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March 27, 2010

*sigh*

The "Are Men Better Bloggers?" post has provoked some interesting responses. Smitty's is fairly typical, so I'll pick on him (and isn't that just like a woman?). Heh... :)

Given that we’re all looking at a browser, the gender of the author seems tangential at best. Either the post triggers thought, or it does not. WTF chromosomes? And does the typical male blogger ever consider this question?

I found that kind of funny because over the last 6 years, most of the posts I've seen on this topic were written by male bloggers. So I think the answer to that one is fairly clear: yes, men do consider the question. And so do women. But I want to address another refrain I saw repeatedly in the comments: the idea that one shouldn't worry about classifications or about what other people think. That interested me because, tongue firmly in cheek, I thought I'd been fairly clear about my opinion of such distinctions:

All of which has me in a lather. Do I blog more like a man? Or a woman? Am I a Wendy or a Peter Pan? A Scarlett O'Hara or a Melanie Wilkes? Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk? I like Breslin's writing. That's all I've ever cared about when deciding whether or not a blogger is worth my limited time. And I get very annoyed when men tell me I "think like a man".

I don't think like a man. I think like a woman. I *am* a woman. And yes, I understand what they're trying to say. I even understand that telling me I write like a man is supposed to be some sort of compliment. The thing is, though, that it's not really. I'm a woman. I cry when I see cute babies on TV. I cry when my readers hurt my feelings without meaning to. I cried all the way through The Sound of Music the other night.

That doesn't mean that my brain doesn't work or that I'm not interested in plate tectonics, public choice theory or biological determinism.

I don't think that being interested in, or wanting to comment upon, the fact that people do like to classify and compare things amounts to worrying about them. Perceptions are interesting things. I think I used the metaphor of a lens earlier in the comments but a prism works equally well. That's probably why it's used so often in the gender wars. A prism distorts or bends light that passes through it, and when we interpret what others say and do through the prism of our own experiences or outlook the output has little resemblance to what went in on the input side.

I rarely bother to address gender and blogging when it comes up because as Attila points out, the topic never seems to go away. Consequently, I can't think of any startlingly unoriginal insights to stun you all senseless with. I responded this time for two reasons:

1. Breslin's post did a good job of highlighting the "the male way is good, the female way is inferior" meme most of us grew up with. For years when I was growing up this notion was everywhere, usually accompanied by competing choruses who defended the tried-and-truism or attempted to put a steak (pun fully intended) through it's foul heart. Both sides were prone to saying things like, "Men ALWAYS...." or "Women ALWAYS...." or "Society ALWAYS...".

What a load of crap. Men, women, and society don't always do anything. At any given point in time, certain ideas gain what I'd call traction or popular currency. But there is always (there's that word again!) a vocal opposing viewpoint.

Gradually the "man good or superior/woman bad or inferior" fell out of favor and was replaced by an equally ill thought out meme: the "woman innately good or superior/man innately bad or inferior". Like its predecessor, it evoked the same tired cries of "x, y, or z ALWAYS does this...". Lately, it is my perception that at least in the conservative blogosphere, the old "men awesome/women suckitudinous" meme seems to be gaining traction again. I get it. I understand that it represents pushback against some of the excesses of radical feminism. It's just that I've never thought either extreme made any sense in light of a reality that is far more complicated than that.

I'm far more in favor of something like, "Men and women both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both have their uses. As the world changes, it seems more helpful to figure out the best uses for male and female traits than to bitch and moan about how everyone who doesn't happen to think as you do, sucks."

