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May 09, 2005


rob loftis

I thought it was clear to everyone that you are a "man's woman", at least in your online persona. A lot of prominent female bloggers are as well. (Lindsay Bayersein springs to mind, although I hope she's not offended that I say so.) Even "succesful" female bloggers who cultivate a female- friendly audience have a strong male-friendly side. (Bitch PhD.)

I think this is a problem with blogistan. It is the classic "women can have a voice, but only the ones that act like men" problem.

It also means that boys like me shouldn't give themselves too much credit for having a lot of women on their blogroll.


... um, not to derail the discussion, but what other advice did John get?


Surely at least 28% of the problem is that all those things are a priori "acting like men"? Who said only men get to have bullshit, cock-swinging arguments about philosophy? Is this something that having a vagina should ostensibly prevent? Why? If we're going to be deconstructing unnecessary gender boundaries, it might behoove us to start by... deconstructing unnecessary gender boundaries.

rob helpychalk

I don't think these things are a priori acting like men. In fact, they are quite clearly a posteriori, contingent gender differences. Unfortunately, they are still around, which means that women like Belle will get more attention in the patriarchical internet than women with other personality types. And this would be everyone's loss.

(Would earth mothery people like Jo(e) be the kind of person who doesn't get traffic because they aren't men's women? I just want to see if we are tracking the same gender roles here.)

rob helpychalk

oops, needed to close that tag.

Also, suddenly I'm worried that I'm offending all my favorate bloggers by putting them into boxes like "earth mothery" or "man's woman." If I have, I'll apologize and shut up.


There's a Wes Anderson movie just waiting to me made about the lives and loves of the Waring sisters.


So, Rob Loftis, we meet again. Pity about the . . . circumstances.


I don't constantly think of my self as a guy's girl, but whenever I look around and take stock, I suppose by some measures I am; most of my friends are guys, I have a strong taste for politics and argument, I majored in physics in college. I have been known to describe things I admire as badass and to stick my thumbs in my belt loops. I think Saurabh is right--it shouldn't matter at all, really. We shouldn't be labelled tomboys or butch, and guys who like to cook and pay attention to decor shouldn't be labelled flaming or metrosexual, as the case may be. Unrelated parameters need to be untied, labels need to be more precisely applied. I think it would matter less that we might benefit from our personalities if we could be assured that all girls might feel equally free to express such a personality according to their preference and nature, and not according to society's mandates. Until then, we feel a little guilty. But not too guilty, I hope. We still have to be ourselves, and submitting to some pseudo-feminist paradigm is no more a choice than previously submitting to a patriarchal one.

Belle, I don't know if you'd be able to get a copy of this now, but perhaps someone can mail it to you. It's an essay that's in the 1999 (XXIII) edition of the Puschcart Prize collection, page 224 by Emily Fox Gordon. It's called, "The Most Responsible Girl" and it originally appeared in Boulevard magazine. (She went on to write a well received memoir, The Mockingbird Years, but the search inside function makes me think she did not use the essay in it.) It starts off with her recollection of the head-girl type in boarding school, and the childhood basis for a lot of the iconography of what's feminine and what's not. Many interesting meditation what it means to be a woman who's more comfortable with some men, yet doesn't consider herself to be a misogynist.


As someone else who also has a conflicted relationship to feminine behavior (I generally think there's all sorts of great stuff about it, but I never got the hang of it personally), I think this is one of those horrendously irritating areas where the differences in outcomes can be partially accounted for by differences in the not-necessarily-freely chosen behavior of most men versus most women. The stereotypically feminine behavior pattern here is: don't barge into conversations where you weren't invited, don't demand attention, don't assume anyone is interested in what you have to say... you can continue the list. Someone who behaves like that isn't going to get heard, linked to, read, whatever, unless they're so superlatively good that other people find them (Jeanne D'Arc fits into this category -- a lot of influence without much self-promoting -- but very few people are going to). That's not about sexism, per se, more that feminine diffidence is just going to be less effective at drawing attention than the masculine braggadocio.

Now, there is certainly sexism that plays into why men tend to get linked to more than women, but there's nothing particularly surprising about the fact that the women who do 'succeed' at blogging tend toward the butch on the attenion-seeking/diffidence axis.


There's that word again: why would you call that behavior 'butch'? To me that suggests 'contrary to nature', or 'not the way girls should be'. I.e. you are reinforcing an absolutely unnecessary (and, as you acknowledge, harmful) gender boundary.


Well, I'm just reporting on the reality that some girls with these personality traits get called butch, not saying that they are. I tend to be all for descriptive language, so I have to acknowledge the reality of the language as it exists while also doing my bit to shift its usage. I don't actually think I use the word butch for much of anything except a very specific kind of haircut. And some women like being called butch.


I agree with your substantive comment -- that is, I don't accept that diffidence is innately related to femaleness, and I agree that it's harmful and wrong to imply that 'the way many women are socialized to behave' should in any way be taken to mean 'the way all women do behave or should behave'. And I got kind of stuck writing that last comment, trying to make the point I wanted to without sounding as if I were endorsing the position you reject, and I guess I didn't make it.

