Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What are we going to do about the blogger gender gap?

Alright, the gender gap among bibliobloggers is appalling. The gender gap has nothing to do with the internet or women being afraid to blog or publicly speak our minds since women do this in many other internet forums.

I continue to muse that it has nothing to do with the area of study since seminaries have plenty of women attending, as do the churches. I admit that women are sparse at SBL, and they are sparse in universities as professors in this field (I can count on my hands the number of women that hold professorships in biblical studies), and they are sparse in leadership roles in churches, but blogging is not being done mainly by professors and church leaders. Graduate students and people fascinated with the field make up a large portion of bibliobloggers.

Biblioblog Top 50 commented in my last post on the subject that they have considered this and have come to the conclusion that biblioblogging is mainly confessional so "Simply put, because the structure of Christian authority is male-dominated, and because most bibiobloggers have Christian affiliations, biblioblogging is likewise male-dominated."

This is a good try, but I don't think so. There is no Christian authority hovering over women and telling them they can't or shouldn't blog on the bible. Women are great talkers, and from my lifelong conversations among friends, women love to talk about their spirituality and religious traditions. The power structures that are keeping women from advancing in the field of biblical studies in terms of the academy, or keeping them from advancing in the churches into positions of power, do not control the internet.

Or do they? Let's consider Biblioblog Top 50's comment further. At the end of the comment we find this language in relationship to women's blogs on the bible.
(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.)
What? "For those interested in reading at the margins"?! Are women's biblioblogs at the margins?! At the margins of what? With this kind of language, it is no wonder that women's biblioblogs aren't in the stats. I have never considered my blog "on the margins" nor do I imagine have Deirdre or Judy or any of the other women considered their blogs to be marginal.

So this is my hypothesis. I think there are as many women bibliobloggers out there as men, but they are not visible. Why? Because many of us women post on subjects that are considered marginal (even heretical, especially if there is any feminist bent) to bible studies by the men who are blogging about the bible. Our blogs are easily justified as unimportant. They remain unknown or unread because they haven't been linked to by the male bibliobloggers who dominate this blog niche and the field in general, a point that Julia wisely raised in the comments to my last post on this subject. Julia wrote: "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?"

So I say, enough of this nonsense and rationalizations. This is what I'm going to do. This weekend when I have more time, I am going to get the women bibliobloggers (all of them) into my sidebar blog roll. I am going to start with this list that Biblioblog Top 50 has so kindly put together on women's blogs (their so-called marginal blogs). And if any of my women readers have biblioblogs not in that list, or if any of my readers know of other women bibliobloggers not in that list, send that information to me and I will add it to the blog roll. Those links will be there for anyone who wishes to copy them and get them into their own blog rolls.

Let's create some visibility for women bibliobloggers and stop the marginalization of women's biblioblogs. Let's change the stats.

25 comments:

Geoff Hudson said...

The Bibliog Top 50 is a completely unofficial group assembled by Jeffrey Gibson, with statistical data supposedly independent. A number of members within a fairly close-knit group refer to each other's blogs, in a back-scratching way that enhances the chances of the group appearing higher in the list. Jim West does very well in this group.

J. K. Gayle said...

Wow! Yes more, more biblioblogging recognition even for "subjects that are considered marginal (even heretical, especially if there is any feminist bent) to bible studies by the men who are blogging about the bible."

And if any of these men have the courage, they also should send you those who they've considered marginal. Then "if any women readers have biblioblogs not in that list [of theirs], or if any of [your] readers know of other women bibliobloggers not in that list, [can also] send that information to [you] and [you] will add it to the blog roll.

Once upon a time, I blogged and kept a fairly long list of so-called "marginal" bloggers, some bibliobloggers, some feminist, some bibliofeministbloggers. You've inspired me to make an RSS link to that old blogroll and to put it up again as a sidebar blogroll with direct links to each. Anyone who wants to sift through it can at Aristotle's Feminist Subject (once a "Top 50 Biblioblogger").

Patrick George McCullough said...