2. A common response to the attempt to classify and compare types of people is that people who don't conveniently fit any particular mold often feel the need to apologize for being atypical. A frequent consequence of the ubiquitous "More men blog and more big bloggers are male. Therefore male bloggers must be superior to female bloggers", or "Why, o why can't female bloggers be more like men???" meme is that female bloggers seem to feel the need to apologize for being the way they are or distance themselves from the notion that they are female. I rather liked Dr. Helen's take:

Hmm, not sure which one I am. I'm a mom but don't blog about kids much, unless they are violent and I want to discuss their psychology. I blog about relationships and misandry, not about misogyny. I like blogging about politics but am not sure I "blog like a man" whatever that means. According to Breslin, blogging like a man has something to do with blogging on current events, heated debates, racy subjects, and avoiding feelings and relationships. I hope/think this blog blends both of these topics. We discuss relationships and feelings, but often in relation to justice, the law or politics. And yes, there are often heated debates, which I enjoy.

The best part of her post was, "I blog about relationships and misandry, but not about misogyny". I liked it because every good blogger has what I'd call a sweet spot. Dr. Helen's is that she is a passionate advocate for men and she's devoted to highlighting instances of misandry. Doing this has earned her a large and faithful following. I'm not a big fan of the notion that failing to discuss or denounce a topic denotes tacit approval of same. She is under no obligation to devote equal time to pointing out misogyny because that's not a topic that interests her.

If I had to name my "sweet spot", I think it would be that I'm interested in placing things into context (historical or societal) and in critical examination of whatever I perceive to be the conventional wisdom or the prevailing sentiment of the day. I suppose that could make me a bit of a contrarian, but contrarianism isn't an end unto itself. What interests me is the notion that we don't see things clearly when we're in the midst of events.

That's why I tend to question whatever I perceive to be the prevailing meme. I think that current events influence the natural ebb and flow of opinion and so I try to examine current conventional wisdom in a larger or different context than that offered by current events. Sometimes that examination takes me someplace I never thought I'd end up.

In summmation, I believe gender does matter because it is part of what makes us who and what we are. I can't set aside my experiences as a woman. They inform - but don't determine - everything I write. I also think there are certain eternal truths that transcend the back and forth tug of every day life. One of these is that men and women need each other. We are - truly - made for one another, and to the extent that we allow our differences to pit us against each other, we are hurting ourselves.

I think that often the whole "men vs. women" thing makes both men and women defensive about our own character traits where we ought to be appreciative of the many ways our differences make life a richer and more wondrous experience. Why not embrace our differences?

Posted by Cassandra at March 27, 2010 10:10 AM

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Comments

First!!

Do I get a prize?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 27, 2010 11:36 AM

Absolutely! A stuffed marmoset by parcel post!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 11:42 AM

Why not embrace our differences?

Posted by: scottkellyfa711 at March 27, 2010 12:13 PM

Back-to-back posts on the same subject, going over the same ground, agonizing over the same points.

Sheesh. You blog like a

*ducking razor sharp shuriken trivet*

Marylander.

Posted by: BillT at March 27, 2010 01:19 PM

You know Bill, I like men a lot. But if there's one thing men do a lot that I have always found hard to understand, it's put downs like that.

I'm a slow person. I prefer depth to shallowness. I am never going to be the first person to comment upon a subject, nor will I ever be the person who comments upon everything.

If that looks like "worrying" or "agonizing", so be it. It's the way I am. I also think you're way off base, but you have a right to your opinion.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 01:43 PM

Sir Herbert Tree on Hamlet;

"But for humor he should go mad. Sanity is humor."

"I prefer depth to shallowness.."

I have stepped in many holes in what should have been shallow water. I have also stubbed my toes in shallow water lurking in the depths. Accomplishing a high speed submarine run in the depths of the ocean is another story but apt.

Unless there is an inside story going on here, which I doubt, it has always been my experience that it is not the depth or shallowness that astounds me but the thoughtful energy to define both in relation to the other.

