Blogging While Female Part 2: Five Women Bloggers Talk About Gender Issues And The Blogosphere

A couple of weeks back, I put together an article called Blogging While Female: 5 Conservative Women Bloggers Talk About Gender Issues And The Blogosphere.

The article and the revelations in it about the trials and travails that female bloggers have had to endure was well received and started a lot of discussion. So, since there are a lot of fascinating female bloggers out there — and because I wanted to see if other women had the same experiences as the first batch of bloggers I interviewed — I thought it would be a great idea to do another article on the subject. Let’s get things started with,

Ann Althouse

Ann Althouse Even though law professor Ann Althouse tends to get lumped in with all of us right-wing death beasts, she’s very much a moderate who would probably be just as happy with a Democrat or a Republican in the White House.

Ann’s blog, which has been around since January of 2004, is an eclectic and entertaining mix of pictures, vlogs, politics, legal issues, and reactions to the world at large. Personally, Ann’s unique style of writing has always reminded me a bit of Peggy Noonan’s, although she has told me that she doesn’t see it that way.

Do you feel like it’s an advantage or disadvantage to be female in the blogosphere?

…The problem with being a woman is that you tend to have a greater stake, for…emotional reasons, that you want people to like you or that you think it’s important to remain likable. That’s like fighting with one hand behind your back. If you don’t develop a thick skin, if you don’t take some risks, and put up with people attacking you, there’s a limit to what you can do.

I think that a lot of the male bloggers know that and because of that, they think they can get you to leave — and they have actually gotten various women to leave. I could tell, when I was first getting noticed, that there were people, whether they consciously thought it or not, that believed they could just make me get out –that they would make the blogosphere so rough of a place for me that (I) would close up and go home.

…In the blogosphere, it’s sort of like the Wild West, and you actually can try to push people out. You can push women out. There’s a way of trying to get women to leave and because it’s a rough world where people are trying to climb to the top, they will use whatever techniques they can, you know? And so I think that makes you vulnerable as a woman, but you don’t have to be. There’s a positive side to it, too, that you can use. You get attention just for being a woman because it’s less common.

A lot of bloggers have noted that Instapundit, which is one of the biggest and most popular blogs on the Right, regularly throws a lot of links Ann’s way. In fact, there have even been parodies done about it. Here’s the story of how it all got started.

I’m a law professor, so Glenn Reynolds would have known my name…from (an) email list. …I waited until I had something I thought was substantial and I sent it to Glenn. …He linked it and started linking me regularly. That got me a lot of traffic…and the regular linking kept pushing up the (blog) a lot.

…I actually guest blogged on Instapundit several times before the first time I talked to him on the phone. The first time I ever (spoke) to Glenn was when I did a Blogging Heads with him. …I met him once, this past year, when he and his wife Helen were in New York for some Popular Mechanics thing….that was the only time I have ever met him.

You’re a pretty moderate blogger, one of the more moderate bloggers overall. Do you think you get treated about the same by the Left and Right?

No. I have written about this many times. All along, maybe because I originally came to people’s attention through Glenn Reynolds, I have been treated better by people to the Right of me than people to the Left of me.

I have found that people on the Right are much more likely to link to me, write about me favorably when they agree with something, and just ignore what I am saying when they don’t agree. It’s the other way around on the Left. …My experience in life generally is that people on the Left think you are evil if you don’t agree with them, that you’re actually a bad person…Kathy Shaidle

Kathy’s blog, Five Feet Of Fury, lives up to its name because her style of writing is pugnacious, politically incorrect, and uncompromising.

That’s why, no offense to any of the other Canadian bloggers out there, Kathy’s my favorite blogger from our neighbor to the North — and not just because she guest blogs on Right Wing News every week-end.

Do you think women are the subject of more vitriol in the blogosphere than men? Do you think they get it nastier than men in comments and emails?

I really do. …That’s the way it seems to me. A friend of mine posted a link to your (Blogging While Female Part 1 Article) and of course, what happened? Half the comments under her link were “You’re a big, fat pig” and “You’re a slut.” It was proving the point.

