Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Response to Mary Dejevsky

Last week I wrote a PIECE asking for your views on Why Don't Women Blog?. Mary Dejevsky, a columnist who up to now has fallen way below my radar screen, seems to have taken great exception to it - and indeed to my blog as a whole. She has written a column in The Independent today headlined THERE'S A GOOD REASON WHY WOMEN DON'T WRITE BLOGS followed by the subtitle MEN SEEM TO TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT THEY'VE SOMETHING TO SAY AND THAT THE REST OF US WANT TO HEAR IT. Typical feminist claptrap. I've asked The Independent to allow me to write a follow-up column, but I doubt they will, so let me give my response here. Her words are in normal type, my comments are in italics

Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP.
It really must break some sort of record to make two factual innaccuracies within the first six words of a supposedly well-informed column. Just for the record, I am not an MP and having been David Davis's Chief of Staff it is slightly inaccurate to make me out to be a Cameroon henchman. But we'll see if things improve...
I do not know him, and I am just as certain that he does not know me. He does, though, put himself about. He writes one of the more prolific blogs to come out of this Parliament, purveying commentary, analysis, gossip and the like via his website, with what seems like hour-to-hour, if not minute-by-minute, frequency.
Ignoring the fact that my Blog does not "come out of this Parliament" - it "comes out" of Tunbridge Wells, yup, guilty as charged.
Iain - as I am sure he would like me (and you) - to call him...
Is this an insult or a compliment? I suspect it's a calculated sneer...
... recently made an observation that simply leapt out of his stream of consciousness. "It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem bloggers," he wrote, "you won't find many written by women." He went on to observe, admitting the sexist stereotype, that women, "being much better gossips than men ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging". I curtail his prolixity, but he concludes: "There must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector."
Now now Mary, we all know what out of context quotes are like. Do you by any chance assist the LibDems in writing their Focus leaflets? This is what I actually wrote: "Now of course if you were indulging in stereotypes you'd be making cheeky comments about women being much better gossips than men, so they ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging. But perhaps the fact that 90% of bloggers are male shows that men are the best gossips after all. Tell us something we didn't know, I hear the females amongst you cry. Obviously blogging is not just about gossip but there must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector. Do let me have your thoughts!"
Well, Iain, I venture to correct you on one point. It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between. And it does not take a huge of the imagination to suggest at least two reasons why. The first is that, for all the efforts to educate men and women equally, to encourage them to compete for honours, even to feminise the examination system by introducing coursework, women (still) tend to be more bashful than men about what they think. It is not that, as veteran male gender-warriors might growl, we have much to be bashful about. It is rather that we tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion.
Mary, I don't detect any sign of a lack of confidence in what you write...
Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading.

And you don't Mary? Why else would you write a column for a national newspaper if you, as a woman, didn't think you had something to say or that the rest of the world would want to hear?
Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading. Alas, his confidence is repaid by the dozens who seem to respond to every post. The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening.
Oh dear. You seem to have defeated your own argument without any help from me. If no one wanted to read my blog, they wouldn't visit it. It wouldn't be among the top three most read political blogs in the country. If people didn't think what I wrote was worth commenting on, they wouldn't leave comments would they? And it's not "verbal" incontinence, I write a blog. I don't speak it. Do be more careful in your use of language. After all, you as a columnist are paid several hundred pounds a column. The least you could do is write proper English.
Our female bashfulness, I submit, may be gradually being drummed out of us by a combination of good teaching, co-ed schools and colleges, and the example of opinionated women expressing forthright views in other parts of politics and the media. The second reason why women don't blog, however, is more serious, because it is more intractable: women simply do not have the time.

