Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sexism in the Blogosphere

My colleague Shane Greer (aka Mini Me!) has written a piece on the 18 Doughty Street blog about sexism in the blogosphere HERE. I think he has a point when he says that men leave comments on blogs which they would never say to a woman's face. What should we do about it, if anything? Should all such comments never get through moderation, or if they do be deleted afterwards? In a sense, this is part of what Melissa Kite was complaining about last week. Some of the comments left on ConservativeHome - and indeed here - were more to do with her as a woman, rather than her journalistic abilities. Her mistake was to confuse the writer of the original blogpost with the people who were commenting on it.

It is indeed true that the blogosphere does seem to be a male dominated place, both in terms of the ratio of female bloggers to male and in terms of those who comment. I'd estimate that only abour 10-15% of my commenters are female. That may have more to do with the fact that politics attracts men in a disproportionate number or for other reasons. Discuss.


Anonymous said...

"he says that men leave comments on blogs which they would never say to a woman's face"

We also write things we wouldn't say to a man's face (at least not without starting a pub fight) or indeed to a Muslims, Scotsman's or Blair's face. If anything this is a sign of non-sexism.

It also shows how consequence free bog comments are which is, largely, a good thing.

Chris Paul said...

I think Melissa was right to associate the right old misogyny fest which followed your unfriendly post with what triggered it off. These things are predictable they really are.

Say what a star Dorries is for ripping into travellers and your commentators will let rip.

Say Melissa (rather than her tipster) is way wrong and basically crap is also bound to set things off.

I'm glad you've followed advice and tried to get the language back under control but as you well know people here and at GuF's are well able to be extremely unpleasant and unfairly so without using recognised expletives.

Clearly we will never quite agree on these matters but let's hope the response if civil and not: "oh, that's so typical of you" and the rest ...

Anonymous said...

It isn't really the case that politics attracts men more than women in anything like the ratio that the blogs and comments do. It's just that blogs are full of the people who can be bothered to take the time over something so truly trivial - more to the right (or left) than the mainstream, more male.

So, having had the problem in 2005 of listening to its middle class, male MPs, and talking about "male" issues like defence, crime, immingration, the Tory Party is doomed in 2009 to listen to the grassroots, of which blogs are the most vocal - middle class, male and worried about, er, defence, crime and immigration.

Meanwhile the clunking fist will listen to focus groups and talk about "women's issues": health and education, and get in.

Then the right wingers will blame Cameron.

Oops. Oops.

Anonymous said...

Neil: people, largely extremely creepy men, say all sorts of nasty things in blog comments and that is not "a good thing". If they want therapy or increased medication for their neantherdal bigotries or treatment for their ED then a trip to the GP to up their Prozac script may be just the thing rather than ranting and willy waving.

Anonymous said...

I notice men are the first to get personal i.e. calling women frustrated or undersexed. Devil's Kitchen is the worst offender. Still, I can give as good as I get or better.

Hamer Shawcross said...

I think there is a bit of a problem on the bloggersphere to be honest.

I don't get as many comments as Iain so maybe it's unfair to say that it's a problem with Tory blogs, merely that the larger the commentariat, the bigger the appareance of the weirdo collective. I've certainly had a few hopeful souls who have attempted to post porn, but I have comment moderation on all the time so it's not a problem.

The Melissa Kite thing largely passed me by, but I did notice on Guido's site (possibly an unfair comparison, I'll admit) that a lot of the commentators focused on the fact that she was a woman rather than on what she said. "Deeply misogynistic" is probably too mild a term to describe them.

I have to say that when you posted the picture of your bag-carrier I thought "uh oh" and sure enough, according to your link, there were some sexual comments about her.

Basically I think that the language of sexual violence is utilised against women on the bloggersphere who step out of line (a la Ms Kite) and it's a problem.

antifrank said...

It varies. I don't have any problem in principle with people leaving comments on blogs which they would never say to a woman's face: few people are combative in real life, and polemic is generally more interesting to read and more satisfying to write. Few of us are skilful enough with words to write blogs or comments that are both nuanced and interesting to read.

