Sunday, July 02, 2006

From Your Non-Existent Correspondent

There was an article in the Independent on Thursday called There's A Good Reason Women Don't Write Blogs, written by columnist Mary Dejevsky.

The Indy wants you to pay a pound for the privilege of reading this ill-informed tosh, but I've done that for you, and have pasted the full article below. I've also highlighted some choice bits in bold.

I could do a nice Fisking job on this, but that would make a very long post, and we'll see if that happens in the comments.

But I would like ask to the following questions:

1. Where does Mary Dejevsky get the idea from that 'except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between?' She has no statistics to back up this assertion*.

2. Is Mary Dejevsky aware of the hypocrisy of using an opinion column in a national newspaper to claim that women are 'too bashful' to voice their own opinions?

3. Or is she inviting us non-existent female bloggers to be inspired by her example, as an 'opinionated [woman] expressing forthright views in [...] the media'?

4. If we're to be inspired by columnists like Mary Dejevsky into writing a blog, why then does she say that blogging is a passing fad that is attractive to men because of its 'gadgetry and self-aggrandisement'?

5. How does she square her point that most women are too busy looking after their children and cooking dinner for their husbands to blog, with the fact that she's said that most female bloggers are writing about 'childcare and gynaecology'?

Should you be moved to thank Mary Dejevsky for bravely speaking out on behalf of the nation's timid, downtrodden legions of 50s-style mothers and wives, her email address is m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk.

Enjoy. And thanks to Sean for alerting me to this article.

Mary Dejevsky: There's a good reason why women don't write blogs

Men seem to take it for granted that they've something to say and that the rest of us want to hear it

Published: 29 June 2006

Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP. I do not know him, and I am just as certain that he does not know me. He does, though, put himself about. He writes one of the more prolific blogs (www.iaindale.blogspot.com**) to come out of this Parliament, purveying commentary, analysis, gossip and the like via his website, with what seems like hour-to-hour, if not minute-by-minute, frequency.

Iain - as I am sure he would like me (and you) - to call him, recently made an observation that simply leapt out of his stream of consciousness. "It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem bloggers," he wrote, "you won't find many written by women." He went on to observe, admitting the sexist stereotype, that women, "being much better gossips than men ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging". I curtail his prolixity, but he concludes: "There must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector."

Well, Iain, I venture to correct you on one point. It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between. And it does not take a huge of the imagination to suggest at least two reasons why.

The first is that, for all the efforts to educate men and women equally, to encourage them to compete for honours, even to feminise the examination system by introducing coursework, women (still) tend to be more bashful than men about what they think. It is not that, as veteran male gender-warriors might growl, we have much to be bashful about. It is rather that we tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion.

Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading. Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading. Alas, his confidence is repaid by the dozens who seem to respond to every post. The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening.

Our female bashfulness, I submit, may be gradually being drummed out of us by a combination of good teaching, co-ed schools and colleges, and the example of opinionated women expressing forthright views in other parts of politics and the media. The second reason why women don't blog, however, is more serious, because it is more intractable: women simply do not have the time.

Earlier this week, I heard Finland's minister for foreign trade and development, speaking in London to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in Finland. They were the first women in Europe to gain the vote. And the record of women's participation in Finnish life is as laudable as one would expect from Scandinavia.

Yet, as Ms Paula Lehtomaki noted, without the diffidence that might attend the same observation in this country, the next frontier had to be the home. Women had come a long way: safeguards against discrimination, for equal pay and opportunities were all in place and largely observed. But the fact was that in joining the workforce on equal terms, women were all too often tied to two jobs: equality, even in enlightened Scandinavia, all too often stops at the front door.

How many homes are there - here, or in tech-savvy Finland - where the man will think it quite excusable to shuffle in late for dinner because he has been reading or writing his online diary, but would greet with ridicule or fury the prospect of dinner being late (or non-existent) because his partner had been delayed in the blogosphere?

And for dinner, we can substitute baby's bathtime, the children's high-tea, the regular taxi-service families run between sports and after-school clubs, the elderly parents that need looking after. It is this old-fashioned, and persistent, division of responsibilities that frees men to indulge in the time-consuming fashion of the day; and the gadgetry and self-aggrandisement involved in blogging only make it that much more attractive.

Iain Dale calls his blog "Iain Dale's diary". Those of us of a certain age - I can faintly recall the signature tune - know this to be an allusion to the fictitious radio diary of a GP's wife and receptionist which was broadcast on weekday afternoons. It was a soap opera for its day, very BBC Home Service. More tied to the Fifties way of life than The Archers, it did not survive into this more hurried, less homely age.

But there is a point here. In the days of Fifties-style, essentially segregated working, Mrs Dale had the time to keep a diary. Today's Mrs Dale would be the doctor herself, rushing in to the surgery from the school run and organised enough to assemble dinner at the end of the day. She would be too tired at the end of it all, or have more pressing things to do, to advertise her thoughts in the blogosphere. Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide.