April, I am interested to review the list that you compile. I wouldn't mind hearing a response from the Biblioblog Top 50 on why they used the word "margins." I'm not sure they meant to place these women at the margins or whether they were simply stating that these blogs by women don't get as many hits and, thus, they are marginal--as are any other blogs that don't get hits.

I have to admit, your suggestion in this post feels a little conspiratorial. I'm not going as far as Jim to say "women have only themselves to blame." As if an entire group is monolithic. But I don't think that there is a conspiracy afoot to keep women marginalized. If I find blogs that catch my interest, I will read them. In fact, I'm eager to find more female bloggers writing about things that interest me. Yours and Julia's are currently my favorites.

I'm not convinced that there are as many female bibliobloggers as male. My thought (see my recent post) is that the lack of female bibliobloggers is due to perceived risk. Do you think that idea has merit?

In any case, I look forward to your compilation. If I find new female bibliobloggers who interest me, I will publicize them on my own blog.

Geoff, I'm not certain the Biblioblog Top 50 is merely back-scratching. It is a public listing of Alexa rankings, which are (as anything else) imperfect. Jim West gets to the top of the list because he is polemical and prolific. Since his blog is on the sensationalistic side, it gets tons of hits. Most other bibliobloggers try to retain some professionalism given their profession (or their ambitions for that profession) and thus their blogs are not so sensationalistic.

I will never get as many hits as Jim West, but I can live with that. We have different kinds of blogs. I like nuance and balance and, alas, that doesn't get you as much traffic.

Geoff Hudson said...

Who is Alexa?

Mike Koke said...

April, you are right that this is a problem and I think you have a good solution to change that. I have some women bloggers in my blogroll (you, Judy Redman,Julia M. O’Brien, Suzanne McCarthy Hebrew and Greek Reader [Tonya]) and have a couple posts on egalitarianism. I know Tyler Williams strongly encourages female bloggers to host a biblical studies carnival, as Judy Redman has and that may help to increase visibility. But you are right that we should all be trying harder to support equality in the blogosphere.

Patrick George McCullough said...

Geoff, Alexa.com. See the explanation for how the rankings are tabulated.

Biblioblog Top 50 said...

April,

When you say, quite correctly, that there is no Christian authority "hovering over women and telling them they can't or shouldn't blog on the bible", you are of course quite right. But the structures of institutional power never work solely by "hovering over". The methods are much more diverse and often more insidious. Power works to hold onto power in subtle ways, getting those it has power over to agree with its propaganda, propagating its ideology by internalization.

Women make up 5% of bibliobloggers (1 in 20). This statistic is evidence of deep structural marginalization of women's voices in biblioblogging. While there is no parity yet amongst the sexes in other disciplines, it is certainly nothing like 1:20. The obvious cultural difference is the dominant religious background of bibliobloggers. Most bibliobloggers are Christian; Christianity remains dominated by male structures of authority; this authority structure is absorbed into the ways of thinking by women wanting to biblioblog. Anecdotal? Yes. But I can't think of another explanation which would account for the discrepancy to the same extent.

The story has a parallel when you look at the (majority) two-thirds world of Christianity and (minority) Western Christendom. Guess where the "mainstream" view resides? Guess where the "margins" are? Again, the margins are with the majority, as a fact of power. "From the margins" contains no value judgment. It is a matter of fact that the voices of women are marginalised. Yours, April, is a marginal voice. I'm hoping what you're doing here might reverse that. If you're marginalized, as we believe you are, you're going to need to put in more effort just to get to the same place as those who are not marginalized. So it's good to see you doing it. From our own experience, we know that additonal effort is required to seek out bibliobloggers who are women, or who live in non-Western countries.

Your point about networking is another reason for this marginalization, we agree.

We will be very interested in the results of your search for overlooked bibloblogs.

bill h said...

The rankings are based on the number of readers, so maybe you should ask "who reads biblioblogs and why?"

The more often you post the more often your regular readers will read your blog and the higher your ranking will be. Also commenting on other blogs brings traffic to your site, as well as encouraging networking.

