Among my favourite procrastination tools of the moment (and bear in mind the competition is strong: Jetman, the IKEA catalogue, hating Nigella Lawson with every fibre and sinew of my being) is Lib Dem Blogs, which for the uninitiated is a central index to all the party activist blogs (I use activist in the broadest sense; some of them are quite lazy), an ever-unravelling stream of commentary, queries, poll results, ranting and – yes – procrastination written by a lot of Jolly Good Eggs who did awfully well in English at school.
And it was through said worthy medium, as I wrestled womanfully with Abbey on the phone today, that this Quite Interesting piece by Linda Jack came my way. The under-representation of women in the Lib Dems or any other party is not something I want to talk about because the paranoid washiness surrounding all such “debates” tends to make me want to eat my arm up to the elbow with boredom. But I was struck by Linda’s comment about the overwhelming masculinity (I’m talking about numbers here, you collect) of the Lib Dem blogosphere. Why so many of Them? Why so few of Us? A scroll down Lib Dem Blogs right now reveals approximately nine posts made by women out of some 60 (excluding those with pseudonyms). Of those nine, there are several pairs/triplets by the same person.
What is most interesting about all this is that in the “real world” women are, in my view, the more natural writers. I have always conceived of writing as an innately female activity (or perhaps innately yang activity would be better), self-reliant, processual, reflective, divorced from direct competitive context – and I am not talking about bloody Jane Austen and Heloise but about the kind of unpolished writing that gets you through the day and allows you to respond to the world from where you’re sat – precisely the kind of writing bloggers do, in fact. Precisely the kind of writing I am doing now. I write constantly, about everything. It’s how I make sense of Stuff, it’s how I develop my thoughts and how I solve problems. I write when I get up and before I go to bed, I write all day in the course of work and I am the most prolific letter-writer I know. I write publicly and privately and I make no distinction between paper and electronic formats in any of these spheres (oh, I talk almost incessantly as well. But I’m still a more natural and instinctive writer than I’ll ever be a speaker.)
I can’t be alone in this among the daughters of Juno, in fact I know I’m not, and yet there is that undeniable ratio in the blogosphere and this leads me on to my own sidelight from Conference. On the Tuesday night I crashed the bloggers’ drinks because I thought (accurately, as it proved) that although I had no right whatever to be there it would be joll’gooffun, and I was welcomed with open arms (which was just as well given the number of times I nearly fell over; not the sisterhood’s finest hour for holding one’s beer, I’m afraid. Or, actually, humanity’s.) And at said drinks Mat GB commented – I hope he won’t mind me quoting him, even though he had to remind me the other day that it was him who said it – that female bloggers tended to write about everything, not just their politics. I think he’s right, and I think there is a sort of holisticism (sp?) about the female outlook which knits politics seamlessly into everything else. I’m new to blogging, probably because I’ve blogged on paper for years and wasn’t starved for an outlet, and I’m also new to the Lib Dems, which is why I’m not inflicting my blog on anyone via LDBlogs, because I haven’t yet got anything well-informed to say. Now, if my usual torturous self-inflicted standards pertain, I will probably consider myself “well-informed” after about three years (or the length of time it takes to do a degree, structure-spotters). But even when that does happen, I very much doubt I’ll be signing up to LDBlogs, because only one of my posts in six will be relevant and an account of What I Did On My Holidays is probably not central to the future of liberalism, however much it may have contributed to my own personal liberalism (see forthcoming chapters of the Balkan Odyssey – in progress). I daresay if more existing bloggers wrote about the peripheries of their political souls rather than focusing nearly every post on an “issue of the moment” and drenching the reader with obscure by-election references (and yes, I know they are sometimes germane and I also know there are honourable exceptions, many of which are on the current wall), I would feel less obliged to play at being a one-track political animal and more inclined to reveal the “political self in the round” that I actually am.
But that’s how the majority of the current crop of bloggers like to write, that’s how they make sense of Stuff. And why the hell not? The Lib Dem blogosphere has evolved on the shared basis that that kind of very targeted blogging is the most useful to the cause at large, and the most interesting to its key proponents, and it is an entirely self-sufficient engine – a product created by and for its own consumers which works perfectly as it is. And any wise writer knows to go where the love is. If the indications on LDBlogs are that the contributors like to read certain types of material which are not my natural forte then no-one will benefit from my expending writing energy there.
It should be said that I write this now in a position of total ignorance as to whether LDBlogs can be configured so that only posts under a certain category are redirected there. If they can, then hoorah! You are safe from my holiday reminiscences for ever. But my overall point remains valid and I would still hesitate before I signed up. I would split down Duncan Borrowman’s comment on Linda’s piece: blogging as such is not gender specific and even has an arguable female bias, but the language and mores of the Lib Dem blogosphere in particular has evolved under a male aegis which male bloggers find easier to fit into, which as I’m sure everyone involved would agree is sheer circumstance.
Evolution of society over the last x million millennia anyone?