Balkinization  

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Women and Blogging: what you can do right now

Mary L. Dudziak

It was hard to know what to say when a law blogger asked "Do Women Blog?" a week before the women bloggers convention. I just kept blogging.
C.C. Holland now has an article on Law.com, Where Are All the Female Law Bloggers? Thankfully, she quotes Christine Hurt of Conglomerate who has been insisting for some time that it is hard to say anything meaningful about gender and the blogosphere without data. And basic data would not be hard to find.
The point I stressed to Holland, as she reports in the article, is: "Someone asking, in some ways hyperbolically, 'Do women blog?' is not reading the blogging that women are doing."
There are lots of women bloggers, including law bloggers. But it can be hard to break out of a particular niche and into the broader blogosphere. For good bloggers without a natural audience, it can be very hard to establish a readership.
The difficulty of establishing a readership is exacerbated when bloggers don’t read and link to women bloggers.
This is not unlike a problem in legal scholarship that Mari Matsuda wrote about some time ago. In a critique of the Critical Legal Studies movement, she argued in 1987 that "there is a sense that critical scholars intend only to talk to each other....The articles cite and build upon each other." She encouraged CLS scholars to "establish dialogue with people of color and to add their voices to those that currently dominate the discourse." There was (and still is) a very practical way to do that: cite to their work.
Just as legal scholarship can sometimes be a closed circle, the law blogosphere functions that way when established bloggers read and link to each other, ignoring newer voices.
Rather than speculating about women and blogging, below the fold are some very practical and easy things to do that can highlight the role of women bloggers, and make it easier for newer voices to be heard.

For bloggers:
1. Take a look at your blog list. If you don’t have women bloggers on your bloglist, how about adding some today? For starters, some blogs by women are listed on the essential Feminist Law Professors Blog. (And in light of the advice below to women bloggers, here's a link to my Legal History Blog!)
2. Link to women. Moving up in rankings like Technorati depends on how many blogs link to you. Sometimes another blogger will pick up on a point I’ve made, but doesn’t add a link to my post. This seems to be part of the ABC’s of blog etiquette, but why not go beyond this and look for posts by women you can link to.
3. Help spread the word. When you hear about a new blogger, give them a shout-out. And feature established blogs that might be of interest to your readers.
4. Why not add the feed from another blog to your blog? I do this with the fabulous international law blog IntLawGrrls. I added their feedburner feed to the side of my blog for two reasons: there are often posts that are historically oriented that my legal history readers will be interested in, and I think it’s a great blog and I want to support it.
For readers:
You have a part in this, since the blogosphere consists of the relationship between bloggers and readers. When you find a post by women, or any blogger who can use more exposure, why not e-mail it to others? Blog readership is often built up by word-of-mouth (or word-of-keyboard).
For women bloggers and new bloggers:
A little shameless self-promotion is in order. Certainly send an e-mail about your blog launch to everyone you can think of. Then send an occasional post, with a link, to folks who might have an interest, and especially to relevant listservs that you are a member of. Everyone who has gone before you has built a readership by doing just that.
Ann Althouse offers her thoughts on the topic here. Ann Bartow weighed in on this topic earlier here.

(Cross-posted from the Legal History Blog.)

Comments:

I don't quite see that the problem is as acute as some say. Yes, so David Lat and Howard Bashman aren't women (nor lawprofs, for that matter), and no women blog at the VC. So what? As Mary notes, there are plenty of woman lawprofs out there blogging, and many of the very best blawgs are written wholly or in part by women. In addition to B'Zation (see, e.g., Mary and Heather Gerken), and Mary's legal history blog, and IntlawGrrls, please allow me to assert some institutional prerogative and send a shout out to two of the best blawgs around, written by colleagues of mine: Rebecca Tushnet's 43(B)log (http://tushnet.blogspot.com/), and Nan Hunter's Hunter of Justice (http://hunterforjustice.typepad.com/hunter_of_justice/). And although Lisa Heizerling doesn't blog frequently on the GULC blog (http://gulcfac.typepad.com/), when she does so it's among the best blogging around on environmental and administrative law issues.

I've previously touted Bernie Meyler's Find and Replace, too (http://findandreplace.blogspot.com/), although it appears to be temporarily on hiatus.
 