I have more of a problem when the comments go beyond criticism and go into irrelevant and highly personal remarks. Even then, if they are very funny - and sometimes they are - they can improve a blog. The problem is that they are very rarely anything other than boorish. Guido's blog is badly disfigured by the grunts who disgrace themselves day in day out on his comment page.

Chris Paul is (for once) correct to say that the blog has some influence over the comments that follow. He is wrong to pick out your comment on Melissa Kite, which seemed fair game and quite divorced from the unsavoury comments that followed, but right to pick out your comment on Nadine Dorries' views on travellers as examples where the comments were utterly predictable. No subjects should be off-limits, but if you are to choose subjects that bring out the usual suspects, you need to be white hot on the moderation. Banning bad language is an excellent start.

Anonymous said...

And of course a lot of the men in politics are really women! Or at least they have supremely bitchy minds held in a man's body.

Anonymous said...

There are a few 12 year old boys (at least I assume they are 12 year old boys) who seem to travel round the blogs with their masturbation fantasies under the impression that they are making political points. It'd probably be best if they got their hands off the keyboard and put them back in their pockets, but i doubt if there's any stopping them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting ICM poll this morning Ian, will you be doing a piece??

Unsworth said...

Sorry, I can't see the problem. Comments are mostly a reflection of individuals' personal opinions, expressed as they see fit.

Perhaps what's being suggested here is that comments should somehow be the subject to a code of practice. If so, then censorship has triumphed.

Now, individual blog owners may choose to publish or not publish. That's fine by me. But I suspect that if we disect each and every comment for potential to offend one or other groups in society we'll all suddenly become mute. Seems to me that there's far too much emphasis on language and not nearly enough on content.

If the Kite woman doesn't like it in the kitchen she knows what she should do - and that is not to re-arrange everything and everyone to suit her personal choice.

And frankly I find most of her utterances deeply distasteful and offensive. What does she propose to do about that?

Anonymous said...

I for one am getting a teensy bit bored of the whole 'blogsphere is too male' routine. Anyone can comment here - equally so on Guido - and if women choose not to [some do] then that's their prerpogative. It's also their problem.

Sick, sick, sick of "I-find-it-offensive" whinge thinking.*

*doing far more damage to society than binge drinking ever could.

Unknown said...

Boorishness is boring. But, like govt intervention of any sort, censorship would make the situation worse not better.

Hughes Views said...

I'm reliably informed (mostly by my wife and daughters) that ladies have better things to do with their time than spending hours at a computer screen reading blogs and leaving comments that no one in their right mind will ever read.

But I never did get the hang of hoovering...

Anonymous said...

I think it would be best if women kept out of politics.

They're far too obsessed with appearances, hair line, voice etc. to be able to make sound judgements.

Anonymous said...

surprise surprise - guess what? women like politics and football. so what? do men like shopping? who cares? :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, but you want a blog like the hideous Nadine Dorries where anything remotely interesting, controversial, oppositional or not sucking up to her is screened out ? Then it fails to accurately reflect the balance of the comments.

I don't notice 'Comment is Free' lacking in female participants who have incisive, ballsy comments.

And anyone who has watched the latest series of the 'Apprentice' knows men don't have a monopoly on snide, nasty comments and swearing.

Man in a Shed said...

Its mostly passive aggression on the part of certain female journalists.

They see a medium where their view of the female cause is not winning - so they start pleading special interests etc and trying to undermine their perceived male enemies.

Real women seem to blog just fine from what I've seen. They don't ask for special privileges or any consideration beyond the civility that we should all expect.

Anonymous said...

man is a shed: puzzled. please define what you mean by 'real woman'. also, define 'real man' ??? thanks.

Anonymous said...

"They're far too obsessed with appearances, hair line, voice etc. to be able to make sound judgements.2

A tad harsh in the judgement of David Cameron, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

'Blair's Babes' have caused an enormous amount of damage to the reputation of women in Parliament. No wonder they cannot be taken seriously with that lot as an example!

