Women and Political Blogs
Another body of literature emphasizing women bloggers also informs this research (Herring, 2003; Herring et al., 2004; Herring & Paolillo, 2006; Kennedy et al., 2005; Pedersen & Macafee, 2007). While studies explore the role of gender more broadly, few accounts document the role of women political bloggers. Moreover, these accounts tend, more often than not, to explore the role of blogs in the context of language and feminist theory rather than investigating specifically whether and how blogs are used for politics.
The role of women bloggers in the context of political discourse and the public sphere highlights two prominent debates. Keenly noted by Mitchell (2007), studies of women bloggers typically ask, “where are the women bloggers,” progressing to “which women, and why.” Addressing this not infrequent refrain, “where are the women,” Osell (2007) suggests that historically women writers have been invisible. Using feminist consciousness Osell (2007) surveys bloggers asking whether they blog anonymously and why. Results of bloggers1 show 105 out of 141 respondents blogged anonymously. Reasons for remaining anonymous included the desire to blog about work and personal experiences, while maintaining privacy. According to the author, “the association of men with the public world and women with the private world is reflected, to some extent, in bloggers’ choice of topics, and that the latter—rather than diffidence about the public nature of blogging—drives some women’s choices to use aliases” (Osell, 2007). A connection between blogging and attracting readers based on one’s appearance is discussed by Ratliff (2007), who studies political bloggers. She notes that many of the prominent male political bloggers link to each other, thereby producing a “fraternity-like atmosphere.”Accordingly, Ratliff (2007) argues that women who blog about their sexuality, might feel compelled to do so in order to maintain readers. She further asserts that when women’s physical attractiveness is discussed by male bloggers, this serves as a “subtle exclusionary tactic, and women end up being discouraged from participating in discussions in the comments on these blogs” (Ratliff, 2007). These studies exemplify the role of women in the public and private spheres, providing context for research on women political bloggers.
A pointed discussion of politics and women political bloggers is undertaken by Nolan (2007). She examines the role of women in politics depicting a range of women from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Condoleezza Rice. Drawing on politics, Nolan (2007) shows that women’s voices are louder in the political blogosphere because the Internet acts as an equalizing force. This and the aforementioned research provide context for this study of women political bloggers. Exploring how women political bloggers use their blogs to participate and encourage their readers to do so, illuminates the potential of this medium across different modes of participation, in a variety of political settings.