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Gender Bias in the Blogosphere

Edited for detail, context, and clarity--

One of the latest big stories (memes?) in the greater blogosphere is to select the 20 greatest figures in American history. The deadline has passed, but I think many bloggers are making a list anyway. Some of the people who are getting nods are making me cringe: an honorable mention for Rush Limbaugh?! Anyway, I'm glad Meryl Yourish points out the exclusion of women in most of the lists. She calls it what it is--sexism in the blogosphere:

Which brings me back to the women. I say again, there is definitely a boys' club in the blogosphere, and this list is entered into evidence as Exhibit A. There are a lot of bloggers on that list who have some pretty thoughtul, well-researched posts. But they couldn't see fit to include a single woman?

Yeah, there's something wrong with that picture. Sexism in the blogosphere, again. [links in original]

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

Resources on the ERA and Constitutional Equality Amendment

I've created this list of links for the women of NOW, but it's also for anyone else who's interested. I'll most likely add to it as I go along.

Equal Rights Amendment

Wikipedia entry for ERA

Collection of links on equalrightsamendment.org

Constitutional Equality Amendment

Frequently Asked Questions on the CEA, from Virginia NOW

Collection of links on NOW homepage on CEA

A breakdown of the language used in the CEA from NOW

Mormons for ERA

Wikipedia entry for Sonia Johnson, leader of Mormons for ERA

History of Mormons for ERA

It's synchronicity; it's kismet!

As you know if you read this previous post, I just read From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson, who fought and fasted for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And as you know, I've been despondent thinking about the state of the world and of feminism since. I've been thinking of feminism as similar to that movie Awakenings starring Robert DeNiro. If you haven't seen it, his character has Parkinson's disease. The scientists come up with this great new drug to treat the disease, and for a while DeNiro's character (who at the beginning of the movie was in a catatonic state) comes back to life, enjoys himself, etc. That only lasts for about 3-6 months, though, and he gradually starts getting worse again. It's a freaking sad movie. Anyway, I was thinking that there was a feminist awakening, and where is it now?

A few weeks ago, I went to the local Pride festival and put my name on the Minnesota NOW mailing list. The other day, they sent me a summer schedule. Thursday night, I went to the meeting. In attendance were 22 energetic, beautiful women of all ages. The first item on the agenda?


"We have to get back to work on passing the Equal Rights Amendment."

I got such a rush! One woman in her 50s said that women in their 70s and 80s who fought for the ERA back in the 1970s want to see the ERA get passed before they die (IT NEVER PASSED, just for the record. Many people are surprised to learn that.). Before they die. We have to do this.

In the meeting, they also mentioned the Constitutional Equality Amendment, which is like the ERA but more specific. I'll have to do more reading about it.

In a funk...

Sigh. Yesterday I finally finished From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson. I took a long break in the middle of it, but yesterday I read the last 150 pages. This book was published in 1981 and written in 1980. Now that I'm finished, I'm bummed...not because it was a good book and I hate to see it end, even though that's true too. I'm sad because Johnson ends the book on such a positive note--saying that women need to get angry, to be "all on fire" for women. I agree. She ended the book on such a hopeful note that the Equal Rights Amendment would pass. It didn't, even though she and many others fasted for 37 days in Illinois--fought SO HARD--were willing to die for women's rights. For this sentence: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." That was twenty-one years ago. I'm just learning about all the things that happened in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and I can't let any of it go. I won't. I feel like some kind of quaint relic; it would seem strange to bring this up in casual conversation. But maybe I should anyway!

Eh, so much for pleasure reading. Now I'm on to reading for my fall classes.

Cross-posted at Blog Sisters.

Clancy Ratliff :: Curriculum Vitae

64 Classroom Office Building | 1994 Buford Ave. | St. Paul, MN 55108

http://culturecat.net |


Research Interests

Weblogs, Feminist Rhetorics, Intellectual Property, Internet Studies, Genre Theory, Cultural Studies, Composition Theory, Technical Communication, Pedagogy


  • Editor, Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs, 2004.
  • Contributor, Inman, James. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 2003.
  • Contributing Editor, Literary Culture: Reading and Writing Literary Arguments. 2nd ed. Ed. L. Bensel-Meyers, Susan Giesemann North, and Jeremy W. Webster. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2002.