Perhaps women do not comment on blogs because they are working all hours to pay the mortgage and bring up children.

It is only retirees like me who spend time at the computer and I look in whilst preparing other things and need to think before the next stage.

I hardly think in these days that a woman's attitude can be blamed on a lack of sex....but maybe a man's can!

Old BE said...

I expect we need blogging diversity targets.

Anonymous said...

I've given up posting on here, for the simple reason that my posts never get past Iain. Perhaps because I am an old lady, rather than a bit of hot stuff. I dont get the same problem on CH, where I have been described as " a breath of fresh air"
I shall be truly amazed if this post gets into print!!

Iain Dale said...

Annabel, that is simply not true. I have never once deleted a comment from you. I don't have comment moderation switched on anyway. You must be doing something wrong when you post them.

John Ionides said...

I think that in the case of Melissa that she brought a lot of the comments upon herself by some extremely sloppy journalism which included accusing some people who clearly are not misogynystic of being so. I certainly interpreted some of the comments of Guido's site of reacting in a childish way that they knew would wind Melissa up. Not very nice, I know, but then the bit back piece was spectacularly poor. I particularly dislike the way that she throws sex-based arguments and then accuses anyone who disagrees with her of misogyny. Not a very good advertisement for journalism.

Kris said...

Hello! It is a HUGE problem. Just see Newman's blog for an example. He goes right for the personal and appearance comments, yet I've never in my wildest dreams imagined him to be an oil painting...

Case in point- no one said shinola when all they saw was the Roy Keane photo- but as soon as I outed myself, the misogyny came rolling in.

I delete it. My on-line house, my rules.

I also delete "comments" where fellow contributers are attacked in a misogynist way. I don't stand for bullying- of me or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Iain Dull's Diary !!

Kris said...

BTW, homophobic comments at my blog are challenged Iain.

I wish you would do the same here.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a woman, I have no problems whatsoever with sexism. I like being a woman so trying to insult me by charging me with being one is a complete waste of time.
However I'm not at all keen on the anatomical epithets because they're vulgar and crude and used by people I wouldn't want to mix with.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's an issue of 'should this be censored?' or should we self-censor on blog comments, but whether women really ought to be equal or not.

I'm sure most things men say to or about other men on blogs, they'd say to their face. If women are to be truly equal, we should be equally rude to them in person as online.

What really pis- gets my goat, though, is that most women are insistent that they should be equal with men, until of course there is one seat on the tube and they've vying for it with you. Then they expect you to be a gentleman and let them take it.

How can you be selectively equal?

Kris said...

Dear Mach

First of all, we ain't on the tube.

Second of all, I am quite happy to give as good as I get. The issue however, as Iain has pointed out, is that most of us (women) really don't need to be hanging out in a climate of harassment. He wonders why so few contributers are women- that's his answer.

Please don't kid yourself that we're not interested in politics or don't know how to use a computer.

Kris said...

While I'm on a roll...

May I just say that I was particularly unimpressed with Praguetory's post on fingers, dykes and Karren Brady.

And these are the "men" that think of themselves as the next generation of the Conservative Party.

I despair.

Anonymous said...

Discuss? Well you could argue that politics is about the desire to rule the world you live in so.. go figure! Reminds me of the old joke - I don't agree with equality, there was nothing wrong with women having the upper hand. Thing is they never did and if you look at some, nay a lot, of the comments from a post on the breakdown in society, especially if they mention any gender related contribution such as female teachers or divorce, then the bile and aggression from men is truly appalling and often very scary. They don't like taking responsibility, however shared. There is a clear picture of men wanting to dominate their environment, to rule. Not only to rule but to be thanked and appreciated for ruling. They don't like it when a woman reminds them, even in the most benign way, that we are people too. Their reaction to a woman standing up to them is often to ignore her and then ridicule, before out and out aggresion. These are standard tactics employed by both sexes but I find it is mostly men who more often go straight to sexist agression, they do not pass go, they do not collect £200, it's the desire to dominate!

