Mary Reid has tagged me with this ‘ere meme to ruminate publicly on my nominations for the Womens’ Blogger awards.
The People’s Republic has stayed silent on this so far because we are mindful of the ever-sage words of Don Liberali, who points out that the announcement of the Gender Balance Campaign Women Bloggers Award follows on the heels of the Cleggster’s call for the party to stop gazing at its navel. We believe this is a perfectly well made point as it stands, and are keen to avoid a practical demonstration from the Don of the difference between “introversion” and “extroversion”, using, perhaps, fingernails, or some like handy exemplar.
Nonetheless, a round-up of my mixed feelings on this subject is appropriate before I proceed. My first reaction was rather similar to Jonathan Calder’s. It is right and proper that the first suspicion attaching to these things is that they are some sort of reward for being a woman. Which naturally we do not like, having always managed to run an entire Republic perfectly well without any sort of special treatment. The onus is slightly on the organisers to show that this is a good idea. On one count, their failure to do so is deafening, because as Jennie Rigg points out, there are actually more women blogging in toto than men, and among them no shortage of political women bloggers. The rare beasts are the women who blog exclusively about politics and therefore fit easily into the Lib Dem blogosphere created by men, a hierarchical, categorising, one-track world of award categories, aggregators, round-ups and so forth. And it is a leetle crazy for the CGB to be saying, hm, there aren’t enough women bloggers who blog in the same way as men, therefore we should provide an award to encourage them to do so.
I don’t in any case hold with the notion that women will find the presence of an award particularly encouraging. To my mind it just makes the blogosphere look like even more of a closed club with its own unwritten conventions, social networks and quality controls than ever. If you’re a natural techie – male or female – and have that instant sense of entitlement to online presence, you’ll have no trouble blogging. If, like me, you’re not, you won’t see yourself as a natural blogger. There’s something about the printed word – even onscreen – that is still artificially mystical to the averagely technical person. I have written thousands upon thousands of words over the years in letters, in emails, in journals, in various private and public mental exercises. Writing is what I do, how I get through the day. The fact that someone as naturally inclined to splurge words as I am could look at the blogosphere even for one moment and see it as nothing particularly to do with me (granted that it didn’t then take me long to get stuck in) should tell its own story. Women, for a whole host of cultural reasons, are more inclined to assume that a self-sufficient system like the Lib Dem blogosphere has closed doors. But when I did start blogging properly I was almost instantly absorbed into the community, and what had looked, from the outside, like closed doors turned out to be no doors at all. This is the message we need to be putting across to women, that the doors aren’t there, not that there’s a chance they could win something if they get through them.
Having said all that, there are nominations I am itching to make, and so I have an alternative paradigm. I am going to try to see the award in terms of fostering a peculiarly female writing style, and a peculiarly female political style. Because women, on the whole, do write a little differently, and do politic a little differently. I am interested in the question of whether this will enable us, over time, to make a unique contribution to liberal discourse that the male-dominated blogosphere alone could not have made. Perhaps, if we invoke the spirit of Mary Wollstonecraft and gaze at our navels enough, we might discover what this contribution is.
I’m going to be a bit naughty and subvert the meme because not being, as I say, an instinctive blogger type, I don’t actually read that many blogs – of either gender or any allegiance. I will be interested to see what my tags come up with.
Best Lib Dem women’s blog
No question on this one – Charlotte’s my girl. She’s thoughtful, honest, wry, infectiously passionate, incredibly prolific and has an enviable knack of writing posts that attract world class comment threads, in which she is always a keen and facilitatory participant. There is something distinctively female about the way she writes as well – in the best possible way, she is asking her readership for its opinion, as much as pronouncing her own. And her position evolves as the discussion progresses as well (how rare is that?). If you don’t read her, you should. She’s easily a better blogger than many of the mediocre men out there who feel themselves entitled to vomit their inflexible opinions into the multiverse (well, this is a feminist topic; I can be a bit rude). Go girl.
I also love reading Bridget Fox and Paula Keaveney (Paula, to my dismay, seems to be inaccessible from the aggregator at this time).
Best Lib Dem womens’ blog post
Jo Christie-Smith on what female politicians should look like - made me think, made me stare, made me lose my . . . suit. Jo has told me on one of my own comment threads that there is a “tipping point” in positive discrimination; when a legislative body is composed of at least 30% women, the culture changes. More common sense, less aggression, less peacock display . . . less suits? Roll on that day.
Best non-Lib Dem women’s blog
I’ve never met Jennie Rigg. But she strikes me as a force for good in the world. Her blog is hilarious and compassionate and liberal and warm and cynical (and purple); she is the perfect exemplar of the female blogger who mostly blogs about politics but not always. Her (happily increasingly) frequent contributions to Lib Dem Voice are also the apogee of constructive criticism. We all need a little Jennie in our lives.
They’re not on there now, but Jo Anglezarke’s early goon-humour posts made me rock with laughter – I couldn’t comment on them appreciatively because at that point Jo was blogging on MySpace, and frankly the People’s Republic doesn’t need another interweb outlet to waste its life on. But it sometimes strikes me that fresh humour is desperately what the Lib Dem blogosphere needs, and I salute Jo accordingly.
Three women I would like to see blog
Dame Fiona Caldicott, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford
These may overlap with others’ tags, so apologies in advance: