Challenges, Exclusion and Discrimination in the Blogosphere
Women overwhelmingly expressed challenges to blogging. A majority of respondents asserted that sexism in the blogosphere was rampant. Interviewees repeatedly remarked that nasty comments were commonplace. Invectives such
as “shut-up you dumb-bitch” and “cunt” were echoed throughout the interviews. In the comment section of one woman’s blog the following appeared: “I bet you’re a fat ugly dike.” Women faced not only defamatory comments, but attempts at intimidation. Despite this however, one respondent remarked that she used attempts at intimidation to her advantage. She continued to respond to comments, contending that if she did not, the opponents would continue to bully her.
Other challenges also are evident. Many respondents reported not being linked to by other bloggers—largely white males—or having robust traffic levels. Others noted contending with trolls. Individuals frequenting blogs with which they disagree, who await opportunities to write disparaging comments, are commonly known as trolls. In conjunction with these challenges—arguably problems bloggers face regardless of gender—are other obstacles including one’s political affiliation, education, familial obligations, and anonymity. As noted previously, a woman political blogger who identified with the conservative party, she said received flack from other women political bloggers because she did not ascribe to the politics of the left. Another challenge women in this sample mentioned, was balancing blogging and their familial obligations.
When asked whether or not they face exclusion in the blogosphere, a majority of women (13 out of 20) indicated that they did not. Underlining the welcoming nature of the blogosphere, one respondent said that the blogosphere had been a great community. Among those however, who reported feeling excluded, one respondent said, “I’m openly excluded by Daily Kos. This isn’t only me, but my co-bloggers too. We criticized and nitpicked him. He pulled us off his blogroll after we negatively reviewed his book.” Similarly another interviewee asserted that one’s gender led to exclusion stating, “I think there is exclusion if you give signs of being a woman, but not by all men. You have to get past this and you have to give your credentials.” Still others who mentioned feeling excluded, attributed this to not being linked to by other bloggers, or suggesting there were partisan differences that led bloggers from the left to exclude women blogging from a conservative perspective. Exclusion in these instances had little or nothing to do with gender. Illustrating this, a respondent suggested that exclusion was, “probably self-inflicted. I don’t have a blogroll of other bloggers. The informal arrangement in the blogosphere is linking. I don’t put people on a blogroll so I don’t get linked as much.”
Half of the women political bloggers in this study reported that they did not face discrimination. Many respondents qualified this statement, stating that they personally did not face discrimination, however they experienced discriminatory attitudes. One woman remarked that she did not recall feeling discrimination by other bloggers, but instead by readers. Keenly noted by one blogger, “I don’t feel that I face gender discrimination in my day-to-day life. There is however systematic discrimination in the world. I think that the blogosphere is a bit more egalitarian—more so than other discourses, but it’s not a perfect meritocracy.” Discrimination for respondents was ideological or sexist in nature. Underlining the latter, an interviewee recounted,
People tend to think they can talk about my physical appearance. I’ve hadpeople post my photo on conservative sites, and other sites in which people have indicated they would like to f – – k me and sexually assault me. Most of the women I know have faced this. I would say this hasn’t happened to men. I think it happens to both old and young women. Women are mocked for their physical appearance or age….I think as women we are delegitimized. We can’t really win no matter what we look like. The Ann Althouse controversy—a conservative law professor—posted a picture of Jessica Valenti with President Clinton and accused her of sticking her breasts out. It was completely ridiculous. This is an example of giving female bloggers a taller hurdle to get through.