Anonymous said...

Female journalists are far more likely to indulge in ad feminam attacks than male. Look at this, selected at random from today’s papers: Someone is taking money for telling the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women to pluck her eyebrows. What male journalist would dare to try that, even were he such a bore?

Anonymous said...

Well done, Iain, for raising this topic.

As a rule, I try not to comment on blogs where the commenters indulge in such unattractive behaviour.

On some occasions, I have refrained from commenting on your blog for precisely the same reasons. Not because of you, but because of the comments I have seen here on occasion. I choose not to share space with such people. I know you have banned bad language etc, and I think it's a good thing.

There is really no need to be abusive; one can make a point without resorting to juvenile, offensive behaviour. Just my opinion, but I feel it reflects badly on a blog if the commenters are allowed to indulge in such uncivilised behaviour.

So far no one has dared make any abusive comments on my blog. If that were to happen, I would not hesitate to delete that person and ban their IP address. If they want to be crude, they can go do it elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Well said Bel - well said.
There are some very ugly comments left on this blog.
But - there are also some interesting ones left too.
It's not the friendliest community...

Anonymous said...

Different sexes, different attitudes to dialogue; men tend to be confrontational, women consensual.

In broad, sweeping, generalised terms, a man is likely to find a well-crafted insult amusing (or at the very least an invitation to engage), where a woman would more likely deem it symptomatic of a toxic environment and just withdraw. (Sadly, insults are often not well-crafted; but the intention to amuse as well as wound is usually there at base).

Given the lack of social niceties governing Web discourse, this does rather bias the environment towards the male mindset.

Praguetory said...

Kris - I never did a piece on fingers, dykes and Karren Brady. I did a piece on similarities between Karren Brady and Greg Dyke, but I'm astonished that anyone thought it was mysognistic. Source. I think Shane's piece is a bit over-wrought. Men do behave differently around women often in positive ways.

Anonymous said...

I am at a conference (Insurance...don`t ask) but I couldn`t leave this one. Kris if you are refferring to my now defunct blog I have to point out that I was at one point getting about fifty comments a day and I would say a vastly larger proportion of them were from women than here or indeed any other poltical blog I can think of .

Not all women are perfect some are bossy killjoys intent on sucking the joy out of anything they participate in....which brings me , to the subject of kris. ( Coincidentally)

Kris I do look like an oil painting...of an ugly person.

Gotta go

Anonymous said...


I didn't say you do use the tube; I don't know you and wouldn't know. I'm sure I've spotted the odd woman (no I don't mean Margaret Beckett) on the tube though...

I didn't claim that women are not interested in politics or don't know how to use a computer, although now you mention it, the most miserable hours of my life have been spent trying to explain some perfectly simple computer function (email or whatever) over the phone to my mother.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Animal may have some good points but not being a psych ologist/iatrist I wouldn't comment.

The more female bloggers/commenters the better - to be encouraged - I do sense some blogger & commenter discouragement on the, mainly political, blogs I inhabit!

Political correctness on the MSM is also to blame for some of the more open /extreme reactions on the blogosphere.The MSM really does produce a lot of disagreeable rubbish which is intrusive both directly & indirectly. (ie primarily the BBC encouraged & led by another political party since at least 1997).

The MSM is NOT the future unless it changes fundamentally in my view

The blogosphere seems to be developing with a plethora of blogs reflecting every aspect of humanity / inhumanity.

The winners longer term I hope will retain their individuality / aversion to political correctness whilst still encouraging and attracting a mixed audience.

Not sure I could cope with Mrs Dales Diary though!

Anonymous said...

The fact most bloggers and comments are made by men is facile. There are no restrictions, the criticism should aimed at women.

Sexist comment are different. But it denegrates the comment maker not the blogger or the article. However the blogger has every right to moderate how they wish so I have no problem with these any comments where OFFENCE IS GIVEN being taken off the comment. People will learn not to make offensive comments if they are removed.

Having aid that, how does the comment moderator decide if a joke about Ruth Kelly's appearance if giving or taking offense or not?