A huge amount of traffic to blogs is not from regular readers at all but from search engine results.

Just random comments about blog popularity that have nothing to do with the relationship between gender and biblioblogs, about which I have no clue.

Biblioblog Top 50 said...

Patrick,

You asked why we used the word "margins". Actually, when we used it, we had the title to RS Sugirtharajah's well-known collection in mind. His explanation is a good one:

"I would like to explain the choice of the word 'margin' in the title. Friends and critics have often queried it. Is not marginality a position of weakness and self-depreciation? When are you people going to move to the centre? Although it is tempting to move in from the periphery and find a place at the centre, whatever that centre may be, my intention is to stay firmly at the margin, but not to linger on the outskirts of Western scholarship as 'hewers of texts and drawers of book learning' as the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore once cautioned us. Rather, the aim is to reperceive the margin, as the Indian feminist and deconstructionist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has done - as a place pulsting with critical activity, a place alive with argument and controversy and a place of creative discourse.
(Voices from the Margin)

Pastor Bob said...

1. I read two blogs on a regular basis this and one other. Both are written by women.

2. Who is Jim West?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am glad you are taking this on, April. I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this.

Julia M. O'Brien said...

I posted my response on my blog:
http://juliamobrien.net

Rod said...

I am trying to recruit students that I know to blog (that are women and religious studies scholars).

Geoff Hudson said...

WHO is Bibliog Top 50? It is obviously some who can't write plain English.

Gem said...

So this is my hypothesis. I think there are as many women bibliobloggers out there as men, but they are not visible. Why? Because many of us women post on subjects that are considered marginal (even heretical, especially if there is any feminist bent) to bible studies by the men who are blogging about the bible.

Touche!

Here are a couple more for your collection:

Men and Women in the Church

Dawn Wilson Ministries Blog

J. K. Gayle said...

More:

One (marginalized) area of women's work is bible translation. Some bloggers, such as Ann Nyland who translated the New Testament with respect to Classical Greak, find blogging interests in seemingly tangential subjects like horses. Nyland, on her blog where she links to her books, says this about herself: "I breed, ride and train the old-fashioned type of Arabian horses; also Quarab horses, am a Bible translator." Finding bibliobloggers (who are women writing about many other interests) is no easy task. But to assume the interests are always only on the margins of bible interests is far too easy.

To find a direct link to Nyland's blog, and to consider how women count in bible translation (and in blogging on various women in translation of the bible), there's this old post -

"Women Count in Bible Translation"

Patrick George McCullough said...

J.K. Gayle, I'm a little confused. I don't see how a blog that is entirely about horses (Horses More Horses) is "seemingly tangential" to biblical studies and not, rather, completely tangential.

I am a feminist (I've walked around my previous evangelical Christian campuses wearing a shirt that says "This is what a feminist looks like"). And I really would like to find some more quality female bibliobloggers. But I don't want to read about horses. Everybody has their hobbies, but I don't really care to read about them if they are not my own hobbies/interests. I have enough on my plate as a doctoral student, father, and husband.

To be clear, I feel the same way about male bibliobloggers who do the same with their tangential interests on their blogs--many of whom are pretty high up on the biblioblog top 50 rankings.

I glanced through her blog (which last published a post in March 2008) and it seems every single post is on horses and "am a Bible translator" in her personal description is the only reference to the Bible on the blog. Ah, I see that she has a separate blog for Bible translation issues, which has a total of 6 posts. A few in 2006 and one in 2008. If she had stuck to it, then I don't see why that blog wouldn't be on the "official" biblioblog list.

J. K. Gayle said...

Patrick,
Thanks for letting me clarify. It's not hobbies or horses or hobby horses that's at issue. And you do make a good point about that! If you read Jim West's number 1 blog for half a year now, you do get the idea that not everything's bible on his "biblioblog."

There's a couple of other issues, a least: 1) we tend to be gender blind, to declare (like Jim does) that "gender doesn't or shouldn't matter." Allthewhile, males enjoy the privileged, unmarked default places where they can blog about mundane and tangential topics as diversions. (My point on Nyland and her horses is that she has other interests and that may make her tough to find as a biblioblogger, whether six posts or fewer on the bible per se).