Indulging in pre-feminist stereo-types again, perhaps?
Earlier this week, I heard Finland's minister for foreign trade and development, speaking in London to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in Finland.
Now I'm sorry, but if you imply that I'm a 'saddo' for writing a 'prolific' blog, please don't try and pretend that going along to hear Finland's Minister for Trade is anything but equivalently sad.
They were the first women in Europe to gain the vote. And the record of women's participation in Finnish life is as laudable as one would expect from Scandinavia. Yet, as Ms Paula Lehtomaki noted, without the diffidence that might attend the same observation in this country, the next frontier had to be the home. Women had come a long way: safeguards against discrimination, for equal pay and opportunities were all in place and largely observed. But the fact was that in joining the workforce on equal terms, women were all too often tied to two jobs: equality, even in enlightened Scandinavia, all too often stops at the front door. How many homes are there - here, or in tech-savvy Finland - where the man will think it quite excusable to shuffle in late for dinner because he has been reading or writing his online diary, but would greet with ridicule or fury the prospect of dinner being late (or non-existent) because his partner had been delayed in the blogosphere?
I am almost lost for words. The ridiculousness of the analogy will not be lost on most people. I have to say that blogging has not made me late for anything. Ever. Let alone dinner. A reminder dear readers - she's getting paid to write this drivel!
And for dinner, we can substitute baby's bathtime, the children's high-tea, the regular taxi-service families run between sports and after-school clubs, the elderly parents that need looking after. It is this old-fashioned, and persistent, division of responsibilities that frees men to indulge in the time-consuming fashion of the day; and the gadetry and self-aggrandisement involved in blogging only make it that much more attractive.
OK stop right there. Me writing a blog is no different from Mary Dejevsky writing her column. It's how she earns her keep. It's starting to be part of how I earn mine. So let's not let her get away with her continual inference that blogging is merely an activity for people with no friends and a good supply of gannex raincoats. If my blog were of no importance she and her journalistic colleagues wouldn't read it every day.

Iain Dale calls his blog "Iain Dale's diary". Those of us of a certain age - I can faintly recall the signature tune - know this to be an allusion to the fictitious radio diary of a GP's wife and receptionist which was broadcast on weekday afternoons. It was a soap opera for its day, very BBC Home Service. More tied to the Fifties way of life than The Archers, it did not survive into this more hurried, less homely age. But there is a point here.
I was beginning to wonder...
In the days of Fifties-style, essentially segregated working, Mrs Dale had the time to keep a diary. Today's Mrs Dale would be the doctor herself, rushing in to the surgery from the school run and organised enough to assemble dinner at the end of the day. She would be too tired at the end of it all, or have more pressing things to do, to advertise her thoughts in the blogosphere. Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide.
Do let me know if that makes more sense to you than it does to me. Surely the last sentence argues against the previous two?!

Wow. You really do have to laugh, don't you? I see this as yet another sign that the so-called 'dead tree' media don't quite know what to make of blogging. They use every opportunity to decry it, yet they are strangely fascinated by it. So much so, in fact, that some of them have started their own blogs. I would almost bet money that within twelve months we'll be seeing the launch of the Dejevsky Blog. I'll even link to it!


Paul Linford said...

Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP.

It really must break some sort of record to make two factual innaccuracies within the first six words of a supposedly well-informed column

Come on Iain, be generous, at least she spelt your name right.

Cicero said...

I saw this piece too, and I can tell you Iain, for almost the first time I agree with every word you have just written! Lazy dead tree drivel - I feel quite cross that I actually bothered to buy the Indy this morning...

Anonymous said...

Her article is strikingly inept, even for an Independent columnist, but your case is not helped by showing a misunderstanding of the word 'verbal'. It does not mean 'oral' but simply means dealing with or using words.

I suggest you drop that comment before anyone else notices....

Anonymous said...

I'd respond in more detail, but i'm just off to get some more incontinence pads, and I don't want to be late...

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, thatnk you for that helpful hint. However, I still think I'm right - although I recognise the vailidity of what you say. This is the definition of verbal on

VERBAL Expressed in words, whether spoken or written, but commonly in spoken words; hence, spoken; oral; not written; as, a verbal contract; verbal testimony.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

You have ne laughing out loud on a train up to Chesterfield... "verbal incontinent". Oh dear - is that the best insult she can come up with? Glad to see youve been promoted to being an MP mind you!

Inamicus said...

