Monday, April 5, 2010

a (gendered bibliloblogger) conversation

Since Jeremy posted "the top 50" bibliobloggers of March 2010, there's been quite a long discussion about how and why women are so absent from the list.  Some so far are wanting to unsubscribe (namely Luke Muehlhauser of Common Sense Atheism and Sabio Lantz of Triangulations, the "newcomer on the list this month debuting" at #36).  I do think it's inadvertently rude of some of us to go on and on over at Jeremy's blog.  Let me offer this blog and this post here as a place to continue the conversation for those who want to do so.  (I'm certainly not preventing anyone who wants to continue the conversation at Jeremy's blog from doing so.)  Yes, and likely our talk here won't necessarily get the attention it may have there, but at least it spares the ones who don't want to hear it or to participate in it. 


14 comments:

hebrewandgreekreader said...

We wrote you a lengthy comment that didn't make it. The gist of it was that the Top 50 is stupid now. Its not fun anymore and needs to die. We love our friend Jeremy and are glad he has fun doing the list. But this silly game does not help anyone. It inaccurately makes a list of the same-ole-same-oles (with some new ones who know how to work Alexa and get links from other bloggers) and when anyone points out the fact that there are more males than females on the list, discussion turns into a foodfight.

FTT50! ;)

J. K. Gayle said...

D&T,
Thank you for writing (there and now) here! Fun is a nice objective for such lists, I agree! Some people, like Joel Watts at #1 and Jim West whom Joel replaced, do have fun with the top 50 list. And I'm just amazed how much and how well both of them link to and point us blog readers to so very much that others are writing. That's good inclusion (and both have highlighted men and women bloggers). It's the serious drive to get in and to climb up and to leave out that is, as you so eloquently put it, stupid. (Suzanne points this out at another list, and now I may be tossing a bisquit somewhere - look out:

http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2009/09/biblioblogscom.html :) !)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I just commented over at Jeremey's without seeing this. I guess there must be some way to unsubscribe from his comments, and I hope people can find that. I find it endlessly irritating myself to get things in my email I don't want.

I thought the bibliosphere was a lot of fun for a year or two. Its too bad that something shifted. That something seemed to me to be "men who put women under authority are part of the club so 'stifle' if you disagree with them."

J. K. Gayle said...

Sue, You make an important point in your comment at Jeremy's blog: "I read and summarize psychological assessments for a living, so I am aware that the differences which are cited as more ‘relational’ for women and more ‘analytic’ form men, refer to about 5% of the population. This creates an observable statistical difference between men and women, but it should not create the differences we see in the bibliosphere today."

Indeed! And your additional comment gets at what we see in the bibliosphere today: "most men don’t realize that although they have never said anything negative to me, (most bloggers have not) they do often affirm men who teach that women’s rebellion against male authority is the cause of all divorce, and that women can stop their husbands from beating them by being submissive – and other dangerous and abominable teachings." As Makeesha points out in the post you link to, there is a need to point out and to stand against the dangerous oppressive teachings (and the teachers).

You may have seen that Brooke Lester, a male biblioblogger, has expressed his reluctance to talk about the problems here. And yet he's going to anyway, pointing out a very telling and obvious "disparity."

Silence makes for interesting rhetoric, to say the least. Rhetoric scholar Cheryl Glenn has written a fascinating work on this called Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence. I just love that in it she quotes Aristotle (Politics 1.5.9) where he asserts, "Silence gives grace to a woman--though that is not the case likewise with a man" (page 5); not surprisingly, she quote Paul too in I Tim 2:11-12, regarding silence as seen to be "a lamentable essence of femininity, a trope for oppression, passivity, emptiness, stupidity, or obedience" (page 2). But in fact, women and men alike do gracefully use silence rhetorically (even when silenced). Jesus comes to mind, although Glenn's survey doesn't (need to) mention him. She reminds that "in every human culture, women are in some way subordinate to men, and many men are in some way subordinate to certain other men"; she quotes Trinh T. Minh-ha as saying that "silence can only be subversive when it frees itself from the male-defined context" (page 25). I'm thinking now about how the bibliosphere may be so defined by males, but how silence in and around it might function it if were re-defined otherwise.

J. L. Watts said...

I cannot really offer anything to this conversation, so I am going to say nothing just to keep up with the conversation.

