Blogging white male
: Steven Levy has a column about blogs in Newsweek — fallout from the last Harvard confab — that I think is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a crock.
The head: “Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club: Since anyone can write a Weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by white males?” And he asks: “Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?”
A few responses:
First, what’s wrong with being a white male? I’m white and male. Not much I can do about it. Not much I want to do about it. I’m sure as hell not going to apologize for it. I’m white. I’m male. I blog. You got a problem with that? Tough.
Second, I hate to break the news to you, Steven but… you’re white and male, too! And you sit there in a Big Big-Media Job that is not held by someone unwhite and unmale. Should you ask why that is? Should you feel guilty? Should you quit? Should someone ask these questions of you?
Third, anyone can blog. Anyone. If you’re not white or not male or not American or not powerful or not rich or not anything, you can still blog. This is not like Big Media, where there’s a gate to keep and a ceiling to hit. This is a wide-open medium where anyone can blog. This old quota talk is outmoded and irrelevant. Hell, people in Iran can blog — a heckuva lot of them women, by the way. People in Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon and Bahrain can blog even though there are efforts in all those places to stop them. But nobody’s stopping anybody here from blogging. So if you don’t think there are enough unmale or unwhite or unanything people blogging, go convince some of them to go to Blogger and sign up! It’s that easy.
Fourth, in the blogosphere, nobody knows you’re a dog… or unmale… or unwhite. There are plenty of bloggers I read who are demographic mysteries to me. I honestly don’t know the race or gender of many bloggers and commenters I read and — listen carefully now — I don’t care. When I was raised in this country, we were taught that it was a goal of our culture — melting-pot nirvana — to get to the point where race and gender didn’t matter. Well, we’ve finally created a medium where that’s possible. But now we’re trying to make race and gender matter again. How crazy is that? That is, to paraphrase my West Virginia father [you see, I’m hillbilly, actually], bassackwards.
Fifth, don’t judge the blogosphere only by 100 blogs on top of some list. That’s so old media. There are eight million blogs — and 7,999,900 of them that get more traffic and more links and more interest than those mere 100. Judge their diversity.
Sixth, so if there aren’t enough unwhite and unmale bloggers blogging, am I supposed to stop? Is it my fault? No, it’s not. My friends Halley and Rebecca are white, too. Should they do anything differently? I certainly hope not.
Seventh, see the post below about Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice. Welcome to the post-post-feminist era, folks.
Note that I said new voices. Not unmale voices. Not unwhite voices. New voices. It’s the voice that matters. It’s the person that matters. It’s the message that matters. Not the race or the gender.
I don’t want to reduce these amazing people I’m meeting in this medium to a simplistic, one-dimensional definition.
This week — thanks to fellow bloggers — I was delighted to find a new Afghan blogger (who, by the way, writes about women finally free to get an education… you want to talk feminist issues try that one!). I found lots of new Lebanese blogs here, here, here, here (and even here) celebrating the possibility of self-determination. I learned a lot from an Egyptian blogger. I worried over the fate of Bahraini bloggers in jail (I think they may be male… does it matter?) I watched a blogger get excited after I quoted her on TV and now she’s appearing on TV (by the way, she’s unwhite and unmale and — here’s the real shocker — unleft). I went to an event in D.C. and met a blogger who fits a similar description. I became addicted to a new blogger who covers nothing but freedom all around the world. Thanks to a blogging friend — yes, unmale (but ungay) — I found a new page devoted to making money for unstraight bloggers. I watched a Muslim, lesbian, female, Canadian journalist on TV and linked to her. I linked to the most decidedly unmale blogger alive. I linked to a bunch of bloggers I don’t know criticizing big, bad big media and I have no idea what they look like, only what they’re saying. I defended an unmale journalism student getting in trouble for questioning very male jocks. I attacked two guys who appear to be male and white. I celebrated la difference. Oh, yeah, and I fought for the right of an unmale star to hug an unwhite star on national TV and not get in trouble with the FCC over it. All that since the aforementioned Harvard confab.
You want to talk diversity? That’s diversity!
Diversity is no longer just an issue of gender or race or of hiring. Now it’s often just an issue of reading… and maybe linking. It’s also an issue of finding support (helping Iraqi bloggers blog… helping bring attention to the plight of jailed Iranian or Bahraini bloggers… helping bring ad revenue to bloggers of any description…).
So can’t we get past this simplistic quotaspeak?
Steven Levy called me before he wrote his column and I said much of this. I said it is a mistake to presume that the blogosphere has a “diversity problem” just because the blogs you read aren’t diverse (hell, there are eight million of them — so find some new blogs to read; that’s what Halley and Rebecca are really urging, I think). I said that we can all be better at finding more new voices in a medium that is growing by 40,000 new voices a day. I said 10 new voices was far too few. I said some of this at the Harvard confab — namely that if Iranians and Iraqis can blog, anyone can — when the topic came up there. And I’ll say it again here:
In this medium of all media, we must get past throwing our fellow citizens into big, messy buckets: left, right, male, female, white, not…. The lesson of this medium is that we’re individuals and we don’t fit those broad and shallow definitions: Read us and you will hear more diversity from every voice than you have ever heard in any medium that ever came before.
And can we use more diversity? You bet we can. But that’s not a problem. That’s an opportunity.
“Diversity problem?” Kneejerk crock, that.
At the end of his column — after lumping all this in with the Estrich-Kinsley shrill media shriekfest — Levy challenges the blogosphere to find 50 new voices to link to. I’ll turn it around, Steven: Let’s see you and Newsweek find and quote and listen to and link to 50 new voices never heard before in mainstream media every week.
: LATER: I just finished writing this post when I went to Romenesko (which finally has an RSS feed, which means I’m finally reading him more often) and saw him link to the Levy piece and then add a link to a Chicago Tribune piece about the Harvard confab. Romenesko’s bitchy link, picked up not out of the Tribune story but apparently out of his nose:
“MSM turn to white bloggers Jarvis, Rosen when they need a quote (CT)”
OK, OK. I’m white. Very white. Pale white. Pasty white. Wonder-Bread white. Gray-haired, white-bearded white. Never-in-the-sun white. Just white. That picture up in the corner is color-corrected to give me the appearance of a healthy tone. It’s a Photoshop lie. Actually, I’m vampirish. Bloodless. Practically transparent. Colorless. Odorless. Tasteless (just ask the FCC). White.
And so what’s your point, Romenesko?
: LATER: Of course, Doc says it way, way better than I could or did … on 1/1000th the word count:
My own 2