Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Estrogen Month - Day 22

All the "rules" of Estrogen/Women in Blogging Month, such as they are, can be found here.

I wanted to pass along a few links from yesterday and today which I either liked or which gave me food for thought:

I don't have anything to say about the Terri Schiavo matter because what this family is going through should be a private matter and therefore none of my damn business, but I found Kui's thoughts on the subject very moving.

Sheelzebub explains today's Google picture.

And, weighing in on the "women bloggers/pundits" issue are Leena, Susie Madrak, Roxanne Cooper here and here, Tish Parmeley and Astarte. I wanted to respond to the last two commentaries.

Writes Tish,

Maybe instead of talking about where are all the women we might talk about is the personal political? Is this more of a journal than a blog? Perhaps. And is my life political? I hope it is. One of the most political things on the web is Dru's To Do list. It's the details of the life of a single mother trying to care for her kids, her home, make a living and still have time for herself. Where are all the women bloggers? They're there writing about their lives and only a culture that values rhetoric above lived life doesn't see them.

And, ya know, even that's a generalization. Women can pundit-off as well as any man... There's a marvelous weaving of the mundane and the profound on many blogs. Maybe I feel like these where are all the women discussions put pressure on women to write more about ideas and less about their lives.

I thought this dovetailed nicely with Susie's observation that "Liberals keep getting caught in that same old sand trap: credentialism... Everyone's asking why there aren't more women pundits. I say, why aren't there more working-class voices like mine, male or female?" I see one of the things women bloggers doing this month is trying to redefine, or refine actually, what constitutes a political blog, a voice worthy of consideration on its own merits because of the writer's unique life. The more right-wing blogs march in lockstep, and the more the male lefty blogosphere is in danger of becoming the same type of echo chamber, the more variety the female-written blogs seem to show.

Which brings me to Astarte, who's really been on a nice introspective roll of late:

I'm a living, breathing human being who has no interest in making her living off of blogging. To me, this is a self-betterment exercise, a hobby, and one that I enjoy. I don’t want it constantly muddied up by people who insist upon making it so much more, even if you don't want to be part of that... I’m all for having some sort of identifier on blogs who’s sole purpose is to break into big media or get a TV spot. Perhaps a sticker of some sort that says 'MEDIA WHORE'. Maybe just a scarlet 'A' to proudly place right above the 'about me' page that should also contain a resume demanding a six-figure salary for being an adviser to some news channel. Just do me a favor, and don't drag me into the pit of hell that you're throwing yourself in. I don’t blog for big media. I don’t want to blog for big media. I'm one of the few, the proud, the people who still blog primarily for themselves. The biggest satisfaction I get is not a fat check from advertising or a chance to get on the Al Franken show. The biggest satisfaction I get is going head to head with someone in the comments about an issue that gets my blood pumping...

This all ties into women and blogging because the more we fight for this (an argument, ironically, that we didn’t even start), the more we look like those hounds sitting and begging for some breadcrumbs to be tossed our way. We’d be better served to break the cycle than to constantly bemoan its existence... We are not here to beg for breadcrumbs. When, and only when, they start linking to you and taking on more 'women's issues', return their links and give them some attention... Horribly, the more that we talk about this on their turf, the more we look like raging harpies, and less like women with real issues to discuss. If we must continue to talk about this (and make no mistake, I think we must), then let’s do it on our terms, and on our turf. When at all possible, use trackbacks; don’t just leave comments on their sites, and when at all possible, avoid linking to them all together.

Two can play the game. Women who blog politics aren't a new thing. We've been around for a great deal of time, and we've no reason to beg the 'top blogs' for attention, either. This is not a case of us begging them to somehow validate our existence by linking to us. We're better than that, and we always have been better than that.

As I said in Astarte's comments, I both agree and disagree with this. While I think trackbacks are a fine thing, they're also very time-consuming (at least three steps for me via Haloscan, and that's about three steps more than I usually have the energy to do), but that's a minor quibble. And I completely agree with her bemusement at the legions of self-delusional bloggers convinced they can parlay their hobby into a stepping-stone to fame; there are only so many 15-minute segments to go around, after all.

On the other hand, I think that fighting for inclusion in the online debate regarding the state of the world that affects us all isn't really the same as "begging for breadcrumbs" from the A-list guy bloggers. Blogging is still a new enough phenomenon that, to the public at large, nobody in the 'sphere is really "famous" in that sense anyway. It's still a niche thing, like the American comics scene. Forgive me if I keep returning to this analogy, but my experience in comics fandom does seem to be repeating itself now that I'm into blogging.

Many women (and not a few men) believe that some of the most exciting things happening in graphic storytelling is coming from women. Even though A-listers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore get the movie deals and the mainstream press (and deservedly so), more often than not readers looking for non-superhero fare will turn to something like Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical Persepolis series (two books and counting so far), and mangaphiles go crazy for folks like Rumiko Takahashi. If you ask the average Wizard-reading fanboy, yeah, they may know those names but "they don't count" because they aren't working for Marvel or DC, the big two companies in the US that actually pay artists and writers a living wage.

So we need to ask ourselves "what counts?" when it comes to women bloggers and pundits, and I see a lot of that going on. For Susie, it might be working-class heroism. For Tish, it might be a skillful blending of the personal and professional, an elevation beyond the stereotypical "dear diary" writing that boys imitate when they think of girls (and I can't tell you how often that's used, badly, as a literary device in comic books, often by the same writers who sneer at using thought balloons because they can't admit they haven't figured out how to do them correctly either). For Astarte, it might be writing for the passion and the love of it without expectation of crumbs from on high. For me blogging is a means to its own end, a way to further a sense of community - and yes, I may be falling victim to a bit of stereotyping here (men are socialized toward competition and women toward cooperation and community) but my experience in various online endeavors has borne this out.

When I first started posting on the Usenet rec.arts.comics newsgroups, a regular there was less than gracious in welcoming me because, in short, he felt I had turned around the feel of the group by making it too friendly. Can you imagine? Too friendly! Can't have any of that, can we? Must have curmudgeonly, lofty debates about "ho'od win, Hulk or Superman?" using only the most proper academic rhetoric. And this wasn't new, I encountered a version of it in the comics apa CAPA-Alpha as well. It was made more than clear to me that the "friendliness" aspect was a cover for "you're a girl and we don't want you in our clubhouse." These male participants had to bend over backwards to make civility and fostering a sense of community seem like negatives, because "that's not how it's done" in their clubhouse before I arrived.

Well see, here's the thing that, for me, differentiates blogging from comics fandom. With blogging, we arrived onto the scene at pretty much the same time as the guys did, so we have as much right and credibility as they do to define the terms of debate, and of what constitutes a valid or popular blog. And particularly on the left-liberal end, every male blogger who bemoans the lack of liberal (blog) voices in the mainstream media debate then turns around and ignores women (liberal bloggers) deserves all the derision or consciousness-raising (depending on your style) that we can muster. (And that goes double for any guys who ignore the blatant creeps who leave sexist comments on their blogs; if you have an open comments section, it's up to you to maintain it, and to be conscious about what kind of an atmosphere it fosters.)

So I don't think it's a bad idea to go onto their "turf," as long as we keep reminding them to come onto ours as well. It's all aethereal, after all, it's all the same turf when you come right down to it. And that should be our goal - for every blogger, and eventually the mainstream media, to recognize that all of us, women and men, have equally unique voices as citizen activists to contribute to the national (and world) debate. Things are still new enough in the blogosphere that this is all still shaking out, so let's not lose sight of that target.