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The Young and The Feckless: The Lady's Guide to Blogging

As a corollary to Wednesday's discussion of role models, I thought this was a fine time to advance my theory that there are precious few opportunities to make your digital bones as a female blogger. If you aren't willing to open an emotional vein or cannibalize your life for blog material, and if you can't leverage an offline profile a la Ariana Huffington or Michelle Malkin, good luck building a reputation as an expert and/or a readership outside of the niche. You can mine your personal life for story gold, you can focus your attention on issues traditionally associated (for better or worse) with women (feminism, fashion, celebrity news) or you can be famous offline first. Those seem to be the sum total of your choices. Or you can pretend to be a man, I suppose.

The idea that the female confessional reigns supreme was recently reinforced by two articles I read in Salon, which follow the salacious anecdote + dose of sober/shameful/regretful hindsight + testament to having changed/grown formula so rampant among female first-person writing online. There's also the anecdote + life lesson learned + explicit refusal to express regret or shame, but that formula is like declaring open season for the haters to question everything from your judgment to your morality to your fitness as a woman/professional/mother/wife/human being. But hey, if that's what brings in the page views, what are you going to do?

And while I came to this exasperated anecdotal conclusion as a function of beginning my own blogging career lo those many months ago (and realizing that most of the advice about successful blogging and web empire building was provided by male experts), the evidence bears it out. Check out the female names on TIME's Best Blogs of 2009 list. Nothing against the likes of Heather Armstrong or Ree Drummond, but whither the female equivalent of Seth Godin? Or how about the not-so-surprising news that men have 15% more Twitter followers than women and are almost twice as likely to follow another man than a woman?

And all this isn't to say that A) women can't and don't blog about technology, politics, sports and finance, but that they are rarely singled out as opinion leaders in these areas and sometimes, openly discouraged from pursuing them with absolutely laughable biologically-based arguments or B) that women can't be influential bloggers, but that that usually comes at the unfair price of getting personal and the license your audience seems to think that gives them to get equally personal with you.

Why should we have to go to the well of our emotional histories in order to gain readership or pretend to have a penis for the sake of professional credibility? Is there a middle ground? And if so, how do we find and claim it?

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Comments

5 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I know! I know!

Dear Abby. There you have it.
The male to female ratio, decidedly on the male, is IMHO because women tend to be on the make, even if they're taken. I've noticed this on message boards frequently mostly by women and gays. One straight male pops up, and there are, like 40,000 panting women after him, courting him, hanging on his every word, beating the crap out of you for ever saying anything remotely critical against the player.

O RLY?

Courtship?! That's not the internet I know. What message boards are you hanging out on?

When I hesitantly talk politics online, I dare to dream that I will get to engage in civil discourse—but, oh, to be greeted with electronic courtship: what flattery!

Typically, whenever I dare brave a message board to discuss politics of any sort, I'm bombarded by more immaturity, profanity, and general idiocy than a sane person can endure without having a conniption and suddenly becoming a vengeful elitist bent on badgering the posters into shutting their stupid mouths, so the grown-ups can talk. Posting is unfulfilling and infuriating, and I’m like Bruce Banner, pushed to the point where he becomes the Hulk—only, instead of being a ten foot tall green embodiment of righteous anger, I’m an asshole, lording my intelligence over people as if I’m infallible. And I only have myself to blame for responding in the first place.

To reply or not to reply—that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler on the web to suffer the ignorance and incompetence of posters, or to take arms against a throng of morons, and, by opposing, be dragged into eternal struggle. To argue, to harangue, forever more—and by fighting, end any hope of proving yourself right: lobbing a thousand insults that the web is heir to—O RLY?, Godwin’s Law, bitter rickrolling, ironic misspelling. To reply, to refute; to debate, perchance to teach—or learn.

PS: Go jump on Xbox Live or a PC MMORPG and the moment you reveal your double X chromosomes your transcendent sexuality will transform the drivel and hostility in the chat box into florid poetry courting your favor. In fact ... I'm falling in love just imagining you playing TF2. I bet you play engi. <3

Well...

Speaking as someone who has both blogged under a gender-neutral pseudonym and is occasionally published under a pen name when I want to write about relationship/personal issues, I have no idea what the solution is. When I blogged under a gender-neutral name, I was immediately given credit for being fiercely witty and engaging by a male audience who would never have given me the time of day otherwise. Now that I've started wanting to farm my own experience for more essay-type writing, I've found that by and large, the safest way to do so is under a pseudonym as well, mostly to protect my privacy against future Googling by employers and to protect my partner's/family's privacy. I'm concerned with my own but perhaps I already take a different approach to my privacy online since I refuse to use Facebook and canceled my Twitter account three years ago (yes, really).

At the risk of seeming prudish, I also find that I don't have so many of those 'awful hindsight' essays to share. I can't get published writing about my youthful exploits because they didn't happen for me the way they seem to have happened to writers who could be/are my peers. Maybe I just don't know how to couch certain experiences, but even if I wasn't wacky about my online privacy, I still can't imagine writing about a drunken hookup and thinking that would feel like a healthy career move or personal choice five years down the line. Not trying to hate on those who do; just agreeing and wondering why as women, we're expected to publicly share humiliating narratives that could easily come back to haunt us.

Re: Well...

I’m in the same boat myself. Even if I wasn’t a fellow privacy junkie, I don’t really have much to mine when it comes to leveraging titillation as a means of building an audience. As for the career move/healthy choice thing, I absolutely agree, but I've gotten my knuckles rapped (not in this forum) for daring to question the big picture professional wisdom of the TMI/overshare of other female writers in the past.

I think the pseudonym

I think the pseudonym approach is useful, but when it comes to drawing attention to your blog through your personal network, I think it can throw some people off.

I suppose I'm fortunate to have a dual blog collective that I co-founded with a friend, which allows two different sides of my personality to be expressed and explored by those who are interested.

We use nicknames on our Fems For Better Men blog collective, and we use our "writers names" on Fems 4 Better Magazine. However, for me anyway, I am fortunate enough to have a name that is not only unisex in its country of origin, but also pretty uncommon. I also have multiple writing personalities, which is nice because it allows me to express the several opinionated aspects of my personality in "appropriate" venues.

There is Bebop, on F4BMen
There is Sanyu E.N. Nagenda on F4BMag
And then there's my personal blog for people who know me/my slam poetry roots.

I suppose I'm saying that I don't think a fem need fit into the preconceived boxes ascribed to her, I think she just needs to make her own domain where her truth is free to live...and then find a way to make that popular/interesting to others.