Posted by: vet66 at March 27, 2010 02:03 PM

This post is an example of the reason for my response to the previous one. It is interesting, well thought, insightful, with a bit of humor added.
You have summed up part of my own world view much more succinctly than I am able to do. People of whatever gender run the gamut from one extreme to another. This doesn't apply to gender only, the same could likely be said about any human trait that you use to group people; gender, age, size, skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, etc. Any one group may have more members that cluster along the scale of whatever measure you use, but there are still others that will place all along the scale from extreme to extreme.
I love reading your blog because of the interesting topics, the willingness you display to think and consider others' opinions, and you writing style. You seem to be someone that takes the world seriously, and has passionate opinions of your own, but never takes yourself too seriously. More than anything, yours is a blog for people who like to think and laugh.
That is why I mentioned your blogs logo in the previous response. The image you picked to represent yourself is one of the best I have seen. It seems to be much like you showing humor and intelligence spiced with the tiniest bit of titillation.
As others said before, you blog like an intelligent person, but no one who reads here could doubt that you also happen to be a woman. Your gender may not be irrelevant, but with all else that your writing provides, it is not the dominant factor.
Aww, Hell! I could ramble on forever and not say what I mean clearly enough. I obviously don't have your talent for prose.

Posted by: Charodey at March 27, 2010 02:20 PM

I don't think that Bill means to say that women tend to worry things to death, Cass. I think he means to say, "Nyah! Nyah! You can't hit me with that trivet!" :)

Posted by: Grim at March 27, 2010 02:55 PM

"Back-to-back posts on the same subject, going over the same ground, agonizing over the same points. Sheesh. You blog like a
*ducking razor sharp shuriken trivet* Marylander."

Bill T had me ROFL. Cass, I could be mistaken (It's happened before) but I thought Bill T's comment was just for fun, not a put down, as you suggested. He took an opportunity to get snarky, just to make a smart-a** comment to bring a little levity into the conversation. It worked for me (but I'm a guy). :)

BTW, I'm amazed how many of the Villainy are actually ladies (of whom I assumed were otherwise prior to their responses to your "gender" posts). I'm not sure if that says more about my prejudices or about their writing styles. I'm too shallow to want to analyze that. Perhaps you have an opinion?

Posted by: ziobuck at March 27, 2010 03:54 PM

On the subject of BillT, I have to agree with Grim. I think Bill was being stereotypical just to get the trivet thrown his direction. :)

Posted by: FbL at March 27, 2010 04:23 PM

A prism distorts or bends light that passes through it, and when we interpret what others say and do through the prism of our own experiences or outlook the output has little resemblance to what went in on the input side.

To play with the metaphor a little bit--
a prism can also be seen as taking light and purifying the elements of that light to where we can make sense of them, kind of like a gravel sorter.
The really elaborate gravel shakers can have a whole bunch of layers, the top with holes the size of my fist, the bottom small enough for only sand to get out. It doesn't show you much about the local interaction of sand, stones and dirt in an area, but it can sort things out to be put to use.

Posted by: Foxfier at March 27, 2010 05:34 PM

I'm pretty sure Bill feels unloved unless someone is flinging something at him...

Posted by: HomefrontSix at March 27, 2010 08:24 PM

Grim twigged it.

Levity ‘Я’ Us, yanno.

HF6, the lads outside the wire just flung a whole lotta love at us -- and missed. I feel so *torn* with ambivalanceness about that.

Oooh, geez. Lookit the time...toodles.

Posted by: BillT at March 27, 2010 08:37 PM

Sticking to my guns on this point.
I want clear thinking on a topic. I still haven't seen where testosterone or estrogen predominance in the writer's bloodstream, in and of itself, as a specific affect on the quality of post on a topic.
Arguably, writers of a gender gravitate to specific topics. Dudes are more on about guns. (Moron about guns?)
I submit that a Venn diagram of female vs. male thinking would reveal substantial overlap. We're all human, after all. The disjoint bits are what keep things interesting.
And I do think blogs like VC and LMA are great, though I attribute this more to the fact you're cool people than the XX distinction.
Cheers,
Chris

Posted by: smitty at March 27, 2010 08:37 PM

Where that 'overlap' is tested, Smitty, is when you can show me a lady who writes the kind of blog I do; or a man, who writes the kind of blog that Cassandra does.

