Snapshot of Women Political Bloggers and Their Blogs
Overall, the 20 women interviewed for this study are well-educated, middle-aged and occupationally varied. Illustrated in Figure 1, the data show that 35 percent of women (7 out of 20) possess a bachelor’s degree, and 60 percent of interviewees (12 out of 20) hold a degree equivalent to, or higher than, a master’s degree. One-third of the sample earned a Ph. D., JD, or MD. Respondents range in age from 23 to 55, with an average age of 42. The occupations of women political bloggers vary from a secretary to a psychiatrist. A large number of respondents, for example, are professors or writers.
The women in this study were selected because they blog about politics, public policy and current events. On average, respondents indicated that 75 percent of their blog content pertained to politics, public policy and current events with a range of 45 to 100 percent of content focusing on the aforementioned (Figure 2). A relatively balanced
representation of partisan preferences appears in the sample, with 13 of the 20 women describing their orientation as left, liberal or Democrat, another three reporting their orientation as right or Republican, and the balance indicating their orientation as Independent or other (Figure 3). Commenting on her political affiliation a blogger lamented “I think being a conservative blogger is more difficult than being a female blogger on the left,” thus illustrating the partisan tensions in this segment of the blogosphere. Further evidence of this was echoed by another responded declaring, “I feel that other women are out to destroy me because I’m not a proper woman—a Democrat— and I’m not supporting the politics of the left. I’m viewed as a traitor and I don’t toe the line. I’m conspicuous.”
An important component of blogs is traffic to the blog and readership. Traffic corresponds to a blog’s popularity levels. Not unlike the popular bloggers Marcotte and McEwan, a majority of the women in this sample are “A and B-list” bloggers with highly trafficked blogs (Pole, 2010).3 Nearly 60 percent of the women interviewed received 1,000 or more unique page visits per day.
Figure 1. n = 20 Note: Source Women Political Blogger (2006)
Educational Attainment Women
Similarly, another woman said that while the issues were not unique, “I think a lot of issues get more attention from women. For example, the conflict between home and work is always framed as a women’s issue. Education affects everyone, but traditionally women pay more attention to this.” Several bloggers, however, said that they blog from a woman’s perspective or focus on issues that some might consider “women’s issues” though they arguably affect both men and women. During an interview one woman reported, “I do [blog about issues unique to women]. I find that I blog more about feminist issues, abortion, women’s rights and the violation ofwomen’s rights abroad.” Other respondents echoed this sentiment stating, “I talk about feminism and cultural feminism,” while another blogger asserted, “Obviously it [my blog] is things that affect me and I am a woman. When addressing women’s issues, we probably look at things a little differently.” Many bloggers elaborated on how particular issues might impact women.
The data show that all women political bloggers use their blogs to inform their readers and to report errors or omission in the media. Not all bloggers, however, use their blogs to engage in advocacy efforts or to solicit charitable contributions. Still, 90 percent of women (18 out of 20) engage in advocacy efforts and 80 percent of women (16 out of 20) solicit charitable contributions. To understand in greater detail how women use their blogs for purposes related to politics, interviewees were asked whether or not they asked their readers to engage in a variety ofpolitical activities (Table 2). Respondents mentioned encouraging their readers to contact an elected official, to vote and sign a petition most frequently. During the Terri Schiavo controversy one blogger recalled asking her readers to contact their member of congress. In addition to providing a link to members of congress, she also requested readers contact the president and their state representatives. Still another respondent provided great detail recounting, “The torture bill was something that attracted a lot of attention. I
encouraged people to vote no on this bill including calling Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton. While this didn’t work out, we will work to repeal the bill.” Underlining the measures some bloggers take to engage in advocacy efforts, another woman retold of efforts to protest against human rights.
We had a blogathon to raise money for Amnesty International. My co-author and I posted every half hour for 24 hours. We pulled some strings and had some people do some guest posts, but it was still pretty taxing. I didn t write anything in
advance…. Part of this was a bit of a protest
because we saw the conservative punditry [calling for] relaxing human rights. This was the impetus for doing this.