The feminine blogstique
Santa Clara forum focuses on closing journal gender gap
– Carrie Kirby, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Blogging is supposed to be democratizing the world of information, empowering the individual.
And it is — especially for male individuals.
In this fast-growing community of people using the Internet to self- publish journals on a broad range of topics, half of all bloggers are women, according to surveys. Yet the most popular blogs are created overwhelmingly by men.
The top 10 blogs, ranked according to the number of other Web sites linking to them by the Web site Technorati, are created by 23 men and only four women. At conferences for bloggers, female writers find themselves in a very small minority, attendees say. And so, like in many social movements before this, women are gathering to do something about it.
Three Bay Area bloggers — Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort and Jory DesJardins — are holding a conference today in Santa Clara in an effort to raise women’s prominence in the blogosphere. The BlogHer conference started with — what else? — a blog, where the organizers posted ideas for the event. Feedback from other bloggers quickly materialized.
The resulting event is as much about community building and sharing skills as it is about getting attention.
“This is a conference that the community built,” said Camahort. For example, two rooms at the event are given over to sessions conceived, organized and run by the participants themselves. Sessions in these rooms include “Feminist Hip-Hop Bloggers,” “Blogs in Academia” and “MommyBlogging.”
The conference maxed out its capacity with 300 registrants, 85 percent of whom are women, the organizers said. Half of them hail from outside the Bay Area. A few will come from as far as Europe.
These women have blogged about feminism, politics, business and technology. They’ve blogged about their innermost thoughts, their children’s antics and — although this has caused problems for many — their jobs.
Some women involved in the conference write informative blogs, such as Forrester analyst Charlene Li’s blog about new gadgets and the latest technology research. A number of the participants write blogs as a paid marketing service for clients. Some write blogs that are largely unquotable in a daily paper because of obscene language and content. Believe it or not, a lot of the more profane blogs fall into the “MommyBlog” category.
Participants have even blogged extensively about today’s conference, discussing what should be talked about, mulling the event’s significance, sharing information about local baby-sitting services, and yes — wondering what to wear.
“Women dress to impress other women,” mused Meghan Townsend, a panelist for the MommyBlogging discussion, in a recent blog entry.
“What the hell does one wear when hobnobbing with hundreds of witty savvy women from all over the freaking globe?”
After all this writing, reading and linking, is there anything left to talk about?
Plenty, from a look at today’s schedule of discussions. One session, “How to Be Naked,” addresses how blogs are “recalibrating our definition of personal.” Participants will talk about how they cope when online confessions upset family members, or when strangers post “flames,” or angry comments, about the bloggers’ very personal decisions. One panelist in that discussion, Heather Armstrong (www.dooce.com), was the recipient of a surfeit of flames when she wrote about weaning her then 6-month-old baby because she was taking antidepressants.
Meeting an online friend
For many participants, the conference is a chance to bring electronic relationships into the nondigital world. Miriam Verburg, a college student from Montreal who writes a blog called the Flink (www.flinknet.com/theflink/), is staying with a local conference volunteer whom she has never met offline. During her trip, she’s also staying with a blogger in San Francisco that she became friends with through mutual blog commenting.
Verburg raised eyebrows when she told a border guard she would be staying with friends she met online.
“To him, meeting someone on the Internet seems really risky,” Verburg said. “But to me, it’s like meeting someone who lives down the street.”
Verburg is not the only attendee who’s getting help from online friends, said organizer Camahort.
“I know one person who got Paypal donations and frequent-flier-mile donations,” to make the trip, Camahort said.
Verburg was able to attend the conference for free because she volunteered to organize an important part of the event: the bloggers. Each session will be recorded and posted to the Internet as it happens, with both audio and text, by “live bloggers.” Since registration for the event is closed, this is the only way that many will get to experience it.
E-mail Carrie Kirby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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©2005 San Francisco Chronicle