She's correct to say that she writes like a woman -- though one particular woman. Still, I can't imagine a man writing a blog of this sort. It's part of the value that she's a woman, and speaks as a woman, and thinks as a woman. This one woman, whom we value so highly.

Posted by: Grim at March 27, 2010 08:49 PM

Bill, I didn't think you were intentionally trying to offend me. I know you wouldn't do that. I figured it was more like a Freudian slip sort of thing. If there weren't more than a grain of truth in there, it wouldn't have hurt :p

At any rate, no harm no foul.

I still haven't seen where testosterone or estrogen predominance in the writer's bloodstream, in and of itself, has a specific affect on the quality of post on a topic.

FWIW I don't think it does either, Smitty. I have, over the years, seen a tendency to define "what is good blogging" as "how successful male bloggers do it". That's not surprising b/c generally success at any endeavor is at least partly related to doing it well and there are also more male bloggers. I don't get wrapped around the axle about it b/c to me it's not surprising.

The thing that's interesting is this:

We're fairly used to hearing someone say of female bloggers (or of women in general), "She blogs/thinks like a man."

And it's generally understood to be a compliment.

But how often does one hear, "He blogs/thinks like a woman?" Not often, and if you do everyone *knows* the man has just been insulted. It's like, "Oh, snap!"

Years ago, though, when I ran VC through that web site that was supposed to guess if you were male or female based on your word usage and subject matter, I came out 70-80% male. I was surprised b/c my posts are much longer than one normally expects from a man and I do write about sex and relationships quite a bit.

Maybe it was the sex...

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 09:41 PM

I remember that website. Here it is now:

http://www.genderanalyzer.com/

It's gotten better -- it now correctly predicts VC is written by a woman (although narrowly: 51%).

Posted by: Grim at March 27, 2010 09:51 PM

To be honest, the only time I notice any gender in your posts is when you're writing about relationships, and then it's not the presentation but rather the point of view. You remind me of a female friend I once had that for whatever reason neither of us felt particularly attracted to each other, but we could sit and talk for hours on a variety of subjects without ever feeling threatened by the fact that we might have different outlooks. It was very much a learning thing for me. There's a level of thoughtful analysis here that seems to be fairly rare anymore. Combined with the regular commenters that contribute to the party it makes this place golden.

Posted by: Pogue at March 27, 2010 10:04 PM

Probably b/c I don't write about the war any more.

Years ago I wrote much more about economics, law, and the war on terror. I had more posts in the law and WOT categories than any other category.

That's no longer true.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 10:04 PM

Heh:

We guess http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog is written by a woman (51%), however it's quite gender neutral.

What the heck does *that* mean???

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 10:07 PM

In fairness, I don't write about the war much anymore either. The need to reinvigorate civilization at home has taken over my attention. That may be because I'm getting older; but it may also be because our civilization has proven, lately, to be in greater danger than I had long believed.

Posted by: Grim at March 27, 2010 10:09 PM

I had a male friend in HS like that, Pogue.

I will never forget one night, sitting in his truck as we drank beer and talked for hours. Finally at one point he looked over at me and said, 'You know, I just cannot believe we have been alone so many times and yet we have never made out or anything...

We both just busted out laughing. It wasn't even uncomfortable. It was just funny as all get out.

I saw him a few years ago at my 30th reunion (first one I ever went to). We sat and talked as though it had been 3 minutes rather than 30 years since the last time I'd seen him. What a great guy.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 27, 2010 10:23 PM

Cass ~ the majority of my friends are male - even after 12 years of marriage and for many of the reasons that you recount with regard to your HS friend. I find most women to be catty, passive aggressive, and overly emotional and it drives me batsh!t crazy. Give me a GUY that I can talk to and I'm a happy camper.

BUT I tend to think more like my male friends than my female friends. Come to think of it, even my female friends tend to be on the "tomboyish" side of the spectrum.