…I get rape threats, which I find really funny. Usually, they’re like, “Kathy is so ugly. What she need is (to be raped)” and there is sort of the implication that “I’m just the guy to do it.” I just laugh, because it’s usually some guy three provinces over, who’s drunk at 3 AM in the morning. My husband doesn’t find it as funny as I do.

I don’t really understand the psychology behind that one in particular, but it’s a common thing you’ll see in flame wars when a woman makes a post. Someone will inevitably say, “You’re not getting enough sex and if you got enough sex, you wouldn’t write these crazy, conservative things.”

Of course, male conservatives are usually accused of being secretly gay. I know Mark Steyn gets that a lot. David Warren, the Canadian columnist gets that a lot. …Male conservative bloggers get that a lot. I find that even more confusing. I didn’t know being gay was supposed to be bad to a liberal, but when they’ve got a few drinks in them, I think their true nature comes out…

Why do you think there are less successful women bloggers than male bloggers?

It might be because a lot of women really have trouble putting up with the negativity. Lesser people than Kate McMillan and I would have given up a long time ago.

With people like her and me, the more people that are angry at us — it’s sort of energizing in a horrible way. It’s like, “I’ll show you, I’ll stick around another day, another week, another year, just to irritate you.”

Now, I don’t think most women enjoy confrontation at all. They’re more inclined to want to be agreeable and not rock the boat as much. But, if you’re a blogger, you have to have confrontation, you have to be controversial and outspoken. That’s just not something a lot of women feel comfortable doing.

So, when it comes to political blogging, it takes a certain kind of woman who can put up with the sort of stuff that Michelle Malkin does….

…Also, women carry a big burden around the home in terms of having a day job and doing laundry, that sort of thing. Let’s not forget to be really good at blogging, it takes a lot of time and energy that they probably are already investing in a million other areas.

Do you think women sometimes use their looks to get ahead in the blogosphere and does that bother you?

I think to some extent they do. It doesn’t really bother me, but I find it comical because it can also backfire a bit. Like, I know a lot of men would visit a site because the author was attractive, has a nice photograph…of course, the other women bloggers, being women bloggers, behind their backs are being maybe a little more catty (laughs)…

(Laughs) A little bit more?

(Laughs) A little bit more and finding it a little hard to take people like that seriously. …I feel at a bit of a disadvantage, because I could never get away with that. But, I ask myself, if I looked like so & so, would I put the photo up and it’s hard to say, “No, I wouldn’t.” It’s probably not very honest of me. I see why they’re doing it, but they need to realize — and they probably have already — it can be as negative as it is positive…

Emily Zanotti

Emily Zanotti

Em, who started her blog four years ago because she got bored in law school, is a sweet natured, surprisingly shy, up and coming 20-something lawyer whose quick witted, snarky style on her blog, The American Princess, has helped her get guest spots on TV, a gig at The Corner, and even occasional guest blogging stints at Right Wing News.

Emily, Do you think women are subjects of more vitriol in the blogosphere than men?

I think the old Marine war handbook says when you are attacking an enemy, you have to look for their point of weakness. For women, when you attack us personally, on our looks, how we dress, what we look like, it’s an automatic bullet to the heart.

What we end up getting is more of that because people know women are sensitive to it. When I get hate mail after I’ve been on television, it’s always like, “You don’t know how to dress,” “You talk like a Valley Girl,” “Your earrings are horrible.” It’s never, “Your arguments are really ineffective!” (Laughs).

…I mean, I remember when I was on CNN and I basically (debated) this idiot from the HuffPo….When I got home, I had a box full of hate mail…none of it addressing my points or my argument. I got tons of emails about my earrings –how ugly they were, how cheap they looked, about how I should “go back to the mall” where I came from.

Why do you think there are less successful women bloggers than male bloggers?

I just think that there are less women bloggers, especially in political blogging. If you look at a lot of women’s blogs, they’re baby blogs or mommy blogs or Hello Kitty blogs…I think politics isn’t something women are necessarily as interested in.

Are women bloggers harder on other women than men?

