of women bloggers, so we truly have achieved the plurality we seek, although it is not labeled as such. The same would be true for bloggers of color and for conservative bloggers, no matter what gender or color. Ah, what a sorry state of affairs that would be.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)