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Invisible Women

646980-lg.jpgI really don’t want to go here again but a very self-serving notion has taken off regarding the blogosphere in the MSM, namely that the liberal blogosphere is a male dominated boys club. In support of this, Ellen Goodman today has to erase us and other female bloggers from the landscape in order to make her point. She says:

Last week, these progressive political bloggers not only attracted 1,200 to Chicago for the Yearly Kos convention, but made it a designated stop for seven out of the eight Democratic candidates.

Nevertheless, there is another, less flattering way in which broadband has followed broadcast and the liberal political bloggers mimic the conservative talk-show hosts. The chief messengers are overwhelmingly men — white men, even angry white men.

Really? Because Goodman herself wasn’t there and my experience was more like Digby’s:

I have to say that I was a little bit non-plussed by this article in the Washington Post today saying that it was nothing but a bunch of middle aged white men. It reminded me of a scene from the HBO show “Six Feet Under” where Kathy Bates takes her recently widowed pal into a department store for some recreational shop-lifting, chiding her for not fully taking advantage of the fact that middle aged women are completely invisible. Perhaps being a member of that contingent myself, I noticed that there were a great many of them present at this convention (and I think I hugged every one of them.) They were present in large numbers at every event I attended, listening attentively and asking probing questions. Next year maybe we can all wear bells or something so the press will know we’re there.

Goodman goes on to point to some vague statistics in support of her thesis:

I began tracking the maleness of this media last spring while I was a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. An intrepid graduate student created a spreadsheet of the top 90 political blogs. A full 42 percent were edited and written by men only, while 7 percent were by women only. Another 45 percent were edited or authored by both men and women, though the “coed” mix was overwhelmingly male. And, not surprisingly, most male bloggers linked to male bloggers.

What exactly was the methodology behind this study? The “top 90 political blogs” would necessarily includes right wing blogs — Powerline, Instapundit, Little Green Footballs and the rest of the right wing wrong-o-sphere certainly tend to skew white and male. Yet Goodman is drawing conclusions about “liberal political blogs” based on this study. Which is it? I’m reminded of Chris Matthews’ comment to Mark Halperin: “So there is a right-wing net roots as well as a left-wing net roots?” People tend to overlook them because of their irrelevance, but they are well trafficked and they do exist.

Article after article are now being generated as if something has been proven but they do so only by ignoring the fact that almost all of the most highly trafficked blogs in the liberal political blogosphere are either run by women or have significant female front page presence. Eyeballs equals influence, and any kind of measure that is being taken of women in the blogosphere needs to take account of that, something I doubt anybody involved knows enough about to try and measure in anything but the crudest form.

In terms of traffic (based on figures for this past week) the top liberal political blogs are :

1. Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post. 70 million page views per month (reported). Nobody has the influence and reach she has on a day to day basis.

2. Daily Kos. 5 million impressions per week. Front pagers McJoan, BarbinMD, MissLaura and SusanG I would estimate get at least 50% of the front page real estate over there.

3. Crooks and Liars. 1.8 million impressions per week. While John Amato spends his days watching cable news and making video clips, Nicole Belle alone is responsible for a majority of the front page writing.

4. Eschaton. 658,000 impressions per week. Duncan Black is pretty much a one man band, but when he’s on vacation two of his four regular guest posters are women, Avedon and Echidne (though lord knows, Thers is trying).

5. Americablog. 563,000 impressions per week. Front pager Pam Spaulding.

6. Firedoglake. 500,000 impressions per week. Myself, Christy Hardin-Smith, Siun, emptywheel, watertiger, Tula, Phoenix Woman and looseheadprop.

[All figures except the HuffPo via Advertise Liberally. I didn’t include TPM or Raw Story on the list because strictly speaking they’re not blogs, they’re online news services, and Democratic Underground is a message board. I don’t know enough about the gender composition at DU, but if anyone does, please share it in the comments. All of these sites are extremely valuable as part of the larger netroots, but operating on a different model than blogs.]

So how does this work out in terms of links? Let’s look at Technorati’s ranking:

5. Huffington Post (18,970)
8. Daily Kos (13,306)
22. Crooks and Liars (8,485)
195. FDL (2979)
229. Atrios (2,843)
438. Americablog (2,213)

Relative to this week’s traffic, we’re actually getting more links than Atrios or Americablog (though weekly traffic figures are a bit fluid and in terms of traffic we tend to jockey around in those three spots depending on what topics are cycling into the news). Also, there’s something weird about the way Technorati reads AmericaBlog and its statistics have been wildly off in the past so I actually think their ranking is somewhat higher, but you get the picture. Either there are some men linking to us or those links are controlled by women, and either one tends to tell a significantly different tale than the neat, pre-packaged Jiffy Pop one that so many in the MSM are anxious to embrace.

As Amanda Marcotte said in our comments the other day in response to the Washington Post article that started all of this:

The article mentioned a panel that I was on and we very pointedly said that women were in abundance at the conference and in the blogosphere. We were talking about attempts to silence female voices, but it was well-noted that said attempts were largely unsuccessful.

There’s plenty of sexism in the blogosphere, don’t get me wrong, with a strong dose coming from the right wing and an even stronger dose coming from the “why don’t you link to me” crowd on the left. But this “there are no women in the blogosphere” whinge is deeply sexist and insulting to those of us with two X chromosomes who work all day at this and what we’ve managed to achieve. And none of these articles have included the perspective of any of the women listed above, or those of other successful female bloggers like Digby, Pandagon, TalkLeft or Taylor Marsh. It’s a narrative that both wingnuts and the MSM alike are fond of pushing and my guess is that it’s off to the races thanks to misniformation provided by people who don’t blog, aren’t the community builders of the blogosphere and haven’t had enough exposure to it to have any kind of sophistication to their analysis. With people in the MSM on the receiving end only too willing to erase us women from the political landscape in order to grind their axe, I don’t expect we’ll be getting the kind of credit we deserve any time soon.

(photo by Maxim Kalmykov)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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