Dejevsky is a senior leader writer on the Independent, so it's a bit odd for her to criticise others for "assuming they have something to say and that others want to hear about it", given that her job involves exactly that

Stephen Glenn said...

Iain I object to your scurrilous remarks about Focus leaflets. Anyone who writes in that style should not be allowed near them, and certainly would not be allowed near mine.

Although I see she also picks up on the Mrs Dale's Diary connection.

Anonymous said...

She seems much more careful about inaccuracies than the average Leftie hack.

But if she's a specimen of what we'd get if more women DID blog, then thank God they are too busy to bother...

What a tedious creature she sounds. Thank God there are organisations like the Indie, to give people like her a place to go in working hours, thus keeping them out of the hair of the rest of us...

Anonymous said...

The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as:

spoken rather than written"

Croydonian said...

Most entertaining. I make it 2-1 to Dale at the moment.

Anonymous said...

She really is a silly person. She needs to go to a bookstore and get an education for a start. The whinings of a middleclass London journalist with time on her hands to write drivel and impose it us real people who have to make a living. The sad thing is she really thinks she rocks, that she's edgy and new and a little bit dangerous in her sneering at a world that I suspect has been actually very kind to her. You wouldnt get this 'I'm a profesional victim feminist' from women living on sink estates who have to dodge crack addicts lighting up on their stairwell.

Go back to your posh house Mary and stop writing and I might just consider taking you off our shooting target practice list when the revolution finally comes.

Oh - I feel so good for getting that off my chest. And I'm a woman too - so duh!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ian, in relation to the use of the word verbal, 'commonly' is not 'exclusively', which is what your argument really requires.

Moreover, her meaning can be taken to have priority in educated writing since reference to the contrast between oral and written appears only in the 4th definition in the SOED.

But let us not be deflected from the major point, which is that the article is hardly worth commenting on except as an illustration of the tragic state of supposedly 'serious' journalism in this country.

BondWoman said...

Not often I agree with you, Iain, but on this occasion I do. I'm astonished by the sloppiness of her column. But I also think that most of the people who write about the gender politics of blogging should try the medium/milieu first before passing (ill informed) comment.

Anonymous said...

Pretentious 'bien pensant' twaddle.

Which of Dejevsky or La Toynbee makes you laugh louder?

Croydonian said...

Minor point - the bulk of we comment maker types have names/pseudonyms that do not conclusively point to one gender or the other. Where does she get 'The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening' from?

I had a look at the thread that luanched this, and make the breakdown female 9, male 6 and undetermined 12. Still, why let facts get in the way, eh?

Cicero said...

Toynbee or Dejevsky- A choice of being shot or being hanged...

Anonymous said...

Without being too ad feminam about it, that woman is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

As a woman and mother of two who also works and blogs and reads The Independent and watches Big Brother and has a life, I feel completely insulted by that stupid woman.

It's about time women like her learned some valuable lessons from men. I'll take her on outside the pub anytime!

Richard Bailey said...

Please don't link up, Iain.
My complete disregard for the Indy has been intuitive up to now. (That'll be female intuition, if you like!) Sadly you have just given it good old male logic - it is written by idiots.

My wife would probably agree with this bit though!!
"Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing..."
The sentiments of that statement are hear very regularly in this house!

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman too, and God knows, I'm not"bashful".

Iain's original question is interesting, though. Possibly, it's because the men jumped into blogging right at the start because men,by and large, welcome anything new and are eager to try it, whereas, as a rule, women adopt a more cautious attitude. Now that blogging is established, the field is so crowded that a) one more original voice would get lost; b) there are enough established, very interesting, lively, provocative blogs - as in this excellent one - that it is easier to voice one's opinions through them. A blog like Iain's has a large readership, so one's opinion as a guest is widely read.

The alternative would be starting a lonely little blog and chirping away for months, and perhaps years, trying to build up a mass of visitors.

I don't think it's a man/woman thing. But whiny, chippy editorials do seem to be a female speciality. There's a shrew who writes about environmental issues in - I think - The Indie as she travels round the world to luxury destinations by jet, and, of course, the ever reliable shriek, the Yazzmonster over at The Guardian.

