At one point during the latest interminable tiff over whether framers or the “New” Atheists are the more evil, Matt Nisbett called “male rhetoric”, senso “this isn’t a real argument, it’s a pissing contest!” Snark aside, there may be more than a kernel of truth in his observation that the blogospheric conversation about this issue is somewhat male dominated. And maybe not just in that one particular arena, given that The Scientist kicked off a poll to highlight the best Life Science blogs by asking seven of the “best known science bloggers” to nominate some of their favorites – and not one of them was a woman. This has prompted Sheril to ask, What’s up with this blogosphere being so gosh darn male dominated?. It’s not an issue I’ve really considered or (to my shame) noticed before; fortunately, Zuska is here to (quite rightly) point out that all these little things add up to one big problem.
In fact, my own experiences provide a slightly mixed picture: amongst my fellow Sciblings the men definitely have the upper hand numerically, although on the womens’ team Grrl, Janet, Zuska, Tara, Sheril, Shelley, Karmen and the rest all put me firmly in the shade, both in terms of the quality of their writing and their traffic. The geoblogosphere is fairly well represented numerically (and outstandingly well generally) by Kim, Alessia, Julia, Sarda and of course yami (who was geoblogging before I’d even heard of blogs). And amongst the post-doc community the likes of Propter Doc, Am I a woman scientist, Katie, and Ms PhD feature high amongst my favourite reads. But I can’t deny that, on the whole, the scientific blogosphere appears to have more than its fair share of testosterone coursing through it (if anyone has some actual numbers, I’d be interested to see them). The question is, what’s causing that imbalance? Is it something inherent within the system, or is it external factors skewing the population that chooses to blog in the first place?
On the face of it, internal factors would seem to be an unlikely explanation: you can’t prevent someone from starting a blog, after all. But you can not link to them – there is a hierarchy within the blogging world, and this allows for the possibility of discrimination in terms of who the A-listers, and editors of other sites which link to blogs, choose to link to and promote. If nothing else, the Scientist poll shows that this can quite easily happen, even inadvertently.
As for external factors, the pool for potential scientific bloggers is unfortunately rather skewed in favour of men anyway, particularly in the higher echelons of academia; this can’t help. There’s also the possibility of a more general explanation – that proportionally more women just don’t see the point of blogging, or are put off from trying by the apparent ease with which you can pick up sexist morons to patronise, harass and stalk you.
So there’s some possible factors, which I suspect probably all contribute. Perhaps some of the bloggers and commentators with a more personal perspective can illuminate things further in the comments.