I do think that the list is fun, and more than that. It still promotes biblioblogging and offers a venue to explore such issues as this, hopefully either reaching a resolution or at the very least sharing some of the root causes and concerns over certain things. I do not think that the time as come to give up on the list, and I certainly didn't see a food fight.

If you want to see one, I could post on atheists and the list. That was a blast.

But, I do think that it is a valid concern to wonder why women aren't read, but also, why women are in the deficit according to numbers. This list serves as a starting point to figure out who is blogging biblically related material. We can start here and examine the number of women on the list, even in group blogs, and wonder what in the 'real world' might be preventing women from blogging such things.

Are women only good as mommy bloggers? There are social issues here to be examined, that's for sure and I think that conversations like this help in both worlds.

J. K. Gayle said...

J. L.,
I like your non offering. I think you've offered a lot for us to consider - from that #1 top spot vantage. :)

Madeleine said...

Actually it was suggested that no women were in the top 50 - a point I pointed out was not true as my blog is ranked 8th and I am a woman. Sure there are less women than men blogging in the biblioblogosphere but so what?

Perhaps women are less inclined to be interested in blogging in that genre than men are. Again so what?

A couple of things I did strongly dislike from the discussion were the implied suggestion that I was somehow letting the team down or less of a real woman blogger because I choose to blog with my husband - that somehow to be a real woman I need to pull away from being identified with him. The implication is that there is something wrong with identifying oneself as a married woman working alongside her husband on a mutual project. How sad.

The other thing that saddens me is the suggestion that genres like biblioblogging (typically dominated by men) are superior to genres like mummy blogging (typically dominated by women). Since when was writing about theological issues more important than shaping what sort of adult a new human being becomes? I mean hello, isn't it obvious which topic is more important if you want to start ranking them?

It frustrates me that there seems to be a view that unless women take up subjects they are less naturally inclined towards, deny the ones they are, then their contribution to the blogosphere is somehow less worthy - basically women have to become men to gain respect. Before I wrote in the biblioblog genre I was top of the weight-loss, parenting and daily female struggle genre. I get both, I value both, so should everyone else who has ever cared about the mental wellbeing of another human being - those mummy blogs are real life lines to some readers as are the daddy blogs which is probably more than we can say about our biblioblogs.

I say blog on whatever topic you feel interested in, you feel you have something to say about and just get on with it. For me, my youngest is now 8, I have lost 50kg, so my head is no longer in my old genre so I've moved on to something else. If you write quality content and promote your blog well then you will rise in the rankings and even if you don't then surely you can still gain fulfillment from the exercise and you never know who is reading and what they are taking from your words - surely no one is blogging solely so they can top the biblioblog rankings?

J. K. Gayle said...

Welcome, Madeleine! Just to be clear, I simply asked:

"has no one noticed that there’s not one single woman blogger in this 'the top 50'? Thanks to Matthew there’s Madeleine and to Calvin there’s Mandy and to Daniel there’s Tonya"

Now I do, nonetheless, understand what you mean when you say:

"A couple of things I did strongly dislike from the discussion were the implied suggestion that I was somehow letting the team down or less of a real woman blogger because I choose to blog with my husband - that somehow to be a real woman I need to pull away from being identified with him."

Please know that I haven't said this nor heard or overheard (in the comments) anyone saying that you've let anyone down or that your blogging choices have made you less of a person, less of a woman. The simple fact is that there's no one single woman blogger in the top 50.

FWIW, I do absolutely agree with you 100% on your other point:

how wrong it is to suggest that "biblioblogging (typically dominated by men) are superior to genres like mummy blogging (typically dominated by women)"!

When this topic has come up before, some of us pointed to Ann Nyland's blogging. When others protested that she's blogging less about the bible and more about horses, then there was the same sort of classifying and putting labels on and making hierarchies. That's just wrong. Horses are not the bible; yes, we all know that. Babies and children are not the bible either. But the God-given choices to blog don't need to be categorized and disparaged.

The biggest question I have about anything you've said, Madeleine, is this: "If you write quality content and promote your blog well then you will rise in the rankings."

You're not insinuating that women bloggers in particular or in general are failing to write quality content or to promote their blogs, are you?

Madeleine said...