Courses Taught

  • University of Minnesota
    Rhetoric 1101: Writing to Inform, Convince, and Persuade
    Rhetoric 1223: Oral Presentations in Professional Settings
    Rhetoric 3562: Technical and Professional Writing
  • Roane State Community College
    English 1010: Composition I
  • University of Tennessee
    English 101: English Composition I
    English 102: English Composition II
    Interdisciplinary Studies 493: Technical Writing Module, Ronald McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program

Conference Presentations

Professional Activities

Excited about Fall Class

This fall, I've decided to take "Gender, Rhetoric(s), and Literacy: Historical Bedfellows," a class taught by Dr. Lillian Bridwell-Bowles. Here's the course description:

Participants in this seminar will explore the gendered, entertwined histories of literacy and rhetoric, as well contemporary figures and discourses, with special emphasis on gendered rhetorical practices. While the faculty leader of the seminar has more expertise in feminist interpretations of these histories and practices, other readings of gender (queer, masculinist, etc.) are welcome. The exploration will begin with two precursors to the western rhetorical tradition, the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna (2350 BCE) and the poet Sappho of Lesbos, whose poetic fragments can be contrasted to one by Alcaeus, a male poet from the same era. We will examine contemporary debates over philosophy and epistemology of the Sophists and the gendered implications of the collaborations of Plato, Aspasia, and Pericles, central figures in the founding of western rhetoric. According to participants

New Issue of Sexing the Political

The June 2003 issue of Sexing the Political is out! You can bet I'll be blogging about specific stories in there, but for now I need to drop some stuff off at Goodwill. The apartment I just moved into isn't any bigger than my old one, and I'm trying to make my living space more sparse and open, which is hard in an apartment the size of a matchbox! Anyway, I'm getting rid of the stuff I don't wear all the time, and any white or light-colored shirts. They just don't work with my skin and hair color. Plus, I'm getting rid of all my pants that are too short. I have several pairs of pants that are just a *little* too short. From now on, I'm only going to have tall pants in my closet. I stopped buying any pants that weren't a tall size some time ago, and now I just need to get rid of any short stuff that is still hanging around. :-)

Thoughts on Open Source Software

For the past few days, every time I've opened Microsoft Word to view a file or create a new file, as soon as I opened it, it would say "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down." Then, when I'd click "Details," it would give me the "INVALID page fault at 151.8375.938493 blah blah." Stymied, I'd go to my office. But today, I decided to uninstall and reinstall Word to see if that would help. First I tried selecting the "Repair Word" option on my installation CD, and it didn't fix the problem. So I completely uninstalled Word, and when I went to reinstall, it of course asked for the 25-digit special number that is on my certificate of authenticity. Wherever that is!--I've moved three times since I got this computer (Word came with my Gateway, which I got in 1999 before I was wise to Microsoft and the fact that Macs are better).

Today is the day I decided to ditch Word entirely and go open source. I had heard that Abiword and Open Office can handle .doc format, so I tried to download Open Office, which will have to wait for another day as it would have taken about 6 hours to download with my 56k connection. Abiword's site was having problems, so Charlie did a temporary upload of Abiword to his web space so I could download it. I've been viewing my existing .doc files in Abiword and creating new ones too. I heart Abiword. It's a beautiful thing! Didn't cost me a penny, and it's a decent word processing tool that isn't giving me that "illegal operation" crap! I'm starting really to see the awesomeness of open source. Abiword isn't, of course, my first open source tool; Kairosnews is run on PostNuke, and this tool I'm using right now to blog is open source too. I've always been an advocate of open source in general, but have never quite understood the implications of it: a software tool that people work on as a labor of love for the community in general, open source is really activist work. I'm a member of the Digital Divide listserv, and there has been a lot of talk about using open source in low-income communities, but now I see how great it would be and how within reach it puts software. I wouldn't have bought another copy of Microsoft Word even if I could have afforded it, but I can still create documents.

Today I attended a needs assessment tour of the computer labs on the St. Paul campus. Three administrators, another graduate student, and I discussed what the labs need and what our vision is for them. When we got to the question of software, I asked if we might have Inspiration, a fantastic mind-mapping tool, and then I asked, "What's stopping us from going open source?" I knew they wouldn't decide to start using it, but I just wanted to know what their reasons were for using commercial software. Their argument centered on the fact that commercial software is more dependable, as it often comes with tech support, better documentation, and some kind of recourse if the software doesn't work. That's a good argument, but my interest has been piqued by the potential of open source, so I'm going to do some more thinking and reading about it.

As a side note, Charlie pointed out that Abiword doesn't automatically associate .doc files (or any files with a certain document extension, like .rtf) with Abiword. The user has to specify if he or she wants certain file extensions associated with Abiword. He said that there's a feminist study to be done on the design of tools like Word, which don't give the reader a choice and do many things upon installation for the user. I've been thinking more about this, and I'm reminded of a phrase my adviser from the University of Tennessee, Mike Keene, used to use: dummy user. The user is very often feminized and made to be passive. Charlie's on to something! If I still had Word I'd make more notes on this idea. :-) Heh, seriously, it can be a little project I do on the computer at my office.

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