Every year, a meme in the legal blogosphere surfaces: Where are all the women? Everyone gets very concerned for women, who apparently are being prevented from blogging. Who is preventing women from blogging? No one says. Well, it's "men," we are told. Yet who exactly are these men?
It's certainly not this man. I read and link to female bloggers. Most blogs are shit, and I'll probably find one reason or another to hate someone's site. Hating a blog because a woman wrote it is unsophisticated discrimination.
Yet the meme lives on, as the New York Times discusses the lack of women on Wikipedia:
About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia’s contributor base and discovered that it was barely 13 percent women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s, according to the study by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University.
Wikipedia has even lower barriers to entry than blogging. To start a blog, you need fives minutes. You must create a free account at Blogger of Wordpress, or pay out the big bucks for an account at TypePad. To participate in Wiki, you just need to hit, "Edit." Go edit the New York Times' Wikipedia entry. That's super easy, right?
Nevertheless, fewer than 15% of regular Wikipedians are women. Someone - other than women - must be blamed:
Jane Margolis, co-author of a book on sexism in computer science, “Unlocking the Clubhouse,” argues that Wikipedia is experiencing the same problems of the offline world, where women are less willing to assert their opinions in public.
This doesn't make any sense. People joke that, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." On Wikipedia, no one knows you're a woman. How then can men discrimate against these women?
Yet women somehow face unique problems on Wikipedia. Like?
“It is ironic,” he said, “because I like these things — freedom, openness, egalitarian ideas — but I think to some extent they are compounding and hiding problems you might find in the real world.”
Adopting openness means being “open to very difficult, high-conflict people, even misogynists,” he said, “so you have to have a huge argument about whether there is the problem.”
That's one theory. Another theory is that women care less about facts and information than men do. Women instead care about superficial gossip. Consider, for example, the demographics of People:
How many straight men read People? Or D-Listed, or Perez Hilton, or any other celebrity gossip site? We don't care about that stupid shit. (Don't get too superior, The Spearhead readers, as you no doubt care about sports - which is celebrity gossip for men.)
Again, of course, people will blame the patriarchy. Why? We hate celebrity gossip. We don't more highly of a woman who is carrying the latest Tiger Beat. We certainly aren't encouraging women to read that stuff. And we aren't holding women back.
Walk into any gym in the country - even one in a liberalized, feminist city like San Francisco. You'll see rows of professional women on the treadmills and stair climbers. I know several of them, and they are doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and other professionals. No patriarchy has kept them from earning fuck loads of money, and obtaining educational credentials. Yet they read stupid shit like People and US Weekly (76% women).
Why should anyone be surprised that a demographic who uses its off-hours to read celebrity gossip aren't on the Internet sharing useful knowledge, and provoking interesting discussions? Why should anyone blame men?