I'm ok with that, Actually, I prefer it that way. Thankfully, MacGyver is ok with it as well.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at March 28, 2010 07:50 PM

Maggie's Farm, I think, had a link to a gender-tester site the other day, one of those things that tries to establish whether you're more right-brained or left-brained. I've always wondered why in the world males and females would have developed so that they tended to favor one side of the brain as a gender group. Anyhow, from a right/left point of view, apparently I'm a man, right smack in the median of the male pattern. Nevertheless I clearly see at least some things as a woman typically does, so the right/left thing isn't the whole picture. Nor is childbearing or child rearing, since I've done neither. Hormones? Upbringing? I don't know.

Just now I'm watching a "House" re-run about a guy who had surgery to split the right and left hemispheres of his brain, and has what amounts to a split personality, where his left brain behaves like a responsible citizen and loves his girlfriend, while his right brain throws rolls at strangers in restaurants and bitterly resents the girlfriend.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 28, 2010 10:10 PM

Cass, I often told my late wife she thought like a man. She was the only woman who once lost her temper with me and then instantly apologized because she was having her period. She was proficient with weapons, very rational, and rarely lost her temper. But she was all woman, for sure! I guess that is why I like your blog so much!!

Posted by: philip at March 29, 2010 07:44 AM

I'm sorry, but what a stupid argument this is! Not your post about it, Cass. I want to make that clear. But the whole idea in general, "who blogs better". Puh-leeze! I thought we stopped this kind of nonsense in middle school! "My daddy can beat up your daddy!" "Nuh UH!"

Of course, it's the internet, and folks will argue anything for any reason. But seriously, this has got to be one of the most childish topics I've seen in a long time. Are there differences in the way men and women blog? That's a better topic of discussion. I would posit that there are, but I could be swayed the other way by rational arguments. And that's because it's something that is at least nominally provable. "Is X better than Y" is not. It's subjective. And it always turns into a pissing contest. Then, you exacerbate it by setting men against women, and you're SURE to drive people into opposing camps, each trying to "prove" they're right.

I guess in summary, I'd like to say, "Dear Internet, grow the hell up."

Posted by: MikeD at March 29, 2010 09:53 AM

...his left brain behaves like a responsible citizen and loves his girlfriend, while his right brain throws rolls at strangers in restaurants and bitterly resents the girlfriend.

Oh, so tempting... :p

Back away from the keyboard, Cass!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 29, 2010 09:57 AM

Philip:

I have often wondered whether "you think like a man" (coming from men) means "you think like a man", or just "we think alike"?

Most men and women find the opposite sex hard to relate to much of the time. But then we run into one of "them" we can relate to easily - we seem to be on the same wavelength and suddenly what was rough going with everyone else becomes easy?

The interesting question is: does that mean the woman thinks like a man? Or does it mean that your personalities and values are aligned?

Not sure I know the answer to that one - just throwing it out there for consideration.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 29, 2010 10:06 AM

You take things too seriously at times, Cassandra.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 29, 2010 11:36 AM

"It's gotten better -- it now correctly predicts VC is written by a woman (although narrowly: 51%)."

Not as good as psychology then.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 29, 2010 11:43 AM

"Yes dear".

Posted by: Cassandra at March 29, 2010 11:52 AM

The rest of the "House" episode was entertaining. The guy's right brain was upset about things but, being nonverbal, couldn't communicate its complaints directly. The left brain often was missing the information that the right brain could pick up, and made up elaborate, logical, and entirely mistaken explanations for the results. The medical staff stepped in to play marital counselor.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 29, 2010 12:34 PM

You missed the part where the right brain tells the left brain to quit making such a big deal of everything :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 29, 2010 12:57 PM

And the left brain replies, "Yes, dear."

Posted by: BillT at March 29, 2010 01:35 PM

Did I not just do that at 11:52? :p

Smart aleck!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 29, 2010 01:38 PM

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