Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gender concerns among bloggers

I continue today writing on sex and gender and early Christianity (I'm finishing up c. 3 of Sex and the Serpent), but I took a lunch break and surfed over to the Biblioblog Top 50. I scrolled down the page and was struck by the fact that in that list of hundreds of names and blogs I am just about the only woman's voice represented. And as a voice, my woman's voice would have to be a voice asking us to rethink orthodoxy and heresy, to revision the struggle for power and authority, to listen to the echoes of those who lost the theological and social battles, and learn from our past to better our lives and those of our children.

Why are there so many male bibliobloggers? Why are there so few females on that list?

13 comments:

bulbul said...

I am just about the only woman's voice represented
Not to disprove your point, a valid one for sure, but as far as I can tell, Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni (22), Suzanne McCarthy (45), Renita J. Weems (101) and Cláudia Andréa Prata Ferreira (148) are all women. There a few more female names below the 150 line.

April DeConick said...

And what is this in terms of percentage?

bulbul said...

286 blogs total, 16 where the author is immediately identifiable as a woman = 5.6%. This is indeed striking, especially when compared to, say, the Top 100 Language Blogs, where I count at least 11 women and can think of three or four more who should be on that list.
Again, your point is well taken. Judging by my experience from, say, SBL conferences, there is no derth of female voices in biblical studies, so I assume the question is what is it about the combination of the medium and the subject that brings about this gender gap.

April DeConick said...

I have no evidence to explain this substantial gender gap, but since churches, college classes, and seminaries fill proportionately with women, I don't think it is the subject. What is happening (or not happening) on the internet in relation to the bible and blogs?

I don't think that it is the internet itself, since there are plenty of women chatting on line about other subjects in blogs of their own.

I would be keen to learn what you think.

Scott F said...

Perhaps female bloggers don't spend enough time spotting Total Depravity (tm). Sometimes the topics on even top-rated blogs can be less than illuminating.

Vinny said...

You're a woman??? I thought you were just another effeminate seminary professor in denial about his sexuality! I'm not sure I can read your blog anymore. (Is there anyone I haven't offended yet?)

Biblioblog Top 50 said...

April,

We highlighted the same imbalance a few months ago, here.

What is interesting is that, while the early years of blogging (speaking generally, not just biblioblogging) was marked by a predominance of male bloggers, the evidence we found was that there are today an equal number of male and female bloggers. But this is dramatically not the case in biblioblogging. So you kind of have to ask why, don't you?

Having thought about it, the answer is probably quite obvious. Given that the main driver for the majority of bibliobloggers is a confessional commitment, and perhaps even a pastoral role, we strongly suspect that this is where the inquality found in biblioblogging stems from. The root causes are deeply structural and a symptom of Christian power structures. Simply put, because the structure of Christian authority is male-dominated, and because most bibiobloggers have Christian affiliations, biblioblogging is likewise male-dominated.

(But, for those interested in reading at the margins: Tonya from Hebrew and Greek Reader; Ekaterini G. Tsalampouni from Ιστολόγιο βιβλικών σπουδών / Biblical Studies Blog; Amy Anderson from Evangelical Textual Criticism; Mandy from The Floppy Hat; Gillian Townsley and Elizabeth Young from The Dunedin School; Suzanne McCarthy from Suzanne’s Bookshelf; Rachel Barenblat from Velveteen Rabbi; Renita J. Weems from Something Within.com; Deirdre Good from On Not Being a Sausage; Iveta Strenkova from Bibbiablog; Cláudia Andréa Prata Ferreira on three separate blogs; Karyn Traphagen on Boulders 2 Bits; Julia M. O’Brien; Jane Stranz on Of life, laughter and liturgy . . .; Helen Ingram on The Omega Course; Lao Shi (Jennifer ) Chiou on 邱老師網誌
Chioulaoshi Blog; Ruth P. Martin on The Pioneers’ New Testament; Brenda Heyink on Joining in the Conversation; Judy Redman on Judy’s research blog; Annette Merz and Cathy Dunn on Acta Pauli; Lisa, White Bear Girl aka Sophie Clucker on Bible Study Connection; Megan Rohrer on Transcript.)

Geoff Hudson said...

Ignore the Bibliog Top 50. It's practically meaningless and is created by someone with little better to do. And why Jim West gets to the top every month beats me.

Julia M. O'Brien said...

I've been thinking about this more. I do think there's a dimension of blogging that requires a healthy dose of ego, something not traditionally encouraged in females. But I also wonder about the role of networking and way that many of the blogs in the top tier regularly reference one another. How do we encourage each other's success, make sure that others find the good work that's out there?

April DeConick said...

So Julia, do you think that the "old boy's network" is especially strong in biblical studies?

Julia M. O'Brien said...

I would attribute it more to the sad truth that people tend to talk to and recommend people they know and agree with. Look at SBL. Postmodernist interpreters, text critics, and those with historical/archaeological interests rarely cross boundaries to talk to each other. People who care about gender usually talk to other people who care about gender. For bibliobloggers who want an audience, I guess that means searching for readers you know will be interested in what you're doing and/or find ways to engage people with different though related interests.

When I started my blog, I knew nothing about the whole biblioblog scene. My goal was to get into conversations with people beyond church and beyond biblical scholarship. I'm learning how easy it is to revert back to talking to other scholars and worrying about what they think about me.

April DeConick said...

Julia,

I discovered a long time ago that I couldn't do the work that I felt had to be done if I was looking over my shoulder all the time and worrying about what other scholars might think. I also realized that I wasn't going to be able to solve everything I felt was incorrect about our field.

My advice (not that you asked it but I'm going to give it anyway - smile!) is simple: focus on developing your own work as solid as you can, and your own voice as brilliant as it can be, and decide what it is that you feel you want to contribute to the field. Do that, and don't worry about whether or not another scholar agrees with you or disagrees, because someone is always going to disagree.

Judy Redman said...

I wonder whether one of the reasons that there are so few women bibliobloggers because of the well-documented disproportionate division of housework and childcare among working couples? Research shows that when both partners work full time in many households, the woman nevertheless does well over half the work around the home. This would leave less time for blogging that required serious thought. It doesn't take much to do the "Hey, I just did X" type of blog, but as Robyn Beckley Vine pointed out on the Emerging Women blog, blogging good theology requires reflection time and mental space that women who are doing lots more housework than their partners often simply don't have.