In my sister’s blog the question of who writes blogs and participates in the blogosphere more: men or women. It is certainly something I have observed: that in the few blogs I read men and women write and respond quite differently.
I read Vaughn’s blog, a loose collection of thoughts that appear periodically, apparently when inspiration (or guilt at a long time without a post) strikes. Often the trigger is some event in his life, such as driving to help with reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina, or trying to fix the car.
I read Donna’s blog, an equally loose collection of thoughts (I suppose that might be one definition of “blog”) that appears rather more regularly. Either she is more disciplined than Vaughn, or just less able to keep quiet for any length of time. Similar triggers apply: cats and dogs and birds, mixed in with the vagaries of students and weather forecasters.
I would read Kristen’s blog, but she only posts when she is in Ghana. And I would read Nevin’s blog, but he only posts when he travels to Europe. So, although one is male and one female, my niece and son don’t help me with understanding the way that blogging works. Or if they do, it is negatively, by posting only when something quite unique is happening in their lives.
I would also read Denise’s blog, but she posts less often than I do. There is a pattern here: from oldest to youngest of me and my siblings -- either more talkative to less, or more disciplined to less, or perhaps more accurately, from more likely to post on their blog to less likely to post. I don’t think I can discern anything from that!
I would read Hendrik’s blog (a colleague at Providence); but he only posts when controversy strikes, and he seems to be feeling less controversial these days. And I read Ben and Leah’s blog, usually Leah, but sometimes Ben. Here is a seam for mining: compare for gender differences! But the project is scuttled for lack of data. Leah posts more often, if only because Ben is going full tilt trying to finish his M.Div. program.
I read several other blogs periodically: for theology and the emergent church, Andrew Jones ("tall skinny kiwi"); Ed Buller (a former student at Providence now pastoring a church in Hawaii); and so on. But family and one or two friends are the most regular.
When I don my researcher’s hat and put all of these together, I am forced to say that the whole question is scuttled for lack of data. A proper piece of research remains to be done. But here are some thoughts.
1) I suspect that men tend to write more about ideas than women do. Perhaps just a stereotype in my mind: certainly Donna is quite likely to address ideas (such as those surrounding climate change); but I think I am more likely to ramble on about what community means than she is. I also doubt one can read anything into this. If the hunch has any truth, the converse would be that women are more likely to write about stuff that’s happening around them. But then Vaughn and I are just as likely to write about such stuff, so I still doubt one can read much into this.
2) I suspect that men are less likely to make comments on each other’s blogs, except for some specific purpose, and that women are more likely to make encouraging comments, however brief. When men do say something, they may be more likely to cite a point of disagreement. Again, this is hunch based on stereotypes and could be quite wrong. Donna, at least, has always been able to argue when she wants to! Not to mention Denise.
I don’t have other hunches here yet, and I mistrust these two. I think it would be most interesting to do a thorough and careful piece of research, controlling for the presence of stereotypical hunches of the sort I have just laid out and checking to see if more men or more women blog and comment, and in what ways their contributions may differ.
I enjoy settings in which men and women both contribute, and in which whether one is male or female is relatively unimportant. Differences in how we contribute remain (I think), but they are the sort of differences that make the whole conversation richer, more enjoyable, and more profitable.