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Results: Survey of Members of Blog Sisters

As indicated by Tables 1 and 2, the respondents of the survey were mostly college-educated women in their late thirties living in the United States. They have been active bloggers for an average of two years and seven months.
Table 1: Demographic Data on members of Blog Sisters

Age Location Education Level
Mode 41 United States 19 Some High School 1
Median 42.5 Canada 1 Some College 4
Mean 39 France 1 Some Graduate School 3
Range 22-63 The Netherlands 1 Master’s Degree 9
Ph.D. (one ABD) 2

Table 2: Length of time Blog Sisters have read weblogs and kept weblogs

Read Weblogs Kept Weblogs
Mode 1 yr. Mode 1 yr.
Median 2 yrs., 7 mo. Median 2 yrs., 7 mo.
Mean 1 yr., 10 mo. Mean 1 yr. 4 mo.
Range 2 mo. to 5 yrs. Range 3 mo. to 5 yrs.

Table 3: Answers to the question "What does the term "blogging community" mean to you?

Definitions of Blogging Community Celebrity(reference to fame, high volume of traffic, many readers) Small Clusters (“My friends and I,” or people in a geographical region) Tool-centered (those who use Blogger, Xanga, who are listed on Daypop) Like-minded (Writers who share mutual interests, political views) Term is not meaningful
8 4 1 8 2

Table 4: Answers to question "Do you consider yourself an active member of the blogging community? Why or why not?

Yes (Posts to blog frequently) Yes (Publicizes blog by linking to others in posts and on blogrolls; leaves comments on other blogs) No (Keeps a blog for herself) No (Doesn’t publicize blog by blogrolling, commenting, and linking to others’ blogs)
7 8 2 5

Table 5: Answers to question “If you answered no to the previous question, would you like to be more well-known in the blogging community? If so, what do you think it would take for you to get the same level of attention as the ‘A-list bloggers’?”

Desire to be well-known blogger? Yes(Needs to be more active in commenting/linking to others) No(Doesn’t write about just one topic, as many A-Listers do) No (Satisfied with her level of fame/number of readers) No(No desire to be; doesn’t want the attention) No (Just does it for herself)
1 3 10 3 2

Next: Answers to Open-Ended Questions

Gender and CMC Research

In “Tinkering with Technological Skill: An Examination of the Gendered Uses of Technologies,” Ann Brady Aschauer (1999) describes a study she did of eight women technical communicators. These women had all graduated from the same Master’s degree program. Aschauer observed them for four years, both in school and as they entered the workplace. She looked for rhetorical problem-solving techniques that these women used as they used technological tools. She found that the technological tools the women used, in these cases, was not serving a gender hierarchy, but the ways the men sometimes viewed the women Aschauer observed—as “educated secretaries”—were influenced by the men’s view of the women as separate from engineering projects. That is, the women were sometimes not considered integral parts of projects because they did not know the right tools. The women, however, through rhetorical problem-solving, were able to establish themselves as important parts of their organizations. Aschauer argues that “[t]echnophobic and manic critiques of rhetorical problem-solving technologies are seriously limited as long as we fail to consult those using them” (20). While Aschauer’s study is informative, it does not give examples of rhetorical problem-solving technologies and situations in which women used them to upset gender hierarchies.

Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Theoretical Framework, Prior Research on Gender and Computer-Mediated Communication

