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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is Blogging Just Another Boys' Club?

In my last post, I asked Do Women Blog?, and more specifically, do female law professors blog anywhere close to their numbers in the academy. Two comments prompt me to ask another question, which will hopefully generate more discussion. The first comment is from Orin Kerr. The second is from a female law professor who emailed me off-line and who agreed that I could post her comment without attribution. Read on, and you'll see why.

Orin Kerr commented:

I would flip the question and ask, what is it about men that attracts them to blogging? I would think the reason is that men love to hear themselves talk. They think they have something important to say; writing a lot becomes a way of showing off one's importance. Women usually have this baggage less often, so they're less likely to waste their precious few hours of free time in front of a computer blogging.

And this is what a female law professor emailed me off line, with one deletion to conceal identifying information:

Do Women Blog? Yes, as your readers have pointed out. But in numbers disproportionate to
their representation in academe. Why? Jeff Lipshaw is on to something -- there really is no time.
Between teaching, scholarship, and home, those with families (or those who just prefer to have
a life that isn't completely oriented around the job) have a hard time fitting blogging in. I
am amazed that other women -- Orly, Laura, Angela Onwuachi-Willig (who, curiously, your readers
failed to mention in their roundup of women lawprawf bloggers)-- can find the time. Perhaps it
is easier after tenure, or when the kids are old enough to fend for themselves. In any event, it is not something I feel like I could take on now.

Dan also raised issues that I am particularly sensitive to as a woman of color -- blogging makes
you incredibly visible (to the rest of the academy and to your own faculty). Certainly,
it would be great to bring my work to the attention of those at other institutions, but the risk with
blogging is that the blogging itself would be visible to my own faculty. I would be deeply worried (and perhaps I am overly paranoid) that blogging would be seen as "wasting time" I could be devoting
to my scholarship. Further, the quick posts and responses typical in the blogosphere seem
like they could come back to bite you. Suffice to say, I would not want blogging to come
up as a centerpiece of my tenure review.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. The fact that I didn't post suggests how paranoid I am about
blogging, but there you are.

I think both Orin and the female law professor raise important points. So at bottom, is blogging just another boys' club? Or, based on the comments above, should we be asking more difficult questions about blogging, the academy, and gender?

Posted by Bennett Capers on July 17, 2008 at 08:23 AM in Blogging | Permalink


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Hi Bennett,

Thanks for asking - after years of ambivalence, I went live with a blog today. Check it out - http://hunterforjustice.typepad.com/hunter_of_justice/

Posted by: Nan Hunter | Jul 18, 2008 5:16:39 PM

I am confident that the "second shift" phenom is a part of why female law profs are blogging less than their male counterparts, but the other point raised by "female law professor" is also important: blogging equals huge exposure. I suspect that an individual's comfort level w/blogging is a function of both age as well as gender - but maybe that's because I'm both "old" (51) and female. Lots of us law prof types are very risk averse in terms of what we publish -- or to put this with a positive spin -- we don't want to be quoted unless we're very sure of our facts. But women may have reason to be even more risk averse than men. Male law professors may believe (and they may be right) that mistakes they make in a blog post are not going to harm their credibility, while female law professors believe (and again they may be right), that their mistakes will indicate their lack of seriousness or their lack of intelligence.

Once I hit "post" here, I've added to my "googleable" docs & if tomorrow this seems like a silly post,I can't retract it; I've "introduced" myself to an untold number of folks who have no idea what I do or what I'm about .... This doesn't give you fellows pause? [Oops -- I better look up that colloquialism -- doesn't look right when I see it on the page ... Wait, is that how you spell colloquial? Shoot! It's almost 8, I still have hours of work to do, haven't eaten & the house is a wreck ... ] Gotta go!

Posted by: Donna Coker | Jul 17, 2008 7:46:46 PM


Glad you found the comment interesting, One point I would raise is that the notion of a "Boys' Club" suggests a group of people on the inside imposing a barrier to entry on new people. But there is very little barrier to entry when it comes to blogging, as anyone with a computer can set up a blog and start blogging in about 2 minutes. No one can stop them or impose a barrier to entry: joining the "club" is entirely the choice of the individual.

Also, I enjoyed the anonymous female law professor's comment: I think there's a lot there. The point about family responsibilities is certainly a very good one, as several were discussing in the earlier thread. But I also thought it was noteworthy about those " those who just prefer to have a life that isn't completely oriented around the job" not wanting to blog. I think that's key: my sense is that most lawprofs who blog regularly really don't mind having a life completely oriented around their job.

I'm also reminded of a survey that the Harvard Law Review did my 3L year in law school ('96-'97) to try to find out why more men than women were applying for law review. It had been the case that more men than women were making the Review, and the Review was considering an affirmative action for program for women to balance out the numbers. But when they looked at the numbers, I recall, it turned out that women who applied were just as likely to make it as men: the "problem" was that women were less likely to apply. When the law review did a student survey to find out why, the primary reason women listed was that they thought they had better things to do with their time. They didn't want to be on law review as often as men, as law review was a huge time sink that just wasn't very interesting despite its prestige. Women were more likely than men to want to spend their time with friends or maybe helping others on Legal Aid than trying to get another gold star on their resume by being on law review. That certainly seemed like a reasonable choice to me. As I saw it then, the very reasonable answers helped reveal the bias in the questions: maybe the right question wasn't why relatively few women chose to apply for law review, but rather why so many men did.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 17, 2008 11:06:25 AM

To truly figure this out, I'd want some baseline outside of law prof blogs. In other academic areas that have a lot of blogs, are women under-represented? How about non-academic blog circles? Basically, is what we seem to be seeing in the law prawf blog world just a replication of the larger blog world? (I have no idea the answers to these questions.)

Posted by: David S. Cohen | Jul 17, 2008 9:56:57 AM

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