Blogrolls and sex: what does gender have to do with it?

Would it be OK if I suddenly established a policy of only linking to male bloggers? What if I only added posts by men to my list of interesting links?

I’m extremely reluctant to blog about this. I want to do it with the utmost respect and integrity. But I can’t just ignore what I see, and I want to publicly ask some questions about it.

I recently followed a link to Charlene Li’s Calculating the ROI of Blogging. It’s a great exploration of how to measure the return on investment for blogging, particularly for PR and marketing managers.

Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.”
– Henry Kissinger

But I happened to notice her blogroll. It’s the type of blogroll that is generated and/or managed by an external site – in this case, BlogHer. And every single blog in the blogroll is a woman’s blog. Is that kosher?

Well, yes!
In a lot of ways, of course, that’s completely kosher. People – any people – can choose to link to anyone they want to. Conversely, they can choose not to link to anyone they don’t wish to link to.

A natural extension of this is that people – Charlene Li in this case – can promote any particular person she wants to, and not promote others.

Fine and good – on a personal level.

What about other insights?
I should note, however, that Charlene’s blog is not a personal blog. It’s a business blog. She works for Forrester – a research and business intelligence blog. In fact, the content is copyrighted by Forrester – it’s an extension of their business.

With that in mind, is she saying that no matter which blogger of whatever gender has excellent and insightful comments … she only going to link to those without a Y chromosome? If so, I have less respect for her and less respect for her opinions. She simply isn’t valuing a certain fraction of the intelligence out there.

But it’s not that simple
However, that’s not quite the case. A cursory examination of her recent posts reveals links to TechCrunch and PoliBlog … both blogs by men.

So she doesn’t have a kneejerk blanket policy against linking to men. Far from it.

Essentially, then, I’m ambivalent about Charlene Li’s blogroll policy. Ultimately, any blogger has the right to do what she wants, but his or her choices may reflect on her business credibility.

I wonder what would happen, however, if a prominent male blogger published a blogroll from BlogHim containing only links to male bloggers. (Devil’s advocate: would anyone notice?) But I realize that traditionally – and in technology-oriented fields – women have been under-represented in public life. So it’s not quite the same thing.

People are people
All the same, I wouldn’t do it if I were her. I just don’t like the idea of dealing with people based on classification or categorization. I much prefer to deal with each individual as an individual.

But then again, I’m not Charlene Li. And I’m not a woman – and I’ve not had to deal with what some women (all women) have had to deal with on their path through the business world. Or the world itself.

What do you think?

Much ado about nothing? A valid sense of unease? Or clear evidence of an unreconstructed male chauvinist?

[tags] blogher, women blogger, blogroll, charlene li, links, john koetsier [/tags]

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “Much ado about nothing? A valid sense of unease? Or clear evidence of an unreconstructed male chauvinist?”

    Nope. Just inaccurate. Not every single blog in the BlogHer blog roll is a woman’s blog. Men who blog with women, either in pairs or groups are in our blog roll. Men who attended any BlogHer event are in our blog rolls. Men who join the site as members and participate are in our blog rolls. Men who our contributing editors decide are essential reading for their assigned topic area are in our Blog Roll. In fact, the very first blog on Charlene’s blog roll is a man’s.

    BlogHer’s mission is to create opportunities for *women* bloggers, no doubt about it. But men who are interested in that same Mission are welcome on our site and at our events and in our blog rolls. It says so right here in fact 🙂

    Feel free to come join the conversation.

  • Fixed it – yes, would be nice to let guests edit. Sorry!

    Actually, I read through some of the BlogHer FAQs and saw that it said that about 20% of the blogs there are blogs by men (not that I saw them on Charlotte’s blogroll, however. Maybe I missed them.) But that’s OK. I’m totally fine with that. Excellent. No problem.

    It’s not exactly what I’m talking about in my post … which is not about BlogHer but more about a particular blogger’s blogroll.

