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A-List amnesia

NC blogger and House Blend regular Coturnix of Science and Politics had the good fortune to be able to attend the recent ConvergeSouth conference in Greensboro, and he’s got a great post on one of the many discussions sessions held there, this one by Tiffany of Blackfeminist blog.

It’s a familiar topic if you’re a regular reader around here or many other bloggrrrls’ pads – the A-List political bloggers and the lack of promotion and linking given to other political blogs that are: a) smaller life forms in terms of traffic, and/or b) by women. It’s like a broken record, and Coturnix agrees (emphasis is mine):

All the so-called “A-listers” are middle-class, middle-age, white, straight, and usually Christian, men. Every three months or so, one of them looks around and posts a question “Where are all the female political bloggers?”. What inevitably ensues is a big fight in which hundreds of female political bloggers post comments saying, pertty much: “We are here, and if you looked around and linked to us every now and then, you would know there are hundreds of us“.

Over the course of these discussions, an important point is always made and that is the fact that search engines (e.g., Technorati and Google) favor the early adopters, most of whom are computer geeks in engineering schools – the guys who developed the software we all now use. Kos, Atrios, Instapundit and others became big because they came to the game early.

Once a blog gets linked enough to become “A-listed” it is almost impossible to fall down in the hierarchy. Somebody later in the session pointed out an example of a blog that has not had a new post in over a year yet is still a “large mammal” in the TTLB Ecosystem.

It’s clear that there is a level of elitism at work, with lines clearly drawn between the policy wonk/political academics versus what I would call the political/cultural bloggers, who tackle many of the same topics — the church/state divide, social justice and rights, political corruption and scandal — viewed and expressed in quite different ways.

Much of the debate also revolves about the definition of “political blogging” and possible sex differences in styles of political blogging. The typical A-listers are policy wonks. They cover, day by day, details of what is happening in Washington, the legislations, nominations, policies, etc. Lots of Iraq coverage, too. War is sexy for men.

Many other bloggers do not want to blog that way, yet thoroughly consider themselves to be political. Mixing purely political posts with posts about one’s kids is NOT disqualifying.

Focusing on issues of local politics and the way national policies affect the real life is just as political, and perhaps more important, as anything discussed regularly by Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall or Ezra Klein.

Focusing on issues of sex, gender and marriage just shows that the blogger understands, perhaps just by gut-instinct, that all politics is sexual politics – something that is the main topic of my blog. All policies are based on one’s basic worldview (“ideology”), which comes out of one’s relationship with sexuality, which in turn results from one’s upbringing (Dobsonian childrearing leading to wingnuttery via femiphobia). Usually the debate drifts from here into the “nice guys come last”-type discussion.

Both are valid types of political blogging, and I would argue, both types are essential to reflect the audiences served and the need for broad perspective. You can entertain and inform. You can be an egghead or casual or profane and still make a point succinctly. Folks surfing out there will find a wide range of approaches to political blogging, but it helps if the big dogs get out of their inner circle and see what talent is out there.

I’d also add that the if a identified-female blogger was as rude, profane and brilliant as the Rude Pundit, you wouldn’t see her on those A-List blogs. My bloggrrl Shakes Sis comes to mind, who has received hilarious email chastising her for her profanity (“Queen C*nt of F*ck Mountain”). She’s finally managed to crack a few A-lists, so more power to her. 🙂

I agree with Coturnix, it doesn’t diminish a blog’s relevance because personal posts co-exist with serious posts. I lob up items with pictures of my dog or post a review of a vacuum cleaner that my wife and I like. I am a real person, just like all of you out there (including the A-listers that act like they don’t want you to think they don’t have to use the can from time to time). 😉

Who wouldn’t like to be on more big dog blogrolls, but what can you do when the system is quite closed, other than keep doing what you’re doing and shout out once in a while. In an earlier post on this topic, one reader asked me why my voice would add anything different to the political blogging mix:

Are you saying you have something special to say that’s not already being heard? If so, what is it? I’ve looked at your site. It’s great, but I don’t see anything here that would look out of place at Eschaton.

My response: I’ve written about plenty that you would see and wouldn’t see on Eschaton. I write about general progressive politics, so yes there would be similar content, but have you ever seen Atrios talk about:

* the politics of having kinky hair
* being followed in a store while dressed up for the theatre by a store owner that thinks you’re a shoplifter
* Southern politics, the black church and reframing gay rights
* what it’s like to be a black lesbian in the South
* the ‘Acting White’ Myth

You get my drift (you can find those blog entries by scrolling down on this page to the ‘Greatest Hits’ section). Atrios may have an opinion about those issues, but I certainly haven’t seen them expressed on his blog, or any of the other big bloggers. I’ve seen them on Daily Kos, because I’ve written diaries on those topics.

My complaint isn’t that they are all white males, since some of the big bloggers are of color. It’s the closed nature of the hierarchy/circle jerk that the big boys don’t want to cop to.

These topics are highly relevant and political and I think expand a reader’s thinking as well as my own, because I gain so much from the comments people share on these kinds of posts. My goal is to create an environment where asking uncomfortable questions on topics that make people uneasy is not seen as ignorant…and I’ll still post all of the wingnuttery too.

Thanks for the awesome post and props, Coturnix.

Also see:
* Taking on the big, bad, blogging dogs so we can pee on the political hydrant too
* Gender politics, take 2 3 4?
* Skin and the color of money

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding