This study contains several limitations. First, the sample size is limited to 20 respondents. As a result, the findings cannot be generalized to all women political bloggers. A larger study of political women should be conducted. Compiling a sample of political bloggers remains difficult due to the absence of a sampling frame. Still, this exploratory study provides a framework for future research. Second, the results from this study might be biased toward better-educated and more popular women political bloggers. It might best depict A-list and some B-list women political bloggers. As noted previously, Hindman et al. (2003) indicate that selection based on the most popular bloggers is likely to have a greater impact. This is certainly the case in politics, in which many of the most popular bloggers are followed not only by a devoted cadre of readers, but by the mainstream media. Third, while data collection occurred in October 2006, there are few, if any, studies detailing how women political bloggers in the US use their blogs for purposes related to politics, so this study fills a valuable gap. Of note, as of January 2010, 13 of the 20 interviewed were still blogging about politics. Lastly, this study focuses on women political blogs who write in English and reside in the US. Future research should examine other countries.
This study of women political bloggers mirrors the findings from McKenna and Pole’s (2008) study of average political bloggers with regard to how bloggers use their blogs to inform readers, report errors in the media, engage in advocacy efforts and solicit charitable contributions. Further, women political bloggers asked their readers to engage in a variety of activities ranging from contacting elected officials to voting with similar frequencies.
Despite these similarities, these data offer two noteworthy departures from other studies of political blogging. First, a greater percentage ofwomen political bloggers reported asking readers to make a charitable contribution than average political bloggers (McKenna & Pole, 2008), suggesting that women’s blogs might a useful conduit for raising money. While beyond the purview of this study, using blogs to raise money for not only charitable activities, but for political activities merits future examination. Second, discrimination appears to be prevalent among women political bloggers, with half of respondents noting that they faced discrimination or witnessed it. This is cause for concern. Blogging about politics, public policy and current events might pose greater obstacles for women political bloggers than for others. Prescriptions for reducing and eliminating discrimination in the political blogosphere ought to be explored. Meanwhile, blogging offers a virtual space to discuss politics and an opportunity to encourage civic engagement, both online and off, despite incidents of discrimination.
The empirical implications of this work abound. Coverage of women’s issues that might otherwise receive little to no media attention occurs not infrequently through this medium. Absent ongoing or even intermittent coverage ofwomen’s issues, blogs provide an opportunity to engage in ongoing virtual discussion. Blogs also provide a virtual forum for shaping public debate and the public agenda, which in turn can influence public policy. McEwan and Marcotte’s participation in the
Edward’s campaign provides anecdotal evidence of the challenges to participating on and offline, which are further supported by these data. Blogging offers a flexible, inexpensive alternative to shaping political discourse, while encouraging reader participation. Yet, despite these benefits, it appears that women are underrepresented in the political blogosphere. Though definitive data detailing the composition of the political blogo – sphere are unavailable, underrepresentation may adversely affect political discourse, discussion and the exchange of ideas. Ultimately online and offline forms of participation might suffer as well if women feel intimidated, excluded or discriminated. Of course, future research should endeavor to address these questions more fully.
Going beyond feminist constructs, this work fills a gap in the literature on women who blog about politics. This piece highlights online participatory practices that often become translated into offline forms of political activities by cataloguing specific activities building on existing studies of blogging. This research contributes to our understanding of the specific activities undertaken by women political bloggers and the activities they encourage their readers to undertake.
Finally, future studies of political blogging should examine how women political bloggers fare compared to other political bloggers, such as men and other underrepresented groups. Research should expand upon the sample size, and it should seek to make connections between blogging and more traditional forms of political activity undertaken by political bloggers. Political blogging remains a rapidly maturing medium that continues to alter politics and political discourse in the United States.