Anonymous said...

She sounds just like the Polly Filler character in Private Eye. Also Finland is not, strictly speaking, a part of Scandinavia.

SaintLoupy said...

Most mornings, I get my four-year-old daughter up, my three month-old son up, feed them both, wash them both, dress them both, feed the cats and the rabbit, make my wife a cup of tea before I take my daughter to nursery. Ironing, washing-up, cooking and cleaning duties are shared and I'm the only one in the house who can drive. Yet I still find time to read blogs and (occasionally) post on them. Who'da thunk it, Ms Dejevsky?

Anonymous said...

She's not on this planet. The idea that wmen are under-represented or under-consulted by the media is literally insane.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a woman, reasonably well-educated, in a full time job and when not in work, am running a home and looking after a husband. Self-confidence, or having something worthwhile to say aren't the drivers preventing me from blogging - I'd love to. But I've got one main obstacle in the way ... no time/opportunity to blog as real life gets in the way too much (I read Iain's blog at work when I have a free moment- no computer at home, alas)- but this situation could equally apply to a man as it does to me.

The Daily Pundit said...

She’s paid several hundred pounds per column! That’s incredible money!

Iain Dale is a sexist pig. He wears his underpants on his head. Come on girls, we’re off to Greenham Common!

When do I get the money?

On a more serious note, Iain, take no notice. No blogger has done more to promote Ellee Seymour’s blog than you. And if there were more women bloggers offering the same rich mixture of information, comment and personal insight as Ellee, I’m in no doubt you’d promote them as well.

Take the rest of the day off, son. I'll fill in for you.

Several hundred pounds eh?

Benedict White said...

Iain, I prefer your verbal incontinence to hers.

How dare a columnist complain about someone else thinking that others might be interested in their ideas?

Bizarre dinosaur.

The Remittance Man said...

Ms Dejevsky obviously does not visit Blogistan very often otherwise she would have noticed that many bloggers and commenters choose nicknames that either reflect their personality or have some (possibly humourous) allusion to a literary or cultural icon.

This post alone has 5 Anonymous comments, 9 by people with identifiable names and 11 by people who have chosen an "alternative" ID. Without spending a day counting and classifying names used across the Interweb, I'd guess that was a fairly average spread.

Methinks the lady knows not of what she writes. Daft bat.


WmByrd said...

"Do let me know if that makes more sense to you than it does to me."

It makes sense of a kind, but it's still ludicrous. To summarise -
In the 1950s Mrs Dale kept diary, today (says MD) Mrs D would be the doctor herself, too busy to keep a diary. Then:-
"Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide." Which means, men don't help with family responsibilities, but now do keep diaries instead of women, to whom she by implication assigns the traditional 'diary-keeping' role.

Oh yeah?? Sam Pepys, John Evelyn, Chips Channon et al must be having a chuckle at that one.
Is this actually just a private message to hubby published in the Indy?
Does no one at the Indy
do any copy-editing?

The other implication is deliberately insulting: SHE is a Chief Editorial Writer and Important Political Commentator, while you, Iain, are merely penning a private journal of personal ephemera and male vanity.
Her article reads like toynbeeish bile, but it's actually duller and more stupid.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, am I not allowed to call you Mr Dale anymore?

dizzy said...

I can't beleive they want me to pay a £1 to read that article. The entire bloody paper doesn't cost that much.

Anonymous said...

The Independent's answer to the Yazzmonster.

SPL said...

All publicity is good publicity, eh, Iain?

Gareth said...

Brilliant demolition-job. Highly enjoyable to read.

Anonymous said...

I really thought Craig Brown had retired Bel Littlejohn. He's a clever bloke and no mistake.

Croydonian - "the bulk of we...". You're better than that!

dirty dingus said...

Iain are you sure you aren't Scott Burgess of the Ablution under another name? That was a truly excellent fisk.

As a sad pe(n)dant though I'd like to point out that according to my computer the phrase "Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP" is 7 words long not 6. Is Iain Dale considered as one word or are you omitting the "a"?