  • Well, I don’t know. You make a fundamental assumption about her blog roll…and draw conclusions about your level of respect for her based on that. But the fundamental assumption is incorrect.

    So is the question now: IF a blogger had a blog roll that was segregated in some way (in any way) would that have the “consequences” you speak of? Less respect etc. Which takes it out of the gender-based argument altogether and makes it about something broader: do our blog rolls reflect our own echo chambers, our own blind spots?

    I think in general they do, truth be told.

  • I think it is sad that you even *noticed* a site written by a woman that might have possibly only had blog roll links to women!

      >I wasn’t looking for that, if that’s what you’re wondering
      >The fact kinda jumped out at me just while looking at her blogroll.

    The fact that you used over 500 words to explore this possibly un-kosher act; you linked to and named her company;

      >Note: Charlene links to and names her company

    indicated there are “consequences” to her choice;

      >All choices have consequences, but please note that there’s a
      “but” in the very next header …

    and, called into question her integrity, moves your mere mention of this possible indiscretion well beyond ambivalence, my friend.

      >Did you notice the next paragraph? The part that says
      >”however, that’s not the case?” Please read carefully.

    Is it sexist?

    Well, allow me to add one more question to the list of nine already posed by yourself — how many business sites have you happened upon, written by men, with links to only men?

      >Probably lots. Does that make it OK? No.
      >So why would it be OK for a woman blogger?

    And, how many “extremely reluctant blogs” did you pen to question their integrity?

      >?!? I said I was extremely reluctant to blog about this …
      >I didn’t say anything about “extremely reluctant blogs.”
      >Again, please read carefully. I’m not being gratuitously offensive
      here; I’m trying to be as honest and real and respectful as I can.

    Damn right, it’s sexist! I have not been this offended in years.

      >As far as you being offended, would you prefer I wonder in silence
      >and act in silence? I’m being open with my thoughts and inviting
      >feedback … and the possibility of changing my mind.
      >Nothing you’ve said changed my mind, however, since I think you
      >demonstrated that you didn’t actually read and understand
      >my post.

    You might find it amusing to note how I landed on your site. I noticed you had a mention to an individual on my blog roll. You might have surmised, I am fancy on the inside. Well, he is fancy on the outside.

  • OK. I’ll start with this. How dumb of me to get that angry! But, it really hit me wrong. Men link to men’s sites all of the time. I think nothing of it – ever. You’ve been to my site, now. You can see that of the 80 or so links I have, 10, or so, are women. There are just not as many women in the IT open source blogesphere world.

    Yes, your column was sexist. Does it make you bad, no. Of course, not. Was I wrong to over react. Yes. And, for one reason – because it discourages people from talking about these things and we need to keep lines of communication open, not shut. So, my apologies to you for that.

    Now, listen up my fine younger male friend — linking to someones blog — mentioning their company’s name — indicating that their words are copyrighted and owned by their company (don’t even start me there) — and saying that there are consequences and that her ethics are called into question ***is threatening***

    You are obviously a thoughtful and talented man. Your writing is sensitive and thought provoking. You know how the world works. You cast a shadow of doubt and suspicion on her.

    For what? For the fact that her list ***jumped out at you*** as being only female.

    Do you now see how that is, yes, sexist?

    Now, here’s some racism for you. I pride myself on being open minded. I am left-leaning politically. I was on desolate elevator a few years ago in a parking garage by myself late at night. A group of four or five black kids – 16 to 18 years of age hurried (ran) to catch the elevator before it left the floor.

    I was afraid! That is racism. I would not have felt the same had it been white boys. Am I proud of it, hell no! Should I talk about it? Absolutely! But, I don’t need anyone else to tell me it is not a healthy thought! I get it. I have racist thoughts in my head that I am not proud of.

    Those boys caused me no trouble.

    A VAST majority of male business blogs link to only men. Does it make them sexist?

    Only if they chose to NOT link to a good female resource because she was a female.

    You – keep up the good work.
    Amy 🙂