If you look at the political blogs which are most read by MPs and political journalists, you find that they are run by a nearly all-male cast: Jonathan Isaby, Tim Montgomerie, Alex Smith, Stephen Tall, myself and so on.
As I wrote when looking at the impact of the internet on politics in 2010:
That’s not to say there aren’t many, very good, female political bloggers. But overall, despite political blogging being a relatively new field which started up long after women got the vote, the idea of equal pay for equal work became widely accepted as obviously right, and so on – the highest profile political blogs – judged by criteria such as which ones journalists say they read or MPs say they rate – are no more an advert for diversity than the make up of Parliament. In other words, not much of one.
It’s a curio as to why this is the case – especially when, on the ONS’s figures, the majority of bloggers in the UK are female (and the majority of internet users are now female too), but that would be a talk in itself for another time.
One possible partial explanation is highlighted by the pattern of letters to newspapers, as Journalism.co.uk shows in its discussion of why men dominate in that medium:
The theme was picked up by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in January 2010.
“Why is the letters page, of whichever newspaper you care to choose, invariably dominated by men?” the programme asked. The Observer has actually called for more women to write in.
Jenni Murray talked to Stephen Pritchard, readers’ editor at the Observer, and Sarah Sands, deputy editor of the London Evening Standard. Pritchard and Sands seemed to agree that time was a crucial factor – maybe women had less of it. Sands also identified a reluctance on the part of women to declare their opinion publicly.
But does the lack of time and innate modesty theory really hold true, when we look at the amount of female time spent, and number of views shared, on MumsNet, or fashion and food blogs and forums?
I’d be interested to see some more research in this area. It’s a theme that journalist Gaby Hinsliff picks up on in her introductory post for today’s International Women’s Day themed LabourList. Of political blogging, she says “there are too many women waiting to be invited to blog, where men just pile in”.
Perhaps there are some common factors at work here? Perhaps too its not just about the inclination to write but also about the at times very rude and abrupt behaviour that is taken as acceptable, either on blog comments or on newspaper letters pages. Does that have a disproportionate effect in terms of who it puts off?
All points to chew over.