* I have no statistics to refute it, but it's not borne out in my experience, and I'm sure that Pash, Tabby Rabbit, Scroobious, Lizzy, Extemporanea, Annie, Belladona, Betty, Great She, Smat, Spinny, Ori, Taiga, Arabella, First Nations, Biscuits, Surly Girl, Catpee and Urban Chick would agree. And that's just from my blogroll.

** Who, as Prolix points out, has himself fisked Mary's article here.


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45 comments:

Urban Chick said...

**seething**

i shall be emailing mary forthwith (well, i say that, of course, but i'm far too busy with the business of childcare to get a moment)

what utter b*llocks

the reason i blog is because it's one thing i CAN do whilst caring full-time for two young children

and it's one thing that gives me an identity other than that of 'someone's mother'

i'd wager that is the case with most mothers who blog and i could cite another dozen blogs i read regularly who fit into this category (um, dooce, anyone??)

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

Tim Footman said...

Iain Dale is not an MP, as a cursory glance at his blog would tell you. (I think he stood in last year's general election, but lost.)

And that's just the first sentence. Jesus.

Interpreter Pavlov said...

Sorry to be first in and therefore liable to come out with something jejune, but it seems to me that this is - well, see Roget's Thesaurus §497 Absurdity for a reasonable choice of epithet.

But any columnist gives him/herself away immediately as being on uncertain ground and on the defensive by avoiding contractions like you're, he's, there's, can't, etc. (Besides, if they're paid by the word it spins things out.)

It's almost as obvious a give-away as using 'whilst'. I don't know what Pasmina, English equivalent of the Académie française, feels about this.

Most of my blogroll is female, tho' I think some may be pretending. But that's a different matter.

Interpreter Pavlov said...

(Sorry - beaten to it! Virgin comments thread when I started, but thinking delayed completion.)

Billy said...

Good God what complete twaddle. It's worse than that Guardian thing a while back. Blogging is like fishing or whatever it was.

I'm not sure how anyone would work it out but I am convinced women are in the majority in the blogosphere, which is no bad thing.

I'm incensed by this as it is, were I a female blogger I'd be apoplectic.

prolix said...

Iain Dale responded with a fisking of sorts on his blog here

The first line (as Tim commented) is so innacurate it's hilarious (although galling to think Mary gets paid for writing this garbage.) As Iain writes:

Mary: "Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP."

Iain "It really must break some sort of record to make two factual innaccuracies within the first six words of a supposedly well-informed column. Just for the record, I am not an MP and having been David Davis's Chief of Staff it is slightly inaccurate to make me out to be a Cameroon henchman. But we'll see if things improve..."

Shocking.

patroclus said...

Well, I've sent her an email inviting her along to have a proper look at the blogosphere. I've also specifically recommended that she visit UC's, Surly's, Smat's and Taiga's blogs to show her that having children does not preclude women from blogging.

I must say I find it very strange to be told repeatedly that I - and the rest of us - don't exist.

Del said...

I think she's got a point. Where's my dinner?

Just IMAGINE if i actually said that. I wouldn't have any fingers left to type with.

Urban Chick said...

(yikes, better get some intelligent comment up, then)

right now, i have a photo of some palmolive 'milk and honey' handwash

still, least i'm not writing about children or cervical smears

:-)

GreatSheElephant said...

Isn't her fundamental point though, wrapped up as it is in ill informed twaddle, that the female half of any heterosexual partnership still does the majority of household tasks?

patroclus said...

Well, she does certainly make that point. Is it true? I don't know. I know that in all of my long-term relationships, it wasn't usually me that did the cooking, but it was usually me that did the cleaning. Apart from those joyous days when I had a cleaner, sigh.

But what I am taking from this article is a negative stereotype of women as put-upon wives and mothers (or 'other' figures, if we want to get all feminist cultural studies about it) who are unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves - together with the implication that somehow we shouldn't *want* to have the opportunity to speak for ourselves.

NB I woke up this morning with the idea that the established media sees bloggers as being like a horde of zombies - something that is grotesquely made in its image, but yet is not it, and is a threat, and appears en masse and can't be killed. Perhaps pretending the 'zombie' doesn't exist is this columnist's way of dealing with it.

Dave again said...

Being a mere man, I hesitate to add to this debate. I'll just say that Iain Dale was indeed a Conservative candidate at the last election -0 he stood for the North Norfolk consituency in which I live. Indeed, at the time I left one or two comments on his blog.

I would have written more, but have too much housework to do, and am not up to multi-tasking.

BiB said...