Which brings up a second issue: 2) the qualities of woman blogging get missed when male (masculinist) categories are default. One of my favorite writers (Nancy Mairs), for example, dares to write sentences like this:

"In a single sentence [the reviewer] reimposed the very dichotomies I had constructed the book in order to call into question, putting electrified fences around the categories 'academy' 'criticism,' and 'writing' to keep the various critters from intermingling, maybe interbreeding to create some nameless monster very like the one I aspire to be."

And the first line of Mairs' qualifying exams for her Ph.D. goes like this:

"Self. Life. Writing. Self-life-writing. Selflifewriting."

The deconstruction of default (male) categories that Mairs is doing is not only a negative thing but also a positive recovery. It's not necessarily championing the "feminist" label or brand or category but, what Mairs calls, "a radical alterity."

So what do Nylands horses have to do with her bible? Aristotle would answer, "In Nature? Absolutely nothing." But then we'd expect that from him, wouldn't we.

Patrick, I really appreciate your post on all of this! Suspect many of us do.

Judy Redman said...

Bother. I get frantically busy for a week and you start having a fascinating conversation. I am going to go home and think about it, but a brief comment on Ann Nyland. She lives near me and I have met her. She is a Greek scholar, rather than a biblical scholar, who found some of the ways in which people chose to translate bits of the Bible quite odd, so ended up producing a new translation of the New Testament called "the Source New Testament". I really like the translation and the footnotes are really interesting and helpful.

She is no longer working in academia, however, and what she does most is work with her horses. So I guess that's what she blogs on most. :-)

J. K. Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for the updates on Ann, Judy! Several of us look forward to your saying more about April's concern here, when you have some time of course.

To be clear,

are affiliation with academia (vs work with horses)

and biblical scholarship (vs Greek scholarship and translation practice)

necessary qualifications for inclusion in Biblioblog Top 50's classification, "biblioblogger"?

Karyn T said...

Thanks, April, for listing my blog. I have to think through some of the comments here before fully speaking my mind.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that I really hope that people won't ignore OR read what I write simply because I'm a woman. Most of what I want to speak to is more dependent on me being human, than if I am male or female.

I agree with Suzanne--I have many conflicted feelings about this. You've given me a reason to bring those feelings to the front burner for some attention.

Peter Dunn said...

Thanks for the mention of Acta Pauli, but as a matter of correction, Cathy Dunn does not blog there. Prof. Annette Merz has provided a post, and Dr. Elisabeth Esch-Wermeling has joined us, but has not yet contributed.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Thanks for including my blog. I believe that there is a great need for women to post their view of the Scripture particularly the hard passages of Scripture that appear to limit women.

When I hear well-respected people like John MacArthur say that the reason that men are forbidden to wear the head covering in 1 Corinthians 11 is because it will make them look the same as a woman wearing an easter bonnet, I just cringe. Apparently MacArthur has no idea regarding the spiritual meaning of the head covering.

I give a lot of credit to John Lightfoot in his Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica for documenting the meaning of the head covering during worship and prayer as a needed covering because of the shame of one's sin and our unworthiness to look upon God because of that shame.

The hard passages of scripture really open up when one is enlightened to the Jewish cultural meanings of these symbols. I have blogged about all of the hard Biblical passages on women and in my research it really makes me shake my head at the way that some men are willing to set up women and the things that belong to women as if "feminine" is something to be ridiculed.

Perhaps the more we speak out and give our opinion, the more women will be respected instead of men thinking that we have codies.

Kristen said...

I don't know about the Alexa ratings, but for those lists that exist because someone nominates a blog or requests that their own blog be listed-- if this is being perceived as a "boys club" (whether accurately or otherwise), some women may simply not be trying, or may not be interested in trying, to get in. Why try if the deck is already stacked against you? (Even if that's just a perception, it could be affecting the ratings.)