Anonymous said...

Looking on CH it would appear that the majority of bloggers are male but I think the assumption is also made that all the anonymous bloggers are men too.

We're not. I'm most certainly a girl and enjoy my involvement in the man's world of politics. Much more interesting than the WI.

As for the offensive comments; I hope that CH do take action as it is getting a bit out of hand. No one seems to be able to make a comment without being accused of something - this week's accusation is that you're a 'Cameroon sycophant' which was levied against me yesterday. And some of the anti-female commments are a bit ripe at times too which maybe explains why I post anonymously giving no clue to my gender.

Sadly some people are just naturally offensive. Whether that's due to bad parenting or bad schooling or just the chip that's hurting their shoulder, who knows. It's a shame though as it ruins the medium for everyone.

Man in a Shed said...

Canvas - you asked for some defns - here goes:

Real women are confident in themselves and don't need to make excuses or play the Boy Bloggers made me cry ploy. If they want to get even - your already dead.

Real men don't eat quiche.

Any clearer ?

Anonymous said...

Possibly because women have more to do with their time and have a real life.

Anyway, lets be honest here, Conservatives are not historically known for their lack of misogyny, are they?

Needs I say "suffragette", "Grand National" and "Vote"?

Anonymous said...

Another blog piece talking about blogging. Why don't you get over youselves?

James Higham said...

That's because you're basically Brit-political, Iain. I'm not as good on the politics and get more females.

Kris said...

PragueTory said: "but I'm astonished that anyone thought it was mysognistic.

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Please DO tell me that was a joke! Look again at your title and comments. Even your regular commenters were cautioning you about defamation. (if those comments are still there)

As for newman, that wasn't even an attempt at a defence, was it? Do you stand by your "ugliest councillor competition" featuring women only? You did until your own readers couldn't take anymore. Too bad they couln't twist your arm enough for you to post your picture.

Finally, as for Mach: My reference to the tube was in reference to your mention of women "expecting you to give up [your] seat". I am not sure what relevance that had to women blogging. Not sure I care enough to pursue it anyways.

I do love it: a chorus (of the first two)attempting to defend the indefensible with that old chestnut of a defense, "it was a joke".

Hey- Iain wanted to know why. I've told you why. That you don't like the answer is not my problem.

Kris said...

I used to come to this blog quite a bit; that is, until "Politics for Adults" descended into: -

Politics for the Puerile.

I now tend just to watch the shows when you have guests of substance on.

Anonymous said...

"I think he has a point when he says that men leave comments on blogs which they would never say to a woman's face."

Oh deary me, my delicate eyes surely will fall out if I set my eyes on some nincompoops' scribbles...

The entire point about blogs and anonymity is that you can be refreshingly honest about what you really think. Some folks abuse this to smear dementaed graffitty (Narrenhände beschmieren Tisch und Wände) everywhere, but eh, more often than not being able to be frank cuts the crap and also get's people's secret nutty ideas out in the open. They may not admit at the time that a discussion changed their minds in the end, but I know it happens often enough for it to be worthwhile. Any woman who has a problem with that should stay in the kitchen!

Cinnamon, a professional Hausfrau and part-time argumentative, cynical, right-wing anarchist hippy feminst bitch.

Anonymous said...


Can I make a polite request we have more comment on the real issues of the day please. Today we have a Home Secretary suspending one of the basic rights of British subjects, we have yet more stealth taxes from Milliband and a US soldier is found floating in a river having been captured and executed.

I really dont think the issue of sexism in the the blogosphere is of much importance by comparison

gadfly said...

