Political blogs: Why are they dominated by men?
- 7 July 2011
- From the section UK Politics
Why do the vast majority of political bloggers appear to be men?
The flippant answer is that women probably have far better things to do with their time.
The reason given by the Hansard Society - which has done some research on the matter - is hardly more flattering to the male gender.
"'While writing and commenting on political blogs seems to be dominated by men; it mirrors other offline and non-political activities such as writing letters to newspapers for publication," said Andy Williamson, Director of the Hansard Society's Digital Democracy programme.
"Overall, the evidence for online politics suggests that the more an activity involves self-promotion, the more likely there is to be a male dominance.
"Where women are active in politics, they are equally as likely as their male counterparts to be digitally active."
So are political bloggers the modern-day equivalent of the purple-faced "Angry of Tunbridge Wells" types of newspaper letters-page legend?
There is certainly an ugly, macho undercurrent to some of the debate on political blogs in the UK.
Some political bloggers have turned their back on the medium partly for that reason, migrating to Twitter, which according to the Hansard Society research, is less male dominated.
Having said that, one of the pioneers of political blogging Iain Dale, who shut down his widely read blog last year saying he was fed-up of being the target of abuse, is about to re-enter the fray.
According to the Hansard Society report: "Women are marginally more likely to sign a petition (a passive process) but considerably less likely to stand for Parliament and significantly less likely to make comments on a political blog".
But that has more to do with women being under-represented in politics than any gender bias in political blogging, it adds.
Feminist and socialist Laurie Penny, who has made a splash in left wing circles with her Penny Red blog, was not impressed with the report's suggestion that men are better at promoting themselves online.
"The idea that men are more suited to self-promotion is nonsense.
"It can be more difficult for women to engage in political blogs because of the levels of sexism and personal abuse on most of the mainstream sites.
'On the other hand, there are powerful political blogs that are entirely dominated by women like Mumsnet - they're just not the sort of spaces that the Westminster bubble typically thinks of as political, precisely because the assumption is that women's issues aren't real politics."
'Too many men'
Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, whose blog is widely-read at Westminster, suggested the Hansard research was flawed, as it did not take into account the quality of the blogs or how many hits they received.
"If you look at the total number of MPs who blog, of course you are going to get a bias towards men.
"But if you start to factor in quality and the number of people who read their posts I would imagine there is probably very little in the way of gender bias.
"Two or three of the most active people on my blog at the moment are women."
But Tim Montgomerie, co-editor of Tory grassroots site ConservativeHome, agreed with report on one point - it is not just political blogs that are male-dominated.
"It is generally true of young people in politics. There are far too many men," he told the BBC News website.
He said ConservativeHome was preparing to relaunch in the autumn with more female contributors and a broader agenda in an effort to attract more female readers - but he also acknowledged it was a tough problem to crack.