Lefty women bloggers are terrible, terrible people (Laughs)

…Are they nastier, you think, than the men?

They’re so mean….when they get ahold of you, they will rip you apart. They’re worse even than the Lefty men. I have had my share of run-ins with Lefty men, but they’ve never been as frustrating and infuriating as running up against the liberal women.

…Do you get any stalkers, anything like that?

I’ve had some stalkers.

…Tell me about your stalkers.

…I’ve had people send me love notes. I’ve had people find my phone number and send me weird text messages.

Do you think women sometimes use their looks to get ahead in the blogosphere and does that bug you?

I’ve learned in my life that you have to take advantage of every opportunity that is afforded to you. While I do think women sometimes use their looks to get ahead, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you have the brains to back it up, you’ll last…if you cannot back up your popularity, you’ll fall on your own. I think the women in the blogosphere who often get accused of using their looks, still have the brains to back it up. They have smarts, the popularity, and the intelligence — otherwise, they wouldn’t be where they are.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn Barber La Shawn Barber has always stood out from the pack in the blogging world and not just because she’s a strong, conservative, black woman who has been around for a long time. La Shawn has been one of the bloggers who has done a particularly good job of branching out into writing columns and doing regular appearances at conferences, which are both areas she has been focusing on more of late.

Do you feel like it’s an advantage or disadvantage to be female in the blogosphere?

…I hate to play the race card, but I’m going to have to. I think being black helped me become successful because I think there was just a lack…of outspoken conservative, black bloggers. Also, (there aren’t a lot of) outspoken Christians, who aren’t hesitant about defending their faith. I think a lot of people want to avoid confrontation, they want to keep things private. I’m out there, in your face. …Let’s face it, the (conservative political blogosphere) is a lot of white males, so for a black, conservative woman to come along, that does kind of create a little buzz.

Do you think women are subjects of more vitriol in the blogosphere than men?

I think we’re just subject to a different kind of vitriol. I think people know which buttons to push. You start criticizing a woman who is getting older, a woman who may be overweight — it’s really visually oriented when it comes to women. Instead of challenging your ideas, they start criticizing the way you look. I hate to say it, but that probably does get to women more than it does men.

La Shawn on the temptation to use her race and sex as an excuse.

I am sometimes tempted to play the race or sex card. I have to try really hard not to. You know, “They’re not linking to me because I’m a black woman or this or that.” …

When you say you’re tempted — you think that’s true? You think people go, “I like what La Shawn wrote, but I don’t know, link a black woman? Nah…”

No, no, (laughs). What I am saying is that I think there is a temptation to use that as a crutch for myself. Not that people are not linking to me because I am black or a woman….if anything, being a black woman actually helped me — especially the race part…

Do you get a lot of hate mail, any particularly repulsive stuff?

Early in my writing career…I used to get all these “Aunt Jemima,” “self-hater,” “race traitor” type emails. I never got the kind of sexual stuff that Michelle Malkin has been subjected to.

They focused on race, “You sell out,” “You want to be white,” “You’re still black,” “I don’t know who you think you are.” They weren’t really frightening. I have never felt threatened, just annoyed by the ignorance because a lot of people don’t challenge the arguments, they just want to vilify me for existing. …But, it has decreased enormously over the last couple of years.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham I’ve known Mary Katharine Ham since she was a peon in the blogging world, long before she ever became a big wheel at Townhall and her “policing the net” segments became a regular feature on Bill O’Reilly’s show. I can tell you that she’s humble to a fault, has a really good heart, and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help out other bloggers, myself included, time and time again, without ever expecting anything in return. Combine that attitude with her sense of humor, her talent for writing, and a fantastic work ethic and it’s no surprise that MK has managed to make such a big name for herself.

Mary Katharine on the sort of hate mail she gets.

You’re going to get nasty emails, no matter what. But yes, I think there is an element of the critical feedback you get (as a woman) that is more misogynistic and sexual than men generally get.