I bat for the other side so am perhaps not as expert on women as I might otherwise be, but isn't it also chuff and nonsense that women are more bashful about expressing their opinions? I'm yet to notice women cowering in corners, fingers on lips. And if it's just a time thing, surely all blogs should be written by footloose children and young folk with no worries or responsibilities to tend to. There are, I suppose, blogging types - people who want to write - but it doesn't seem to be a gender thing to me. I've even heard that some women have written books.

Sean McManus said...

There are negative male stereotypes in this story too, which are as damaging as the female stereotypes.

The only real work that's gone into this story is writing it: no proper effort at research, not much effort has gone into creative thought. I expect that standard of the Daily Mail. Having been impressed with the Independent's news agenda and news reporting lately, I was extremely disappointed to find this load of twaddle between that paper's pages.

I don't expect she'll respond to your efforts to introduce her to the real blogging community. Next week she'll have moved on to writing ill-informed nonsense about some other sector of society.

Many years ago I offered to teach my MP to use the internet when she was supporting all sorts of ridiculous anti-Internet laws. "I've been on select committees about technology you know!" she said, declining my kind offer. And then promptly went on Brass Eye to talk a load of nonce-sense in *that* episode.

LC said...

I just clicked on the "Next Blog" button ten times to do a quick random straw poll: 8 women, 2 men.

patroclus said...

BiB: Indeed. In fact, let us look no further than JK Rowling - and her a single mum and all!

Sean: Absolutely right there are male stereotypes in this article - that men like gadgets and the sound of their own voice, that they expect their dinner to be made for them, etc. The article is rubbish on every single level. And 'I've been on select committees about technology' is a sure sign that the person knows bugger all about it - can't believe your MP fell for Brass Eye, though, superb!

LC: You know, I can't believe no one's measuring the gender balance in the blogosphere. You'd think there'd be surveys, or something, but any kind of stats are very hard to come by. Even BiB's mate's book (which is proving very useful and interesting in many ways) is silent on the matter.

DavetheF said...

Mary Dejevsky is not someone to be deterred by facts. She has been a foreign correspondent for the Indy and her stuff is appallingly bad.

The article contains a central contradiction. 1. Women are too bashful to blog, an activity which appeals to male boastfulness. 2. They would blog, but they are too firmly chained to the kitchen sink.
What bullshit. Not worthy of fourth form.

It's quite clearly a top-of-my-head piece. Mary is about to find that blogs bite back.

DavetheF said...

Patro, link-surfing from Dale's blog, I came across this in the comments at http://being-here.livejournal.com/53323.html

"Taken from Livejournal stats: Gender - Are males or females more likely to maintain journals?

Male: 1,357,170 (32.4%)
Female: 2,833,347 (67.6%)
Unspecified: 1,613,392"



Fairly devastating.Could similar info be obtained from Blogger?

patroclus said...

Thanks Dave. That's actually the kind of ratio I would expect to see. I notice that the so-called BlogHer conference (groan) is coming up in a few weeks' time, and I'd be surprised if they don't have some concrete stats.

Oh yes, and the bloggers may well leap up to bite Mary Dejevsky's sorry arse, but will she take any notice?

Spinsterella said...

*fumes*

I might have something sensible to say when I calm down.

Spinsterella said...

Just played lc's next-blog test.

4 men
4 women
2 that I just couldn't figure out.

Smat said...

I would play the next blog game too, but I'm too busy being oppressed at my kitchen sink to even think about venturing into the scary world of the internet where people actually have opinions.
(she says online while Mr Smat does the washing up).
But then I don't really exist either.
Stupid woman.

Annie said...

How I'd like to comment. But I'm too bashful.

james henry said...

Goddammit, WHERE'S MY TEA!!!!!!

patroclus said...

Shush, you - I'm writing my diary.

Aimee said...

"Feminise the examination system by introducing coursework"?? They introduced coursework purely to give the poor little defenceless women a shot at keeping up with the big clever boys did they?

I'm picking up on this point merely because I am a student myself - I regard the rest of the points made equally ridiculous and invalid as this one though.

Did this woman even READ her article before she sent it in?

patroclus said...

Another very good point, Aimee. The whole thing is utter rot from start to finish. And to think I quite liked the Independent. No more!

Terri Nixon said...

"Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading."

Hmm, no, you're quite right about that, Mary.

Where's that e-mail address? I smell blood ...

Betty said...

Blimey, there are so many contradictions in that article. So like a woman, eh?

I must put my hands up here and confess that I wrote about my unpleasant menstrual cycle in a recent post, so I may well be one of those gynaecology bloggers that Mazzer refers to.

However, I should stress that I only spend about three minutes a night blogging after my day stomping around the boardroom, picking up my nine children on the school run, dusting behind the radiators, helping the kids with their homework, ironing hubby's ties, putting my grandparents to bed and making a tasty but economical casserole from the remains of Sunday's roast.

Remember - gynaecology bloggers ROCK and we are taking over the nation! You only get one pair of fallopian tubes!