One of my absolute favorite writers - Dahlia Lithwick - now has two blogs that she contributes to. Both on Slate.com. She is a wonderfully engaging legal blogger!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/

Her latest article: http://www.slate.com/id/2201156/
 

I would venture to say I see more male law bloggers, but there are many women law bloggers whose work I follow and thoroughly enjoy. My fave is Susan Cartier Liebel of http://susancartierliebel.typepad.com and I also love Carolyn Elefant at http://myshingle.com or my newest find of http://21stcenturylaw.wordpress.com
 

Discrimination against law bloggers who are laypeople like myself is a much bigger problem than discrimination against female law bloggers who are legal professionals. My blog "I'm from Missouri" has hundreds of articles about legal topics, mostly concerning evolution education, the establishment clause, attorney fee awards, the fairness doctrine, Internet censorship, and copyright law (the topics are listed in the sidebar -- copyright law is under "Yoko Ono lawsuit"). Many of these articles are extensively researched. The Law X.0 blog (formerly named the "Law Blog Metrics" blog), which is affiliated with the Univ. of Cincinnati, a public university, routinely announces and lists law blogs. I asked the Law X.0 bloggers to announce and list my blog because of its extensive coverage of legal issues, and they refused. Meanwhile, the Law X.0 bloggers announced the "Cruiseship Law" blog which only posted news articles verbatim without comment. The Law X.0 bloggers even refused to post any of my comments about their articles. So don't expect me to shed many crocodile tears over the problems that female law bloggers are supposedly having. However, I do agree that female bloggers have a particular problem with cyberbullying in the form of extreme abuse and threats.
 

Professor Dudziak,

When someone asks a question like "Do women blog" I think we can agree it is not the denotative value that counts. What counts is the connotation that any blogging which does come from women is illegitimate or insufficient or in some other way inadequate. The danger is in taking the denotative bait and leaving the connoted assumptions in place. One would reasonably expect that gender plays the same role in blog content creation as in any other content creation. Disingenuous questions with buried, specious assumptions, should be treated as such.

This might be a good time to point out that people of all stripes too often forget that women have had the vote less than a century, and still do not have Constitutionally established equal rights. Things are better, but they aren't even close to good enough.

Thanks for the leads to some good blogs. Your challenge worried me at first, until I checked my meager blogroll. Three of the eight distinct sources I track are women. Another four are group blogs like Balkinization and boingboing, which may not have equal representation, but certainly aren't chapters of the "He-Man Woman-Hater's Club".

Peace, and thanks for the post.
 

The brightest and most balanced voices, to me, are the ones at blogs in which substance is of the essence, rather than self conscious genderism. Women are contributing plenty in the law blogs, and women are adding their own wonderful insight and energy to the colloquies, just as women are supplying some of the most intriguing research and law history thought.
 

Is what Marci Hamilton does at FindLaw not blogging? (Likewise as to other women who post columns there.) Marci's area of expertise is most welcome.
 

To me, what counts in the law is the message and not the messenger.

The law profession has the most elitism and snobbery of any profession, by far. For example, the Supreme Court now has 5 Harvard Law School grads, 2 Yale LS grads, one Columbia LS grad, and only one non-Ivy League LS grad. The last two justices to leave the court, Rehnquist and O'Connor, are both Stanford LS grads. Ivy League law journals -- Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Law Reviews -- have been cited far more times in court opinions than the law reviews of other law schools -- the numbers of citations in federal court opinions for the most-cited law journals in the period 1970-1979 are as follows: Harvard Law Review, 4410; Yale Law Review, 1800; Columbia Law Review, 1062 (increased to 1497 in 1980-89); NYU Law Review, 506; and Cal.-Berkeley Law Review, 497. Law students' articles in law journals are called "notes," regardless of length (however, in a bizarre twist, most law journals are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are just student-reviewed!).

These levels of elitism and snobbery in the law are unapproached in other fields, e.g., science, engineering, and medicine. The irony here is that law is rare among the professions in that laypeople can make significant contributions.

The opening post says,
>>>>>> Rather than speculating about women and blogging, below the fold are some very practical and easy things to do that can highlight the role of women bloggers, and make it easier for newer voices to be heard.<<<<<<<

IMO that is wishful thinking. I have been accused of "advertising" and "peddling" my blog even when I make on-topic links to my blog when commenting on other websites. Wikipedia has a general rule against using personal blogs as sources but allows links to others' personal blogs while censoring links to my blog. The reason given: the other personal blogs are "notable" or "reputable" whereas my personal blog is "crappy." And as I said, I tried to get the Law X.0 bloggers to announce and list my blog because it has hundreds of articles on the law, but they refused.

In short, any problems that female law bloggers are having are merely symptoms of a sick law profession and a sick Internet culture. The sick Internet culture is the source of one of the biggest problems female bloggers have: extreme -- sometimes criminal -- cyberbullying. As Henry David Thoreau said, "there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."

Also, it is important to recognize that blogging has become a zero-sum game. The blogosphere has become saturated with millions of blogs and time that is spent on another blog is time that is not spent on your blog. Most of the biggest blogs today got off to an early start in blogging.

IMO it helps to specialize in just one area of the law or just a few areas of the law. When you become recognized as an expert in a particular area of the law, people seeking information on that area of the law are more likely to consult your blog.
 

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