…For whatever reason, whenever people get angry, they feel the need to go sexual, to talk about people’s looks — especially, if you are putting yourself out there on TV and video and making that part of your job. You have to expect that people are going to comment on it. So yeah, people get rude. But, the internet can be a rude place and that’s the price of free speech…

…You know, I get “dumb bimbo, dumb bimbo,” but the worst place for hate stuff is my YouTube comments. That’s a walk down a boardwalk you don’t want to take.

Why do you think there are less successful women bloggers than male bloggers?

I think it largely comes from the fact that the blogosphere kind of started out as a white, male techy institution. In the very early days, if you went to a tech conference or a social networking conference…you didn’t have to wait for a toilet in the women’s bathroom. I think that’s part of where it comes from and on the conservative side, men tend to be more conservative than women…

Any opinion of the feminist liberal blogs out there?

On my YouTube subscriptions, I subscribe to the Feministing channel, which is one of the feminist blogs. I don’t read them really regularly….but, I (sometimes agree) with the women who write at those sites.

But, often the tone of the sites makes it not fun to read them. For instance, in my YouTube subscriptions, I got the Feministing Videoblog for this week, which is sometimes entertaining, and this week the underline says “The Friday Feminist F*ck You With Samhita Mukhopadhyay.”

“The Friday Feminist F*ck You?” Really? Is that how we want to present ourselves? It’s not as if we have to be unfailingly ladylike, wear pearls, and conduct ourselves with our ankles always crossed, but I don’t think that’s an effective tool for converting anyone to your side or getting anyone to listen to you. The idea that there are liberal blogs complaining about conservatives lowering the level of discourse is astounding given what we see over there….

Do you think women sometimes use their looks to get ahead in the blogosphere and does that bug you?

I think that, obviously when you’re talking about video, which some people are talking about as the future of the blogosphere, yeah, it helps to have a cute face. There’s nothing wrong with that — you are who you are and you don’t have to put a paper bag over your head to be taken seriously. …If being who you are and wearing your make-up drives some traffic to your site and moves a message that’s important to you, I think that’s OK.

Does the idea that some people are coming to see you for your looks, in your videos — does that bug you at all…?

I wouldn’t say it bothers me a lot. I’m not going to throw a fit about it or anything. It’s mostly flattering if that’s the case. But yeah, when you’re trying to move a serious message, sometimes your looks can be helpful and that’s fine, but you’re putting more eyes and ears on a message that needs to be heard.

I think for instance, if I may compliment somebody, …Megan Ortagus, who works for Freedom’s Watch and has been to Iraq, is a very pretty girl. She also knows counter-insurgency like the back of her hand.

Many, many thousands more people are going to watch videos of Megan Ortagus talking about counter insurgency in Iraq, on Blackfive, partly because she’s a cute girl, than would tune in to hear Uncle Jimbo talk about it — even though Uncle Jimbo is equally well-informed. So, I think when you’re dealing with something that serious, heck ya, it’s ok for women to use their looks to get the message out in a professional and serious manner.

Now, here’s an honest question: If you were average looking, let’s say, very average, would you have a gig at Fox? Obviously you have the talent to stay there once you got your foot in the door, but…

…This is one of those questions where I have to presume that I am super hot or something (laughs). That’s the presumption of the question…(laughs)…

Well, even if you got on because you were attractive, you couldn’t stay on TV because you were attractive…

Yeah, that’s the thing. You have to have something to back it up. I do not dispute at all that is part of the product when you’re going on TV. That’s just the way that TV works. But, I do think you can be an average looking, young woman, especially if you’re conservative — because I can tell you, these networks are hurting for conservative women. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for young conservative women to get these spots, because covering ’08 has been so intensive. Women work well on TV, young women are what brings in the demographic that TV is looking for, and I think if you’ve got the stuff to back that up and you’re willing to fight the nerves and go on TV…then you can do it. Now, you’re not going to be able to keep that spot if you’re hemming and hawing and a deer in the headlights when you go on.

Related question based on what you just said: Do you think guys are at a disadvantage in getting a TV slot? At least the up and comers, I’m not talking about Sean Hannity or anything.

Yeah, I think they are.

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