The curious incident of the female bloggers in the night-time

CNet reports that last week’s BlogHer conference for female bloggers was a media wash-out, with only three pieces of coverage in the local Chicago press, and none in the national press. (via Deep Edition)

“While a 2006 Pew report found that the blogging population is young, evenly split between women and men, and racially diverse, women still struggle to receive equal media coverage of their online activities. Pozner cites the recent YouTube/CNN Presidential candidate debate as a significant example, in which CNN chose to have 70 percent of the questions asked by men.”

I’m in two minds about this. Just because a blogger is female, does that automatically make her worthy of attention? Being female isn’t exactly a remarkable thing in itself, and neither is being a blogger. Many people are eminently capable of being female *and* writing blog posts without demanding nationwide recognition for their ability to tap on a keyboard.

But on the other hand, I do get a creeping suspicion sometimes, in reading the business and national media here in the UK, that women are indeed often simply ignored.

I’ve started looking at the letters pages in the Guardian, for example, and counting the number of letters written by women compared with the number of letters written by men. And leafing through the Economist and the Financial Times, comparing the number of pictures of women with the number of pictures of men.

I probably don’t even need to tell you how these completely unscientific experiments pan out. Let’s just say it’s not a close-run thing.

The letters pages of the Guardian and the pictorial content of the Economist and the FT are the result of editorial decisions, not of chance. So you could accuse all three publications of being biased towards men. But, at least in the case of the letters, it could be that far more men than women write letters to the editor, so the distribution is naturally balanced in favour of men.

So it’s difficult to prove that a group is being deliberately ignored by the media: it’s like Alderaan, or the dog in the night-time, where the absence of something that ought to be there is the only observable phenomenon.

But as much as I detest it when women claim they deserve praise and attention for doing something just because they’re female, at the same time I can’t help but feel that CNet might be on to something.


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