So, given that I do agree wih you that the qualities I called 'masculine' and 'feminine' in my prior comment are the result of socialization rather than innate, but just phrased it badly: do you see what I mean, in that people who actively seek attention are likely to get more attention than people who don't, and that this isn't merely a matter of valuing attention-seeking behavior over its absence?


And what Saheli said -- I don't see 'butch' as, in this context, incorporating a negative value-judgment. I, and those I talk to, tend to use butch/femme as identifying stereotypically masculine/feminine behavior, without judging its propriety or impropriety.

Gary Farber

So is it possible, or impossible, then, to point to some exemplar "woman's woman" bloggers? What would one mean by that phrase, precisely?


Well, at the risk of laying myself open to more commentary on how I've bought into gender stereotypes, I mentioned Jeanne D'Arc, of Body and Soul, above. If we take "man's woman" to mean a woman who habitually relates in some steroypically masculine ways, including self-promotion, and relates well to men because of it, I'd say Jeanne (who I don't know at all -- if you're reading this, I'm using you as an example because you're so unmistakably excellent that no one could misunderstand my characterizing you as feminine as a veiled slam) is not such a woman. She does very little of the usual blogger linking games, and while I don't know what happens behind the scenes, doesn't seem all that involved in the A-list blogger clubbiness. She gets links purely on the basis of her content, rather than on her social aggressiveness, and this is a more feminine pattern, but one which is less likely to succeed. If you aren't going to shmooze for links, you really do have to be incredibly good to get noticed -- I think this is part of the reason why women with a more stereotypically feminine style are underrepresented among bloggers with a lot of traffic.

"Woman's woman" isn't really a cliche that matches "man's woman." "Womanly", maybe, if you really want a cliche.

ben wolfson

And here I thought you were talking about the historical Jeanne d'Arc.


Her blog isn't nearly as good as Body and Soul. Once you've read one post about what St. Michael said when he appeared to her in the sheep paddock, you've read them all.

Dr. Free-Ride

Most of the blogs-by-women I read are written by people who seem to be actively engaged in the process of figuring out either who the hell they are or how to fix the world. (It could be that I read these blogs because many of them are written by people in similar career and/or life stages to mine; it's not so much that they're women.) As such, I'm not sure I read any of these authors as fitting neatly into man's-woman or woman's-woman categories. Being reflective often means renegotiating where you stand and in relation to what.

I suspect a lot of the women I know would classify me as a man's woman (more on the politics and philosophical argument sumo matches than on sports), but I think that would be more on the basis of superficial factors (I studied science, I argue, my fashion sense never arrived, etc.). I don't, myself, find it easier to relate to men than women. If anything, issues I have relating to women seem to me to arise from artificial boundaries other women seem to feel because I have made different choices than they have. Because goodness knows that making the wrong choice is a Very Bad Thing, and those women who make different choices (about education, career, marriage, children, potty training, daycare, etc.) may be nice as pie to your face, but secretly THEY ARE JUDGING YOU! So pick a side already.


The boxes are tiresome, but they have real effects on how we interact. Those of us who resist the boxes, even a little, sometimes end up feeling untethered.


So is it possible, or impossible, then, to point to some exemplar "woman's woman" bloggers? What would one mean by that phrase, precisely?

Yknow, all girly an stuff. Doily-blogging an so on.

Julian Elson

Lucia is an ex-Alas, a Blog writer. She stopped blogging at Alas a while ago, and now blogs on a knitting blog. I'm not quite sure whether I'd call her a "woman's woman" or a "man's woman" or what. Professionally, she's an engineer. She had a subtle sense of humor that went over my head a few times. One time I got into an argument with her in the comments section of Alas, a Blog, but she wasn't willing to reveal the esoteric meaning of her post, so she was forced to e-mail me revealing the joke, and that she was saying the exact opposite of my exoteric reading, to spare me the further embarassment of arguing with her for no reason.

BTW, Belle: is this an M1911 Colt .45? If so, I have a question: I've heard how they're semi-automatic and single action. Does this mean they must be manually cocked for the first shot, but after that, the blowback moves the slide and cocks the hammer? Or does it mean that you have to cock it every shot, and the semi-automatic part just applies to the chamber loading? Ignore that if you're talking about some other type of Colt .45.

belle waring

mmm, Julian, it's my step-mom's gun actually, lemme think. I think I always cock it because I find the firing less jerky and more accurate. it doesn't cock itself when you fire, certainly. but I'm not sure if it's the gun you have in mind or not, so...man, I gotta start blogging about doilies more.


tch, birds, eh? They don't 'arf rabbit on, don't they? Not even safe down the bloody internet these days without some mouthy piece giving it six-nowt about bloody mastitis. Wasn't like this in my day, I tell you.

If anyone wants me, I will be down the boozah.

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