Sunday, July 02, 2006

A blog of one's own

Following Patroclus' splenetic hatchet job* on Mary Dejevsky's bizarre "women don't blog" piece in The Independent, I had a little word.

Dear Mary,

I'm sure several hundred politics nerds have pointed out that Iain Dale isn't an MP, so we needn't go there. But hey, let's get to the meat of your article.

Yes, there are doubtless practical and/or psychological obstacles that prevent some women from blogging. But we're not in Virginia Woolf country now, Toto. Three great things about blogging as a means of communication are:

1) It's proactive - you can blog in your own time, when you want, how you want. No deadlines; no wordcounts; no editors talling you what's going to appeal to the target market. If you can spare any time whatsoever, you can blog. I've watched a hell of a lot less TV since I started.

2) It has the potential for anonymity. If you feel hindered by any aspect of your 'real' identity, you needn't mention it. Feel inhibited because you're female, black, gay, disabled, old, young? Just don't tell anyone. Or do. It's your call.

3) It requires little or no technical ability. If you're functionally literate, and you can turn a computer on, you can blog.

The first two, I reckon, make blogging a far more attractive mode of communication to some women than, to pluck something out of the ether, print journalism. If you have any spare time at all, even if it's between all the oppressive domestic chores you list, you can do it. And you don't need to prove yourself over and above blokey, beer-swilling hacks with Hemingway complexes. Just do it.

The third might, I suppose, deter some women who've bought into the "women can't do technology" myth, but I reckon that money, education and social class have a much bigger impact here, with gender a distant fourth.

If I might be allowed to hypothesise with little or no solid evidence here - and sorry Mary, your article sets a pretty solid precedent for that - you're yet another old media journalist who feels slightly threatened by blogging without really quite understanding it. Don't worry, you're by no means alone. Even hacks who blog seem to come a cropper (Richard Lloyd Parry at http://timesonline.typepad.com/times_tokyo_weblog/ being a rare exception).

Part of the problem, of course, is that much of the wider world was introduced to blogging by the politics wonks who popped up during the '04 US election. It's a much bigger world than that. If you can spare the time (I presume you too are prone to all the domestic duties that you ascribe to women - if you are a woman - see point 2 above) check out the following: http://capacioushandbag.blogspot.com/; http://thegrammaticalpuss.blogspot.com/; http://quinquireme.blogspot.com/; http://www.slaminsky.blogspot.com/; http://professionalspinster.blogspot.com/; http://bookworld.typepad.com/book_world/.

Then get back to me if you can spot any that seem dominated by childcare and/or gynaecology. I think they're all women. But you never know. See what I mean?

Till then, all the best,

Tim


* Have you ever used a splenetic hatchet? It's like Dr Who's sonic screwdriver, but heavier.

14 comments:

patroclus said...

Must stop being first to comment (there's probably something about that in the Nordic Bar Manifesto), but...

Very nicely put. That bit 'if you are a woman' made me spit out my quinoa 'n' pomegranate salad with glee.

I wonder how many emails she has received altogether, and I wonder if they'll change her mind at all. Fair play to her for publishing her email address, though.

I'm still a bit perturbed by the 'most female bloggers write about gynaecology' statement. Whatever blogs must she have been reading?

Spinsterella said...

Very well put indeed TIm.

(Apart from including my semi-coherent can't-get-a-boyfriend ramblings.)

Annie said...

Bravo, and thank you, I'm touched that you included me. (And don't want you to think that I don't read you anymore, for some reason your posts don't appear in my feed reader.)

Never used a splenetic hatchet, or heard of 'Fisking' before - sounds painful.

Betty said...

Not really connected with the Mary Dejevsky article as such, but from what I can gather some journalists seem to be going round in circles trying to understand blogging and are taking it all a bit too seriously.

They are like progressive rockers viewing punk with disdain in 1977. I can imagine someone from Emerson Lake And Palmer seeing a band like The Prefects doing a song called I've Got VD (horrible noise for ten seconds over someone shouting "I've Got VD!") and thinking "why would anyone want to do THAT? It doesn't take any talent!" Journalists probably look at blogs and think "why would anyone want to publish THAT! The spelling is appalling, as is the sentence structure, it looks awful, it's boring to read, it isn't going to reach a big audience, it's unprofessional ... it's all pointless."

On the other hand there are journalists who think blogging is some sort of "revolution" in publishing. They're trying to analyse what for most bloggers is just a way of communicating to (possibly likeminded) people, their peer group or friends. For most people there isn't some sort of hidden agenda behind blogging - it's about spontaneity and communicating what's on your mind at the time. There are a few people who blog to raise their profile or because they want to be "discovered" and become professional writers or journalists, but I can't see how blogging is going to be any kind of threat to the erm, wonderful journalists on the Grauniad or Indy. They should lighten up a bit.

Tim Footman said...

Betty, your ELP vs Prefects is so 100% on the money, I'm going to appropriate it without shame. I love the idea of William Rees-Moog noodling with his Mellotron while we all gob at him.

But don't you think the Dejevsky article exemplifies a key problem with the traditional model of journalism - that hacks are often put in a position where they have to write about something about which they know fuck-all? It's the autonomy of blogging I love; if something crops up that doesn't interest me, I can choose not to blog about it. Hooray!

Poor Mary, by contrast, doesn't have that option.

patroclus said...

I'm thinking that blogging isn't going to have too much of a damaging effect on the news media, but if I was a 'lifestyle columnist', I'd be worried. I'd rather read e.g. Surly Girl's blog than Kate bloody Muir any day.

Billy said...

What Betty said. Perfect.
I've always appreciated the spontaeous over the polished any day.

First Nations said...

blogging is the updated reincarnation of the C.B. radio fad, plain and simple. obviously yoiu can do a lot more with the different media available, but the motivations still the same.
i think it is also a kind of counterculture...and everyone you know in it is a radio station. i'm not trying to be poetic, thats my raw idea and i'm not putting it very well.

Tim Footman said...

Patroclus: I'm in a state of holy innocence in that I don't know who Kate Muir is. Is she like Liz Jones?

FN: Everyone is a radio station. There's something a bit dystopian about that, but I kinda like it...

patroclus said...

Tim: Kate Muir has - or had, I don't read the Times any more - a column in the Saturday Times, which seemed to insinuate that she was especially interesting because she a) lived in Paris, b) had some kids, c) went to tedious media junkets and d) quite liked Razorlight.

treespotter said...

there's this character from blogger discussion group last week who need 'topic suggestion' for her blog, since she wanted to start a blog but didn't know what she wanted to write.

may be she should do gyncaeclogy/childcare and be the prototype.

actually, i'm only assuming it's a she.

patroclus said...

For the record, this:

I love the idea of William Rees-Moog noodling with his Mellotron while we all gob at him.

Is the funniest thing I've read all day.

Spinsterella said...

Have you had a reply Tim?

Perhaps she dealing with all the angry women first...

Tim Footman said...

Not as yet. It would, of course, be appropriate to deal first with the concerns of the female bloggers whose existence she has only just noticed.

Although of course my implication that Ms Dejevsky might be a man in drag might have suggested that I wasn't taking the whole thing entirely seriously.

You see, irony is a difficult beast, especially in cold text. Talking of which, I have now acquainted myself with the works of Kate Muir, and can confidently attest that she isn't real; her whole identity is in fact a mildly sexist joke at the expense of female lifestyle columnists.

I think.

I hope...

Dear God.