Thursday, March 17, 2005

Forget Diversity in Blogging, There's More Important Matters 

The latest hubbub and indictment levied against the blogosphere by the MSM (namely Steven Levy) is that it is not only not diverse enough, but nothing is being done to attain and ensure diversity. Jeff Jarvis has already pooh-poohed this notion, but given his admitted xanthachroid credentials we all know he's just part of the problem. But at this point, I must slightly shift focus from diversity in the blogosphere to a few other key areas where the lack of diversity is truly troubling.

For example, while Brother Jed and Sister Cindy are doing their part by taking their five daughters on the road to help them, my personal experience has been that street preaching is a decidedly male bastion. Likewise for remote-control airplane enthusiasts. And can you remember the last time you saw a Science-Fiction convention remotely approaching a 1:20, much less a 1:1, ratio? On a more economic vein, I can't remember the last time I met a freelance computer repair technician that, regardless of testoterone level, wasn't universally recognized as a male of the species. What are these communities doing about their lack of diversity?

OK, Dave, so how do you tie blogging in with street preaching, Sci-Fi or anything else in the last paragraph? It's intuitively obvious to the most casual observer once you recognize that every endevour I mentioned, including blogging, is a voluntary activity that anyone can freely engage in. This does not, however, address any individual's particular desire to do so, though, and that is the falicy these diversity bean counters always seem to step in. In my entirely unscientific and non-comprehensive research on the matter, while I can fully agree that the percentage of "big-name" political blogs that are clearly authored by women is much less than 50% my experience has also been that the percentage of "this is what I did today and how I feel about it" blogs I've seen that are clearly authored by women far exceeds 50%. Since blogging is a voluntary act, largely for recreation, perhaps the latter is, for whatever reason, more interesting and of greater appeal for more women.

Before anyone jumps me as anti-woman or sexist, my perceptions in the preceding paragraph are made in a non-attributional manner. I do not perceive an individual's interest in one topic over another as a "good/bad" thing, just a matter of a difference in taste. Some women obviously like talking politics (and many do it well), just as some men like talking fashion (and do it well). The reasons for this apparent variance among women in their areas of interest can be discussed all day long. Some, like La Shawn Barber, may feel it's greatly societal in origin while others may see it as a result of the widely accepted less confrontational, more nurturing and communicative nature attributed to women. Most, like me, probably feel it's a bit of both. In any event, it seems a bit silly for anyone to even insinuate the blogosphere is organized enough to effect some sort of diversity policy to make sure women's voices are heard.

Perhaps the next time Mr. Levy is at one of those fabled posh liberal dinner parties he'll take a moment to stand back against the wall and observe how many little groups of only women or only men gather to discuss topics of common interest. And there will probably be a few groups including both men and women engaged in discussion. Would it occur to him that the circle of mostly men discussing the March NCAA basketball tournament needs more women's voices? For the most part the blogoshpere is a giant never ending dinner party. This group is talking about Iraq, that group is talking about getting dumped and the participants are free to move back and forth, to listen and contribute where their interests lie. Even among the "big players" this is still something they choose to do and it is something anyone else can try. In short, Mr. Levy, go peddle your egalitarian gender-neutral utpoia elsewhere.

Post Script: It doesn't really fit into the flow of the above paragraphs and I didn't want to make a separate post on it, but I did want to say something about a difference of opinion I do have with Jeff that was highlighted by this issue. Namely, his seeming acceptance of the left meme that Harvard President Summers "got in some hot water for [making gross generalizations based on gender]." In my analysis, Larry Summers "got in some hot water" for challenging the dogmatic assumption in academia that the under-representation of women in certain disciplines is necessarilly a result of discrimination and bias. Anytime you are discussing human behavior and conditions that largely depend upon individual volition one must take into consideration the effect of self-selection. Like I touched on above, under-representation by a definable group may be a result of self-selection within that group based upon the desirability of the goal. Physical differences between male and female brains is a documented scientific fact so it seems reasonable to ask if these physical differences may manifest themselves as differences in either inclination or aptitude relative to specific mental disciplines or skills. To ignore this possibility seems, from my engineering perspective, the height of nonacademic pursuit. To attack anyone even mentioning this possibility seems to me not unlike reactionary defense of religious dogma.

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