Two responses:

"has no one noticed that there’s not one single woman blogger in this 'the top 50'? Thanks to Matthew there’s Madeleine and to Calvin there’s Mandy and to Daniel there’s Tonya"

Ask anyone who has observed the rise of MandM and you will see that you should have written "Thanks to Madeleine there’s Matthew" in the top 50.

I set MandM up for Matt to have an outlet for the things in his head three and a half years ago. I occasionally wrote the odd thing for it but it was largely Matt's blog. After two years it ranked about 130-150th in the New Zealand rankings and no one linked to it from overseas. One and a half years ago I decided to write more for it and to start promoting it to help promote Matt in his search for a full-time lectureship in his field. Today MandM is ranked 3-5th most read blog in New Zealand and is currently (after a slack month) 8th on the Biblioblog rankings and I've lost count of how many international blogs link to us now.

If Matt blogged on his own he not only would not be on the biblioblog rankings, he would not be in the top 50 - he is there because of me. Further, within google analytics the majority of our top 20 most read, most linked to, blog posts were written by me, not Matt. So with respect, you do not know what you are talking about with regards my blog and my blogosphere success. It seems to me that you simply want to read some feminist mantra into everything and in the case of MandM it just does not fit.

You also wrote: "The biggest question I have about anything you've said, Madeleine, is this: "If you write quality content and promote your blog well then you will rise in the rankings."

You're not insinuating that women bloggers in particular or in general are failing to write quality content or to promote their blogs, are you?"


Not quite. I am insinuating that anyone, man or woman, who is not in the top levels of the rankings is ranked where they are due to their failure to write quality content and/or promote their blog well. The problem is not unique to any single sex.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks Madeleine.

Judy Redman said...

Despite what Madeleine says about how MandM works, I think the fact that the only three women in the top 50 biblioblogs this month blog with a man is significant and gender related (I think that in each case the woman blogs with her husband, but am not sure). I think the issue is with the readers, not with the writers.

Typically, in those churches that won't let women preach, it is perfectly OK for women to speak when their husbands are also speaking, because the presence of the husband gives some kind of imprimatur to what the wife has to say (and the men present can pretend that she's only talking to their womenfolk, not them.) So, a blog which is written by a husband/wife partnership is far more acceptable reading to this kind of Christian than is one that is written by a woman alone, not because of how the husband and wife team work but because of how some Christians think. It immediately has a wider potential readership than a blog that is conceptualised as being written by a woman who is not under a man's authority, especially if she is blogging on the more "liberal" end of the theological spectrum. And if the list of theological emphases that someone (NT Wrong???) did the other year is a good guide, there are more theologically "conservative" bibliobloggers than there are "liberal" ones.

I would also suggest that there is a third factor that influences whether or not a blog is in the top fifty and that is the subject matter. If I write on gender and biblioblogging, the number of hits on my site jumps dramatically because people tend to link to it. If I stick with my area of research, which is the Gospel of Thomas and its relationship to the synoptic gospels, the number of hits is significantly lower because far fewer people are interested.

In other words, I think gender is an issue, but so are subject matter and theological emphasis.

J. K. Gayle said...

Welcome Judy! You bring to the conversation some critically important observations. There are biases, it seems, against more liberal bible blogging and (to the point of this discussion) against women blogging without the presence of a man.

You've inspired me to try to illustrate some of that by reposting the only 35 women bloggers posted by Jeremy in his January, then February, then March listings this year. Notice that he posted more than 360 blogs. So the blogs authored by those who identify publicly by a woman's name (even when part of a male team of bloggers) comprise well less than 10% of all the blogs. This how the former Top 50 compilers (all men it seems) got away with calling women bibliobloggers "marginal." When we look at the women blogging without a man, the the numbers really skew: there are now only 31 blogs rated, ranked, and included.

I know Jeremy was busy and in a hurry in March, but his limiting his list to only the Top 50 for that month caused him to exclude all women who blogged without any association with a man. This is an interesting omission, a fairly problematic one given how it inadvertently highlights men again. My list today (that relisting), therefore, "MARKS" women again. And I think we all would very much agree with you:

"In other words, I think gender is an issue, but so are subject matter and theological emphasis."

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Gayle

I wanted to unsubscribe from the comments because they were flooding my e-mail and verbose on a subject I did not feel like I needed lectured on. I appreciated everyone's concern but did not need to read more and his blog did not allow unsubscribing from comments. Simple as that.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks Sabio.