I was interviewed by Afifa Jabeen of the Saudi Gazette on the comparisons of male and female blogging. In her article, “A Gender Divide?”, she incorporated some of my comments which are shown below in italics. Thanks Afifa!
A GENDER DIVIDE?
By Afifa Jabeen Saudi Gazette
OKAY, so there are blogs about politics, society, literature and arts, movies, personal diaries, cooking, games, romance, media …just about everything under the sun.
And ostensibly, everyone is blogging.
Every now and then, some male bloggers are found wondering aloud why more women aren’t blogging. The truth is that women, in fact, are blogging like never before. However, a common perception is that female bloggers tend to blog more about personal matters while male bloggers write about ‘serious’ issues like politics and economics.
“Male bloggers are intensely competitive by nature, and blogging, like sports, offers just one more arena for guys to test their mettle against each other and (potentially) showcase one set of manly skills: that of argumentation. Blogging offers men a direct way to participate in a highly competitive hobby that stimulates their minds and gives free reign to their instincts that are often stifled and discouraged in the “real” world.,” says Cassandra in a recent post on her blog Villainous Company (www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog.)
According to Cassandra, women have different reasons for blogging. “The experience is different for women. Not necessarily bad, just different. I can’t speak for all women, but I have noticed, women tend to blog for the joy of initiating conversations and friendships with other people. They enjoy getting to know their readers, talking to them, exchanging views and knowing their likes and dislikes. To me, my regular readers are not very different from people I know in real life,” she wrote.
Tara Umm Omar, an American married to a Saudi in Riyadh, writes a non-political and non-controversial blog (www.taraummomar.blogspot.com) geared towards prospective husbands and wives of Saudi nationals. “My goal is to display information that would help people make an informed decision about marrying a Saudi, and to provide guidance on the marriage permission and approval processes through news articles, guidelines and personal stories,” she says.
She says female bloggers in the Kingdom mostly blog about family matters, about how being a woman affects their living in Saudi Arabia, and the issues that frustrate them. “Female bloggers share snippets of their personal lives, opinions and thoughts with virtual strangers, and visitors to their blogs provide comments and feedback. In this way, friendships are developed and cultural understanding is established between people of different nationalities,” she says.
What explains the prevalence of male political bloggers?
While there may be many factors involved, one crucial one is probably that women generally have a lower level of interest in politics than men.
Kuwaiti blogger Abdullatif Al-Omar, who has been blogging for 4 years, says, “Male bloggers talk politics while female bloggers talk about personal issues – even romantic ones – but that doesn’t mean they are gender exclusive topics.” On his blog, Al-Omar says he writes “whatever is on my mind. I don’t stick to one topic.” He says feedback or comments on blogs do not depend on the blogger, but on the topic. “If a male blogger writes about a romantic subject, he is clearly going to get more females commenting than men,” he said.
Egypt-based Tarek Amr, (www.gr33ndata.blogspot.com, http://www.notgr33ndata.blogspot.com and kelmeteen.blogspot.com) who has been blogging for over three and a half years agrees that there can be gender-specific blogs. “There are hundreds of topics that people like to blog about. When it comes to technical issues (games, computers, software), then be sure that you are in a guys-only land. Topics exclusive to women bloggers are cooking, online personal diaries, and rants about family and kids for example,” he says.
However, Tarek said that in Egypt, female bloggers like to write about motley topics and are not limited to women-only issues.
“Female bloggers here care as much about social issues and you find many female bloggers writing about human rights, politics, society, etc.,” he said, citing Nora Younis (norayounis.com), an Egyptian female blogger who won an annual human rights award earlier this month for cyber-activism. “If you put the technical blogs and personal diaries, you end with gender-neutral posts. However, you can sometimes feel the gender difference from the language used in those posts, or the tendency to state facts versus narrative and story telling writing styles,” he said.
Tarek feels even the commenting styles of male and female bloggers are different, where men tend to argue, debate, and state facts more and women are more sympathetic. “For example, a male blogger will leave comments like, “I do not agree with that particular point”, “I agree with you, but let me ask you, what is the reason that made this issue happen”, etc.
While female bloggers may post comments like, “Oh, I love this idea”, “Oh dear, may God be with you”, etc. Maybe this is why you can see more female comments on emotional issues and more males comment on debatable and logical issues,” he said.
Hamid Tehrani, the Brussels-based Iran editor of Global Voices – a platform for international bloggers – believes that when women blog about politics or society problems, they are no different than men. “In Iranian society, some women talk about feminist issues such as discrimination. This gives a different taste to their blogs although some men talk about the same problems too,” he said. “They may also blog on issues of daily life and concentrate on their own interests and concerns that men do not have, for example cooking, it’s more a matter of choice and relevance than genders,” Hamid added.
Closer home, Ahmed Al-Omran (saudijeans.org) says that male bloggers too post about their personal experiences. “I find women’s blogging in Saudi Arabia particularly interesting because it has given them a chance to express themselves and show their colors to the world in a manner that is probably unimaginable in our stifling society. With few opportunities open to them on the ground, the Internet has offered a new space where they can shine while at the same time preserve a certain amount of privacy and protection from the harsh eyes of a conservative social scene,” he said.
Ahmed, who has been blogging since 2004 from Riyadh, writes about political and social issues, “especially those related to free speech, human rights, women rights, and the life of youth,” he said. Ahmed said obnoxious comments and feedback on his blog are mostly limited to male readers. “Girls tend to be more level-headed and polite,” he said.
Ahmed said that in spite of receiving hate mail and abusive comments over the years, blogging has been a learning experience for him. “Sure, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies in the Saudi blogland, and the blogosphere can be a tough place with personal attacks, trolls and spam, but you just get used to it and learn how to enjoy it. All this has changed me in many ways to become a better person,” he said.
Bahrain-based Ayesha Saldanha, who blogs about her personal experiences, books, films, society, language and current affairs (battutabahrain.blogspot.com), says people are attracted to blogs by their content, not the gender of the person writing. “It’s difficult to say that blogs by men are one thing, and by women another,” she said. Blog readers also seem to care less about the gender of bloggers, and say it is the content of blogs that matters most.
“I don’t care if a blogger is a male or a female, but I have noticed that most of the better written blogs are by women. Not all of them though, but women seem to put more time and effort into the writing, and tend to engage their audience in a better way,” said Aqil Zia a blog reader, adding that most of the blogs he reads are “evenly divided between male and female bloggers.”
And so male and female blogs continue to rough it out on the blogosphere, adding to its variety and richness.