Margaret Wente Says I Don't Exist
According to Margaret Wente, columnist at Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, I don’t exist and neither do the hundreds and thousands of female bloggers out there.
In her column, “Why Are Bloggers Male?”, Wente explains why she doesn’t have a blog and in doing so ignores the thousands of posts and millions of hours that women have spent online documenting their lives, their businesses and their opinions. There is rich irony in one of the few female editorial writers in the country ignoring the writing of other women, because of course she does have a blog – it is just printed on paper. Wente obviously does not spend much time online because it is hard not to trip over an entire universe populated by women with strong opinions. If she had bothered looking there is an organization called Blogher that has a network of over 2,500 blogs written by women that gets 20 million unique visitors a month.
PhDinParenting summed up the hypocrisy of Wente writing about women’s oppression in the paper last week but then boiling down the blogosphere to a single (testosterone-fuelled) gender this week. To be fair to Wente, she was trying to point out that men are more likely to crave instant gratification and therefore are more likely to spout off overheated opinions in a blog or comment section. Annie at PhDinParenting refers to it as mansplain, and I have certainly seen it on my blog as well.
I am not sure whether Wente was trying to slam the machismo-driven bloggers or to incite female bloggers to rise up and stake their internet claim. But she ended up looking like a dinosaur who divides the world up into opinionated men who write and demure women who talk amongst themselves.
Many writers were outraged by Wente’s words, social media expert Alexandra Samuels tweeted that she felt “dirty” after reading the column, which considering what else goes on the web, is strong language.
The Internet can be an unforgiving place where one badly-worded column or post can incite a firestorm of protest that lives on for days via Twitter and re-posting on other sites. Wente’s column is being tossed around Twitter to almost universal derision. Jennifer Maier founder of the popular urbanmoms.ca site has watched the debate and commented that Wente’s column was “clearly embarrassing” for her and for the Globe and Mail. She is admittedly immersed in the blogging world and sees its pitfalls but thinks that the best blogs are written by women.
Despite the size and scope of the Internet, it can sometimes feel like a small place. Wente’s column was the second hit that mommy bloggers experienced this week. The New York Times ran an article snidely entitled: Honey, Don’t bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand which many bloggers felt trivialized them and made them look like product hawkers and silly navel-gazers seeking attention. Many of the responses were eloquent defenses not just of mommy blogging but also the joys and responsibilities of writing for an audience. Jennifer Mendelsohn, the writer, has recently written a postscript essentially apologizing for the firestorm.
While mommy bloggers may not be on the front page of the newspaper every day, their words reach millions of readers. Their social power is growing, says Jen Maier and the corporate world is noticing. Neilson Online (yes the same people who do the TV ratings) recently listed the Power 50, fifty female bloggers who are making a difference through social media.
So while Wente can decide to ignore the female blogging world, and the New York Times can poke fun at it; millions of women are choosing to connect, inform, mobilize, and learn from each other and I am very proud to be one of them.