Heather said...

That article is so flawed in so many ways. The level of hypocrisy Dejevsky displays is sickening.

The Guardian, proving itself yet again to be a newspaper worthy of reading, published it's own response to the Independant's article last week in G2. In the article it not only disproved Dejevsky's claims but highlighted the best political blogs written by women in the UK.

As a newcomer to the world of blogging I am probably not the most qualified to speak on this. However I have absolutely no intention to blog about childcare (I have no children) or gynacology (something I discuss with no one apart from my doctor).

Shock horror! I have other interests, and they're not knitting or sewing. We're not in the 1950's anymore.

I very much doubt that Mary did any research before writing that article. It is simply nauseating that she gets paid for producing such undiluted drivel.

Billy said...

Conversation yesterday with person who shall remain nameless:

Me: What do you think the male /female ratio of the blogosphere is?
He: (after short pause pondering the word 'blogosphere') I would say 70-30 male-female.
Me: Actually it's closer to the reverse, twice as many female bloggers as male.
He: That's funny, I was reading in the Independent the other day that there are no female bloggers.

(At least he's not an columnist for the Indy)

Random Kiwi said...

yep, just adding my voice to the chorus of 'does not blog about children'. or gynaecology. or flamin' nailpolish or whatever else we're supposed to be interested in.

we've got 2006 happening over here lady, step on in...

MissPrism said...

Dear me, what a daft bint is Dejevzsky.

There's a splendid collection of links to interesting blogs by women
(610 of them so far) at http://philobiblon.co.uk/?cat=13

frangelita said...

Almost all the bloggers I know are women. I sort of assumed we outnumbered men. If I ever meet this woman, I will demonstrate my extreme distate - providing of course I can escape from my hordes of children and cookery.

dh said...

If Mary is trying to stir the shit she did a good job. Dick

First Nations said...

i'lll say it again: the cow is poking us with a stick so that we all rise up and complain, thus leaving our linktags, so she can read up for her next article 'Uppity opinionated ho bags of the blogosphere who should really go see what the kids are getting up to.'
phft. didn't want the hoochie all in my shit anyway.

realdoc said...

I think you've started something patroclus. There is now a riot of anti-Mary bloggery* going on.

*Is it a word? I don't know but it should be.

belladona said...

fn you may well be right. Dear lord though, she really did write a load of old arse.

skeadugenga said...

I did spot that particular piece of crap, as I confess to taking the Independent, but Mary Dejevsky has never rated highly on my list of "must reads", quite the opposite. So it got hurled lightly into the corner with an "utter rubbish", since I know lots of female bloggers, none of whom are a)politicians, b) preoccupied with gynaecology c)self obsessed.

I'm mailing the Independent to suggest that Mary should be allowed a swift transfer to her spiritual home and go and write for the Daily Mail.

parnellpr said...

Outraged women blogger here...Does this women seriously call herself a journalist? Purleeze!! If anybody see's me blogging about gyny stuff or childcare then then should seriously begin to doubt my sanity... Those things do have their place. However, I, like 99.9% of my fellow bloggers regardless of their sex, have alot more interesting things to discuss on their blogs. I've just done a post on this myself, and have linked to this post so come on by if you want to rant some more. Pippa. P.S This is a great blog and will be added to my roll soon.

Karen McL said...

Hmm...well as I haven't been on a good megalomaniac rant an rave for quite some time...But let me say that I not only KNOW women CAN and DO blog on Everything Under the Sun Moon and Little Bitty Solar Eclipses of Importance...but that they ought to Running this World for a change.

But I DO have Standards to Keep UP ...and there are a few women who DO NOT get to RUN the World...and apparently *Mary* falls into this category.

Sorry Mary... but as much as I may have already scotched my oppotunity to Run the World because of my vociferous Bloggy Opinions...you fail to qualify for being a block-headed imbecile.

Nicole said...

Man, these ovaries really make it difficult to sit at the computer and type.

Also, kudos to whatever commenter noted the irony that while women are too timid to express their opinions, this one, with her own newspaper column, is clearly the exception to the rule.

patroclus said...

parnellpr - oo, splendid, if I feel ranty later I might well drop by.

Karen - quite. Keep it up with the bloggy opinions, now.

Nicole - kudos to *you* for the Fraggle Rock icon. That was a great show!

FUNKYBROWNCHICK said...

Um ... just one of the many female bloggers standing up to be counted. :)

BiScUiTs said...

I'm a bit late but blimey, what a strange article. I've never thought of the 'blogosphere' as not having many women bloggers, in fact I've always thought there were a lot of women bloggers around, I'm sure it must be at least 50/50.

Not only that but there are statistics around about women who play computer games/use the internet and how the numbers are evening up, so I'm sure it must be the same with blogging, after all if there are more women using the internet chances are they might decide to start a blog as well.