Mother Jones: You are in tune to the issue of the gap between men and women in the blogosphere. Fill me in on some of the issues.
Morra Aarons: It’s interesting. I think that what has happened with political bloggers is that there is an elite class of political bloggers who are on par with the pundits on the Sunday-morning talk shows. On the Democratic side, they seem to be largely male. When people think of political bloggers, they think of this group of people-the main political bloggers that we all know. You have Firedoglake and Taylor Marsh and there are some other women, but by and large it is, similar to how men get quoted in the press more than women, bloggers who are male get quoted more than female bloggers.
But then underneath it all you have this massive groundswell of women online who are blogging. They may not be classified as political bloggers. When people think of women blogging, they think of mommy bloggers, right? Every company wants to reach mommy bloggers because they influence other mommies as to what products to buy. But these women also talk and care about politics. I think it is the smart campaign that mobilizes these people and I haven’t really seen that happening yet.
MJ: You’re a contributing editor to BlogHer.com. Can you tell me more about it?
MA: It is a big collective of women bloggers. I’m a contributing editor for politics and news. It’s an online group blog. Anyone who has a blog is allowed to list her blog on it. There are thousands of blogs on it and they have a bunch of editors covering topic areas and we highlight what is best from all these women’s blogs. It’s a great online community. I really see it taking the place of the original women’s online communities like iVillage.com.
MJ: Why do you think male bloggers have dominated in the blogosphere as far as their high profile?
MA: People say it’s because men are more confident in expressing an opinion. I’ve actually heard women who I’ve talked to in BlogHer say, “We’re not sure we want to be outspoken in politics because we’re not sure we know enough.” Maybe men feel that less. I hate to feel that’s true though. I think that original political bloggers were people who were activists and they were confident. They weren’t scared to bang down doors, ruffle feathers, and piss people off. And for whatever reason I think that women have carved out their own niche in the blogs, but it hasn’t been in political activism.
MJ: Do you think that men dominate in the blogosphere more than they dominate in traditional media?
MA: It’s about on par. I recall a Ms. magazine study that said two-thirds or even three-quarters of all quotes in the media are from men.
MJ: What about the people who run blogs compared to journalists or editors?
MA: You mean people who are the pundits, who aren’t quoted?
MA: I think it’s probably about even. In terms of personalities, a lot of the political bloggers are on par with people who you see on roundtables on cable news shows Sunday morning. I think what’s inspiring though is that the campaigns have hired a lot of women to work on their blogs. I hope that this signals a change. Edwards has hired a woman named Tracy Russo who’s really good. Hillary has a woman blogger on staff, so I think that the campaigns are hiring more women bloggers. Maybe that will signal a shift.
MJ: Do you think Web 2.0 technologies are going to benefit women, bring a larger percentage of women in?
MA: I think so. Women have been the online majority for years now. They have not been the majority that is writing on blogs. I really hope that they start mouthing off about politics because they are the women who are going to count when it comes down to crunch time in August of 2008. All the campaigns are going to be trying to reach female swing voters. These are these women-mommy bloggers are these women. They have a lot of power. I hope that the campaigns mobilize them.
MJ: Do you think this is an issue that is recognized by the blogosphere?
MA: I don’t think that the small cadre of elite political bloggers are thinking about why there aren’t more women in their ranks. I don’t blame them. I think it’s up to some women bloggers to take the lead and show their power.