To more serious matters, it may be true that there are comparatively few British female bloggers, particuarly those writing political stuff, but if you can manage to look beyond the shores of this island you'll find plenty around. Many of them unfortunately seem to be of the radical "progressive" feminist variety but even some of these are entirely readable.

If Ms Dejevsky had a clue and were able to use Google she would have criticised the argument not the man by writing a column based precisely on your apparent British bias. Unfortunately for her, she clearly lacks either the intellect or the googling skills to do this sort of thig and hence tackles the man.

Anonymous said...

One small bone to pick: She isn't a feminist, she is just a bitter airhead with a bad attitude to life and people in general.

She would never be able to have a blog because she'd get shot down in flames the moment she'll allow people to tell her what they think of her scribblings.

Some hacks at the Grauniad made the experience that writing a blog is harder than spinning off some filler for the paper -- and certain columnists now comment without 'freeing' the comments for... ahem, comment. Lightweight wimps, the lot of them :-D

Ps.: The most feared bloggers are female. Be glad there aren't too many of us... muhahaha... >-)

Prodicus said...

As well as the knowns we know we know, there are the unknowns we don't know we don't know. At least three female UK political bloggers (on the right - dunno about the left) prefer to appear androgynously anonymous. Busy working women all, with real lives, never been paid a bean by Fleet Street, don't want to stand for Parliament, no time for election campaigning, but getting involved in the only way their busy lives (you listening, Mary? Get it?) allow: by blogging and posting on political blogs like this one in their limited spare time. You never can tell ;-)

As for Mary-Mary with her tightly circumscribed view of the world of words, she's getting paid shedloads for writing utter crap when the blogosphere volunteers are producing much more readable (often lipsmacking, actually) stuff which in your case, Iain, gets widely reported, even by the Beeb. As the old printers used to say (I once worked in the dead tree sector), "There's no 'F' in 'justice'."

Hang on a sec... maybe there is. How many mover and shakers see Mary-Mary as a must-read or political bellwether, as opposed to Iain, Guido, ConHome... ? Maybe that's what's worrying the dear girl. Heheheh.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your entertaining blog on Ms Dejevsky's column. However, you do yourelf a disservice by not acknowledging a valid point which she makes, which is that many women, whilst getting into the worklpace, are still tied to the drudgery of housework. The unequal division of housework will surely restrict the time available to blog?
Further, very few blogs are as professional or as entertaining as yours, and most of the "nerd" or "Dweeb" blogs will come from those who really should get a life. Maybe most womens lives are just too full to bother!

Anonymous said...

Never bothered to read the Indy, and now I know I haven't missed a thing.

What a load of rubbish, thought the "poor little feeble woman, I'm a victim, I have to be treated differently because I'm so sensitive, boo-hoo, can't cope with life because I'm so busy washing up and being down-trodden" school of journalism had gone out in the 50s.

She is actually paid to write this nonsense? By a real newspaper?

Shame her research is non-existent and her writing is crap.

Get a life Mary, woman aren't a protected species, they're half the population! If they want to blog, they blog, and if they don't, they don't. Personally (being female) I tend to think that everyone is entitled to my opinion on virtually all subjects, but I don't blog, and not because I'm modest or downtrodden.

I like Iain's blog (and Guido's) because I'm interested in politics and current affairs - probably like everyone else reading this.

Anonymous said...

Her article infuriated me - thanks for posting it in full though. We've been discussing it at my blog (shocking - a woman with a blog, and it's not even about gynecology or childcare) but I was too frightened of lawyers to print the full thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't normally side with Conservatives, but that was an outstanding and elegantly written response. Unfortunately, every issue of the 'Independent' (except the sports pages) could do with the same treatment. It used to be a quality newspaper, now it's just the 'Socialist Worker' with pretensions, edited and written by people for whom fatuous, unsubstantiated assertions taken as read have become a substitute for proper journalism. The paper needs a spring clean.

Anonymous said...