I am a woman, a blogger and an unsuccessful campaigner.
In my view, what some of the female bloggers complain about may not be as much a problem of gender as of upbringing.
I also believe that macho attitudes could be a remnant of health in a society now blighted by political correctness and enforced feminism.
Having had to advocate before a mainly male readership (i.e. trying to stir up revolt amongst sailors), I have noticed quite the reverse: i.e. manly attitudes such as courage, intransigence and combativeness, which we normally associate with masculinity, are becoming hard to find.
Political correctness and other forms of suppression have turned the male of this nation into a sort of sexless, fearful creature, a strange kind of female wearing trousers.
Some display of machismo, via anonymous blog comments, if not too vulgar, may, therefore, be a useful act of mental hygiene.
After all, “The root of human sanity is in the b...s”, as D.H. Lawrence, wrote somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Iain, no comment on the ICM poll? Usually you can't wait to share your analysis of the latest polls. Strange.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, As you may have noticed from the lack of posts today I have been busy doing things other than blogging. I do have a job, you know! I shall be doing something on this poll later I hope.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2.12pm - "I think it would be best if women kept out of politics.
They're far too obsessed with appearances, hair line, voice etc. to be able to make sound judgements."

Dear me, old chap - what are you going to do when women get the vote?

What's the name of that Scottish chap who's recently had his teeth whitened and is paying £100+ for his haircut........something to do with politics, I think - difficult for me, you appreciate, being female? Could it be - Gordon Brown! More to the point - why haven't you commented on that? He's not female, is he (no jokes here please) so cannot possibly be obsessed with his appearance........

Men undoubtedly say things on blogs they wouldn't say to a woman's face - but I bet they say those things to each other when there's no women present.

Free speech is under attack in this country and doesn't need to be censored any further.

Personally I don't like obscene language whether spoken or written, so I'm all for Iain not allowing that. However, we're all grownups here (a stretch with some of the comments sometimes, I know) so if you don't like what people say, don't read the blogs.

I've managed fine in a male-dominated industry for most of my working life, thanks very much, and don't need anybody making allowances or excuses for me. If I don't like what is said, I say so. I've no time for women playing the "poor little me" card (except where lifting something heavy or cars are concerned, when it's quite permissible). If you're doing a grown-up job and expecting equal pay for it - don't whine.

Yes, some men are oafs who think with their you-know-whats - but it's a bit sweeping to suggest they all are.

Iain Dale said...

Jilted John, see above!

Anonymous said...

Its nit picking I know but we are not part of the USA so why do the young use 'defense'? There is no such word in the English language -it is 'defence'.

Sorry but the continuing assumption that we are an American State -as fostered by this government that sends our nationals accross the Atlantic to face the ruin of their lives and their families lives for a non existant crime - infuriates me beyond anything. The French sometimes have the right idea!

Anonymous said...

Excellent jafo, agree with every word you say.

I'm very deaf, very female and run a successful business in a male orientated field without needing anyone to make excuses for me either.

Totally agree with your comments about women paying the 'poor little me' card too. If we women want to succeed we must go for it as much courage as men have, bless 'em.

Yes there is some detestable conduct on some sites. However Iain soon deals with any really vile stuff that appears here. Along with Boris's blog, Iain's has to be one of the most well managed blogs with the best bunch of bloggers on the net.

Most of us here, male and female, conduct ourselves reasonably well, and if we don't someone will soon put us in our place.

Yes, there is some detestable sexism and even vile sadism on some blogs, but this is by no means a male preserve, nor is such conduct confined to the obvious sites. Some apparently friendly sites can become vicious.

I saw one man - who was a bit of pain, but obviously quite depressed - hunted down by a small clique on webcameron. Instead of ignoring him, they behaved like a pack of wolves with the scent of blood in their nostrils.

The more distressed he became, the more they laid into him with psychological attacks. And the one leading and provoking these attacks was a woman.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

I'll declare an interest.

My mother worked most of her life, so that was 'normal' for me.

I have worked with women in the British Army and in business all over the world.

I can't honestly recall any particularly vile comments on all the blogs re MK, sexist, yes, so what? Misandry is just as alive and well, and in my experience of the media, far more prevalent that mysogyny.

Are men more interested in politics than women are, of course. Otherwise women would be ruling the country, wouldn't they?

Anonymous said...

"I'm very deaf, very female and run a successful business in a male orientated field without needing anyone to make excuses for me either."

Colleen from Old Harlow

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jafo.