  • A portion of the research on gender in electronic writing communities (Wahlstrom, 1994, Rickly, 1999, Aschauer, 1999) is influenced by three landmark feminist texts: Nancy Chodorow’s The Reproduction of Mothering (1978), Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982), and Mary Field Belenky et al’s Women’s Ways of Knowing (1986).
  • Chodorow (1978) “analyzes the reproduction of mothering as a central and constituting element in the social organization and reproduction of gender” (p. 7). She describes the “reproduction of mothering” as a built-in facet of girls’ and women’s personalities. Because girls are mothered by women, they see their mothers as role models and, in turn, desire to mother. Chodorow argues that “the contemporary reproduction of mothering occurs through socially structurally induced psychological processes. It is neither a product of biology nor of intentional role-training” (p. 7).
  • Chodorow points out that “girls emerge from this period [preoedipal phase] with a basis for ‘empathy’ built into their primary definition of self in a way that boys do not. Girls emerge with a stronger basis for experiencing another’s needs or feelings as one’s own (or of thinking that one is so experiencing another’s needs and feelings)” (p. 167). Because a girl was mothered by a woman who anticipated her needs as an infant and child, she in turn learns to anticipate and meet others’ needs.
  • Gilligan, influenced by Chodorow, explores women’s development with attention to ethics and morality. From data collected in interviews with children and women, Gilligan finds “the concepts of responsibility and care in women’s construction of the moral domain, the close tie in women’s thinking between conceptions of the self and of morality, and ultimately the need for an expanded developmental theory that includes, rather than rules out from consideration, the differences in the feminine voice” (p. 105). Gilligan theorizes that if women think of ethics and morals in terms of rights, or what they are entitled to themselves, they can balance ethics and morality between the needs of the self and the needs of others, going from “the paralyzing injunction not to hurt others to an injunction to act responsively toward self and others and thus to sustain connection” (149).
  • I realize that these theories of gender have their limitations; they take the categories of "men" and "women" as monolithic and do not account for intersectionality with race and class. I have used these theorists here for the questions they raise about behavior in an environment with a gendered power differential.

Next: Survey Administered to Members of Blog Sisters

Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Introduction: Research Question, Methods

  • Blogging communities are ideologically charged, and dominant ideologies such as sexism, racism, and classism influence blogging practices.
  • Most bloggers have a desire to connect with an audience through their weblogs, to gain a readership. Small communities of bloggers form, situated around common interests, but my results will show that among the bloggers with the highest number of readers, women are underrepresented, and that in mainstream blogging, or the “blogosphere” of most widely-read weblogs, it is difficult for women’s voices to enter the conversation.
  • "Blogging community” can be defined in several different ways, but there is an aspect of celebrity involved with keeping a weblog. Women keep weblogs for many different reasons; most do it because a weblog is a personal writing space where one can write about and link to whatever she wants. Blogging is a regular writing exercise, a way for a blogger to gather her thoughts, discover her interests, come to value her own perspective, and refine her opinions on issues that are important to her.
  • Research question: What do women bloggers experience in the blogging community as they define it, and how well are they represented in the most widely-read and linked-to weblogs?
  • Methods: In this study, I used a mixed-method design of a survey, illustrative case, and observation of the number of men and women on the blogrolls of ten of the most widely-read and linked-to weblogs on the Internet. After receiving approval from my university’s Institutional Review Board, I distributed a survey to the members of Blog Sisters, a women-only blogging community. Blog Sisters is a community weblog, meaning that any member of Blog Sisters can post to the main site. On the site is also a “Sister Roll,” where each member is blogrolled. I emailed the survey to the members, which numbered 145, and received twelve mailer-daemon failure delivery notices due to full inboxes or inactive addresses. Of the 133 women who received the survey, twenty-three responded, to make a 17% response rate. I asked fifteen questions, most of which were open-ended, and looked for patterns to emerge in the responses. I coded the responses according to the patterns.

    I also examined a debate that took place in September 2002. Over the course of that month, at least thirty different bloggers debated the claim that the blogosphere—the mainstream blogging community of most well-known bloggers—is sexist. I followed one thread from Blogroots, a community weblog, an angry post from blogger Dana Jones, and another post from blogger Mary Smith.

    Finally, I observed the blogrolls of ten prominent, well-known bloggers. Because blogrolls are such a telling indicator of which weblogs a certain blogger reads and responds to, and because a blogroll functions in part as an advertisement sending readers to other weblogs, I think it is important to pay attention to who the most widely-read bloggers read and invite into the mainstream of readership.

Next: Theoretical Framework, Prior Research on Gender in Computer-Mediated Communication

Musings on Foucault, Power, and Resistance

In response to my professor's question:

Foucault writes, “We must not look for who has
power . . . and who is deprived of it . . . HS, 99).
Oppression is real: men oppress women; capital
oppresses labor. Is Foucault saying that there are
no seats of power and places of the oppressed in
a given society? Is he also stating that directly
resisting oppression is futile?