I've arrived here a bit late in the day to read the whole damned article, Iain's comments and everyone else's comments, but one obvious methodological point leaps out: how can you be sure of the sex of a blogger? Hiding behind aliases is part of the fun. As an Archbishop in real life I have no option.

Benedict White said...

I think the issue is that when you write with dead trees it is done, you can move on knowing how perfect and smart your contribution to knowledge is.

On the other hand when you write on the internet you are not finihed. You may well have to answer questions and indeed justify what you said.

For a wind bag, it is an intolerable position.

Craig Ranapia said...

The odd thing is that Mary's thesis fell apart the minute I looked at my blogroll - a majority of the arts/literary blogs I read daily are written (or contributed to) by women - ten out of sixteen. Another daily read is the blog of American law professor Ann Althouse, which has a certain amount of political and legal commentary along with lots of pop culture and 'personal' material.

Modestly retreating before the crimson tide of opinionated testosterone... I don't think so!

Anonymous said...


"She sounds just like the Polly Filler character in Private Eye."

Fine. "She sounds like". If you actually read the Independent, rather than making snap judgements on the basis of one column, you'd understand that Mary Dejevsky is generally quite a thoughtful columnist. This particular column, however, was crass, and stupid, and uncalled for - absolutely. Whereas every single one of Iain's postings since the year dot, and that of every other blogger in the world (including me), has been completely reasoned and well-founded.


As for: "The Independent's answer to the Yazzmonster" - the Yazzmonster writes for the Independent already, you cretin.

Anonymous said...

Dr Fegg - How the hell would I know who the Yazzmonster writes for? She pollutes The Guardian, if such is possible (like saying Matt Frei pollutes the BBC). Why would I check further?

Perhaps people who pay actual money to read The Independent are the cretins, eh, Dr Fegg?

Anonymous said...

"Why would I check further?" Dunno, maybe I thought you might have some vague interest in facts... clearly not.

Anonymous said...

re: the Dejevsky opinion piece - totally awful! Total nonsense - no female bloggers, my arse! I've just written a letter to the Independent about it.

Anonymous said...

Just because she's more wrong than you doesn't make you right.

In your post you elided blogging with political-blogging. Political bloggers are a tiny proportion of the blogosphere. In the Big Blogosphere, rather than in the elite circle of Westminster-based navel-gazing, there are probably as many female bloggers as male. I honestly don't know. But there's a lot.

Secondly, mainly-male Westminster-based navel gazers tend to blog primarily about the news headlines and similar issues, the rivalries between and the fights within parties. In the rest of the blogosphere, as in the rest of the country, people, some male some female, write about stuff, which is often completely non-political, but is often far more important politically than the insular world of many political bloggers.

Gynaecology and childcare have the potential to be very political, because for many members of the public, these are their prime interface with public services. And the issues on which they base their perception of Government performance and ultimately their vote.

But people, including women, who blog about transport issues, the environment, planning and development, crime and disorder in their neighbourhoods, their elderly parents' NHS treatment etc are all being political. They are voters and taxpayers, and they are bored stupid by wankfests of insider gossip and are, men and women, alienated from the political process as a result.

As a former elected representative I can see clearly the overlap between life and politics. It does democracy a disservice when opininators ignore, or are unaware of, this.

Cherrypie said...

I'm one of the 'rare' female bloggers and I have nothing whatsoever to say about politics, childcare or gynaecology ( although I did refer to periods recently).

I wish I had time to find how to leave a comment for Hairy Mary but this technicological gadgetry scares me and besides, I'm too busy cooking dinner and making the house nice for my yet-to-be-met husband.

Thankyou for your well-crafted response, Iain. I'm far too bashful to have been able to have done something like that myself. Silly Bint!

Anonymous said...

"Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP.
It really must break some sort of record to make two factual innaccuracies within the first six words of a supposedly well-informed column. Just for the record, I am not an MP and having been David Davis's Chief of Staff it is slightly inaccurate to make me out to be a Cameroon henchman. But we'll see if things improve..."

And it's also "slightly inaccurate" to confuse the name of the Tory leader with a West African state.