It's no secret that blogging is a male dominated sport. Still, women bloggers abound and many of them will be massing at "Blogher Conference '06" throughout this week. Link.
I happen to read Heather Armstrong's blog on a semi-regular basis. She's usually pretty funny and I think her insight about winging it with her first child may prove invaluable one day. (I will say that the rest of her fanatical readership drives me up the wall -- but this may be envy on my part more than anything else. With that said: The devotion is a little scary at times.)
Around this time last year, she started discussing the Blogher Conference and I pretty much skimmed over anything that centered around that topic. ("Why should I care?") Back when "blog-o-sphere" was still teetering upon being an annoying buzzword I was pretty cynical regarding the seeming "closed circle" of the (general) blogging community. Twenty or thirty well-known bloggers seemed to be giving each other written hand-jobs and it felt a little as though they weren't really interested in much else.
I feel a little as though women bloggers are at risk of repeating this mistake.
Reading through the "about" page on Blogher I see this:
I'm a guy. Can I be a BlogHer?
Thank you for asking, so that we can yell from the rooftops: Yes! Men already are an important part of the BlogHer community!
Nearly 20 percent of the people who attended BlogHer Conference '05 were men. Our first conference volunteers in 2005 were men. You'll even find some men listed on the BlogHer Blogrolls (read our requirements here).
Reading blogs about the event (by women) makes me think that this may be a bit of an overstatement: It feels like an event by women for women -- whether it truly is or not.
And I wonder: Are they content to carve out a niche in their own little corner of the net that speaks just to women? The whole thing seems very "seperate but equal" to me and settling for companionship with like-minded women bloggers feels like a cop-out.
It tells me that I have a choice: I can read blogs by men, or I can enjoy a "more different" style of blogging from women. As mentioned, I happen to enjoy Heather Armstrong (in moderation -- but that goes for most blogs that I read) and am "gender blind" when it comes to who is doing the writing. I like that there is a distinctly feminine voice behind some of what I read but don't have a folder specifically for the feeds of women writers: dooce.com sits right between jeffcroft.com and daringfireball.net in my bookmarks bar.
If the goal is to promote women bloggers -- I think that's admirable. I just question the effectiveness of doing so at a blog conference called Blogher. (It's a little like saying that the goal of "Comicon" is to spread the joy of comics to those who don't already read comics -- not gonna happen.)
This is part of the reason I'm so smitten with the Newsvine concept. It allows any voice (male, female, gay, klingon, conservative, etc.) an equal opportunity to be heard. The only distinction that is necessary is that it be a unique voice. The minute someone attempts to create an official "female" contingency (or any contingency) is the minute I start to question Newsvine's direction. (Sorry, Mykola -- I was never fond of the "guild" idea.)
Good writing is not based upon gender or ideology.
My question to those at Blogher or who are behind its implementation: Why? Putting up a fence never seems like a good idea.