I am still trying to find a good way to articulate clearly what Foucault's argument about power is. The example that keeps sticking in my mind is this: If power is possessed by a group or entity such as "men" or "capital," then history would have been quite different; I imagine we would have had one group in power (royalty) and they would always have had the power and always will have it. Instead, we've seen many dictators and others come to positions of authority using unorthodox means. My impression is that this is an example of what Foucault means when he says that "power is exercised from innumerable points" (p. 94). However, it is not easy for me to use that example with confidence, because in The History of Sexuality, Foucault's pattern has been to make definitive statements such as "Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared" (p. 94, which would seem to refute my example) and then to qualify these claims: "Are there no great radical ruptures, massive binary divisions, then? Occasionally, yes. But more often one is dealing with mobile and transitory points of resistance [...]" (p. 96). More to the point, in the quotation above, Foucault suggests that we should not "look for who has power," but that we should look at the "process" of power, how it is exercised and perpetuated. I would argue that Foucault is not saying there are no positions of power and positions of oppression, but, as Jana Sawicki has argued in Disciplining Foucault, "[Foucault] does not deny that the juridico-discursive model of power describes one form of power. He merely thinks that it does not capture those forms of power that make centralized, repressive forms of power possible, namely, the myriad of power relations at the microlevel of society" (p. 20). It is clear, then, that Foucault is saying that there are seats of power and oppressed groups, but he is more interested in the subtleties and complexities of power. To put groups in a binary relation is reductive; for example, to say that men oppress women is to give those categories a monolithic quality and ignore intersections such as race and class and to put blinders on by focusing on one particular phenomenon, such as some radical feminists' critiques of pornography as the locus of men's oppression of women. Some women, in fact, are more able to exercise power than some men.

Melissa Rowland Case

Feministe and Trish Wilson are commenting on the Melissa Rowland case; long story short, she's being prosecuted for the death of one of her twin infants, which is ostensibly a result of her refusing to have a C-section. They link to this article and this sublime one from FindLaw.

Needless to say, I am outraged about this.

In other news...The First Woman President Symposium is actually on September 10 and 11, not September 24 and 25 as I had read before. I'm there; we need that woman president now more than ever, it seems.

Spring Break Shorts

  • I need to pre-order the new book by Siva Vaidhyanathan. Also, now might be the time to buy an iPod.
  • Another article on gender in the blogosphere. Consider this thought:

    If you accept the premise of the blogosphere as a true meritocracy, a place where our intellectual (and emotional) impulses can flourish unchecked, then you're buying into the concept of the blog world as a window into human nature. If that's the case, the blogosphere -- with perhaps just four percent female participation in poliblogs -- shows us that while women are just as interested as men in spouting off, they're fundamentally less interested than men in spouting off about politics.

    Or perhaps people don't recognize what women spout off about as politics proper.

  •   Irish Sushi, via Rebecca Blood. Yum.
  • Ann Wizer, an American artist in Indonesia, is making tote bags out of ephemeral plastic bags (grocery bags, etc.). She did this in an attempt to clean up the environment and create jobs. So guess what happened...

    Not all manufacturing companies appreciate Wizer's efforts. Last year, the German soft drink company Capri-Sonne threatened to sue for trademark infringement. They settled out of court when Wizer agreed to distribute her Capri-Sonne bags -- her most popular design -- through schools only.

    "For the big companies, this is the real issue. When does trademark die? When it's thrown away or when it goes up in toxic flames?" she says. "Frankly, they should be paying me for cleaning up their trash."


  • A friend of mine whom I haven't talked to in years just emailed me. I can't wait to catch up with her. One night she and I attended a Gloria Steinem talk at the University of Tennessee, which a bunch of horrid archconservatives had also attended. She and I hung around and met Steinem afterward and then were so wired that we picked up burgers at Wendy's, went back to her apartment, and talked about feminism until about 1:00 a.m. Good times.
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