A few days ago, our local paper ran Ellen Goodman’s piece on “The male-dominated blogosphere” where she spent three columns questioning why the “forceful, sometimes demagogic, message-monger organizing tool for the progressive end of the Democratic Party” has “chief messengers [who] are overwhelmingly men — white men, even angry white men.” Hmmm…sounds like nobody chose her for the kickball team.
The piece continues on to point out that “the typical political blog reader is a 43-year-old man with an $80,000 family income. Is it any surprise that Hillary gets only 9 percent in most online-activist polls, while garnering more than 40 percent in traditional polls?” She’s approaching that high-pitched whine and it sounds like she’s gearing up to blame someone else for something that matters to her.
Mention is made that “the blogosphere was supposed to be a place where gender didn’t matter and voice was all. So what happened?” Okay. She’s there. Wah-wah-wahhhhhh….
She finishes by asking, “when will the members of these netroots look more like the nation?” Huh?
There are so many comments I can make about this, I barely know where to start. So I’ll fudge by starting at the end. She’s kidding that she really expects the netroots (internet political activists) to look more like the nation, right?
Take a look at some of the characteristics of netroots (for example, those who visit DailyKos.com) taken from a 2006 source:
these internet users are perhaps more philosophical, financially savvy, and more engaged in online entertainment than the average internet user.
- Let’s see. How does the routine go? You arrive at work with coffee in hand. You log in to your computer to check your email and your calendar for the day. Or, because you may have set your preferences to open to MSN or Yahoo, or any number of options that would allow you to personalize a homepage to include news, finance information and other snippets of information you’ve deemed important, you’re already “tuned in” for the day. And how long did that take?
- Now let’s compare. You don’t work in an office. You don’t have access to a computer that has internet access. Your boss most likely does, however. From the time you arrive at work, you are either in public, serving customers, or out and about taking care of whatever responsibilities your job expects of you. Yes, you may have already done the routine described above before you left for your shift. Maybe. But I doubt it. So perhaps you settle in during the evening after your shift. Hmmm…
- But what if you don’t have a computer. Or, what if you have a computer, but no internet access? What if your life is consumed with making ends meet and thinking about anything other than what goes on outside that singular goal, doesn’t matter? It’s too far away. Those people and what they’re campaigning for can’t possibly relate to you. In fact, you most likely don’t know who they are. Nor would you be able to recognize one of their names if questioned about it. Your world is as big as the block you live on.
Door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3? Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are seriously not someone behind door number 3. Now that I’ve blathered on to this point, here’s the real issue that people like Ellen Goodman completely know and understand, and yet they continue to print their opinions as if they woke up one morning and everything in the country was brand new. Blink. Blink.
The real issue is, what’s the ethnic, socio-economic break down of each individual in the scenarios I described above? There’s no way that number three involves any great number of whites. Sad, but true. Yes, there are areas of the country where it’s possible, but in what numbers? Remember that my rant is about Goodman’s question on internet political activists “looking” more like the nation.
I’m fascinated to know what she believes our nation “looks” like, and the extent to which she knows anything real about the people and their lives after she gets past the “looks.”
When you teach in public schools, you learn quite a bit about this country. I’ll try be completely objective, but will struggle with my sarcasm…You get to read and listen to all the crap that politicians and constituents, the media and supporters on one side or the other, throw back and forth. Spend some time in schools. No, not just an hour for a photo shoot, or for a visit that is prepared for. A real stay. Sit down and listen to the students, the teachers, the parents. No, I don’t mean interview them. I mean sit and immerse yourself in the day-to-day goings on. Listen. They are public schools. You are allowed to do this.
You learn that a shocking number of families don’t have a place for their children to do homework or have basic supplies like paper and a pencil to work with. There are no books in the home. None. There is no newspaper that comes in the morning. There is no computer — and if there is one, chances are that a few video games are played on it, but that’s all. Discussion about current events concerning the economy, politics, or new legislation? Most likely not. Often, family members can be illiterate in their own language, so helping, discussing what is important to the country — sometimes, not their country — is most likely not going to happen.
You also learn how many families sit down to eat a meal together. And if they do, whether it’s done without a television on that is tuned into anything but news. And what is news, anyway? Word of mouth information about the latest shooting a few streets over. Rumors of La Migra driving through the streets. Gossip about the new woman who has walked her children to school, and who acts like she’s too good for everyone else. About the man two houses down who is cheating on his wife. And the old man who urinates in the flowerless flowerbed right outside the office every single day in plain view of anyone who looks.
Yes, I suppose that country could be set up with their own blogs so Goodman will feel better about the netroot being more diverse — more representative of the nation. So why not begin with those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder? Because what I’ve been describing is an economic issue. A societal issue. A generational issue. Poverty. It “looks” a bit different that most think it does. Take a look at the bios listed at Daily Kos. Look at the backgrounds, the experiences, the opportunities. Then think about it.
Sure. You could probably find someone to fund a project like that. Maybe The National Endowment for the Humanities. I could make it work since there are humans somewhere in humanity, right? Or at least there are supposed to be. Because then, maybe, you’d have a chance of getting the lowest portion of the huddled masses to tune into what’s going on. To have a voice. To belong to a “growing power in politics.” The Netroot. But you’re going to have to get them desk jobs first. And if you can accomplish that, they’ll most likely feel much better about life in general, so may not have the number of complaints that others accustomed to their own rung on the ladder may have. That’s sure to piss everyone off. How dare they show up and like what I don’t like. What are they up to, anyway?
Correct me if I’m wrong. Don’t people have to want to be involved to um…be involved? And is it just about being involved, or actually believing you are directly affected by what is going on, and that being involved could change your circumstances. You can lead a horse to water… It all depends on what flavor the drink is. And much of the time, if you get even the smallest taste, the experience is powerful enough to change lives. That gets people involved.
Now, as for the gender side of this issue is concerned, women fit into the scenarios above just like men. Goodman discusses that with respect to the blogosphere, “half of all 96 million blogs are written by women.” But she also expresses concern that “what is touted as a fresh force for change looks an awful lot like a new-boy network.”
So fine. We’ve all learned that men do talk. Well, of course they talk. They just like to “talk” with their computers. Women can do both. And regardless of the number of political blogs authored by men, women do read, do have opinions, and do vote. Do women want to be in the thick of a new-boy network any more than they’ve really wanted to be part of the old-boy network? A few will, just as they always have.
And many will continue to rally around their own causes, raising public awareness on what matters to them, and to their families. But until someone figures out how to relieve an enormous number of women who have their own careers, and continuing primary responsibility for running their households and children, I’m thinking time for rolling up sleeves to dig into the arena of internet activisim isn’t going to happen any time soon.
Lots did take time to get away and attend Blogher, though. Clearly, women bloggers do think and blog about politics. So maybe Ellen Goodman needs to get her head out of the Men’s Room and pay attention to what women are doing.
Oh, and whining in print is even more unbecoming than in person.