Girls With Keyboards

I wasn't planning to step into Kevin's not-enough-women-in-the-blogs fluff, having been on the receiving end of it a few times myself. But Avedon Carol dropped me into the fray, and I'll use her mention as an excuse to post some thoughts:

• First, on Avedon's point that I got linked on TAPPED despite being a new blog while some excellent women bloggers did not, I don't think that's fair. The situation was more akin to updating an address book. I've been blogging for about three years and been on their blogroll for the better part of the last, so it's not as if I emerged out of nowhere, proved I had a penis, and was admitted to the list o' links.

• This argument follows a very similar pattern each time it surfaces. Guy wonders why there aren't more female political bloggers, girl(s) list 500 female political bloggers and wonder why he's not aware of them all, guy lamely protests that that wasn't his point, guy eventually gives up and cheers when post drops off the page. As I said, I've some experience with this. But it should be noted that the question isn't whether or not there are hundreds, even thousands, of excellent female political bloggers -- there are! -- it's why there seem to be quite a few fewer female political bloggers than men. It's a proportionality thing. Often, the answer is that we're only looking at the top ranks, which is a pretty closed club (true, though it's not out of some desire by Drum and Josh to keep out the estrogen-producing riff-raff). So last time this happened, I checked that. I clicked all around the TTLB ecosystem and went to 10 blogs in a row here, 10 there, at all levels of popularity. The numbers stayed heavily male. So my sense is that despite the scores of excellent female political bloggers, there are more male bloggers. Meryl Yourish points to a recent Pew Study that found 57% of bloggers are men. That alone is a large difference and, while I haven't seen data on this, I think the difference is larger when the sample is restricted to political blogs. But even if you're unwilling to grant that, we've still got a 14% difference there. The real question, I think, is what accounts for the differential.

• Again, there are truckloads of excellent female political bloggers out there and I'm listening to Ani DiFranco as I type this (true, actually -- her new cd has been pretty constant in my iTunes). My point isn't to malign nor offend them, but to wonder what accounts for the comparative difference. My end, here, is that I want even more truckloads of excellent female political bloggers to read.

• Blogs, particularly the lefty blogs, are a clubby lot. The top guys (and gals) link to each other, perpetuating higher intragroup hits, but not doing much to help those outside the popular circle. The right is much better at this -- Instapundit exists to drive traffic to young blogs and Hewitt has made it a pet cause. On their side of the aisle, they've created established routes for recognition, not to mention habituated their readers to bookmarking new folks. We've not done that. This partially has to do with who leads our charge. Kos and Marshall basically don't link, Atrios links but mostly to a certain type of post, Kevin doesn't link all that much; the only one I'd say does a really good job of nurturing young bloggers is Yglesias, who gave me my start and has done the same for others (including the excellent Julie Saltman, whose absence on the sidebar I'm about to rectify, and whose take on this stuff should be read by all). When I was a "big boy" at Pandagon, I tried to do some of this, mainly with Brad Plumer and Here's What's Left (half female, though Heather almost never posts).

But, and I hope Brad doesn't mind becoming an example, his case proves the point. I drove him as much traffic as I possibly could, thousands of readers. Indeed, he was soon all over the blogs, appearing on Kevin's site more than I ever did and becoming a common actor in Matt's posts. But his sitemeter still barely cracks 250 a day. Now, Brad is absurdly talented, knowledgeable and fun to read, he's certainly one of the best bloggers around. So what's happened? Why hasn't his readership soared?

Blog readers, I think, are creatures of habit. They come to a couple top sites day after day, and adding on to that routine is a tough sell. With Insty and Hugh, adding new sites to their reader's daily trawl is the expressed purpose of many of their posts, they've created an environment where that's an expected response. We've not done that on the left, so though sites like Kos boast a much higher readership than anything the right's got, our blogosphere isn't as healthy, there's nowhere near the same level of upward mobility. And while I don't think that accounts for the male/female differential, I do think it creates a problem for anyone trying to move into the high ranks, and that means the gender gap on that level wouldn't change even if the numbers under it shifted. That's a problem for both genders.

Update: Per the discussion here, tried to add a promotion component to my blogroll. Check it out and tell me what you think.