Sunday, October 5, 2008

Women & blogging: What you can do right now

(A guest post from Mary L. Dudziak)

It was hard to know what to say a while back when a law blogger asked "Do Women Blog?" a week before the women bloggers convention. I just kept blogging.
Northern California-based author C.C. Holland now has an article on Law. Com, "Where Are All the Female Bloggers?"
Thankfully, she quotes University of Illinois Law Professor Christine Hurt (left) of Conglomerate, a business/law/economics/society blog, who has been insisting for some time that it is hard to say anything meaningful about gender and the blogosphere without data. And basic data would not be hard to find.
The point I stressed to Holland, as she reports in the article, is:
Someone asking, in some ways hyperbolically, 'Do women blog?' is not reading the blogging that women are doing.
There are lots of women bloggers, including law bloggers. But it can be hard to break out of a particular niche and into the broader blogosphere. For good bloggers without a natural audience, it can be very hard to establish a readership.
The difficulty of establishing a readership is exacerbated when bloggers don’t read and link to women bloggers.
This is not unlike a problem in legal scholarship that Georgetown Law Professor Mari Matsuda (right) wrote about some time ago. In a critique of the Critical Legal Studies movement, she argued in 1987 that
there is a sense that critical scholars intend only to talk to each other. ... The articles cite and build upon each other.
She encouraged CLS scholars to
establish dialogue with people of color and to add their voices to those that currently dominate the discourse.
There was (and still is) a very practical way to do that: cite to their work.
Just as legal scholarship can sometimes be a closed circle, the law blogosphere functions that way when established bloggers read and link to each other, ignoring newer voices.
Rather than speculating about women and blogging, here are some very practical and easy things to do that can highlight the role of women bloggers, and make it easier for newer voices to be heard:
For bloggers
► 1. Take a look at your blog list. If you don’t have women bloggers on your bloglist, how about adding some today? For starters, some blogs by women are listed on the essential Feminist Law Professors Blog.
► 2. Link to women. Moving up in rankings like Technorati depends on how many blogs link to you. Sometimes another blogger will pick up on a point I’ve made, but doesn’t add a link to my post. This seems to be part of the ABCs of blog etiquette. But why not go beyond this and look for posts by women you can link to?
► 3. Help spread the word. When you hear about new bloggers, give them a shout-out. And feature established blogs that might be of interest to your readers.
► 4. Why not add the feed from another blog to your blog? I do this with the fabulous international law blog IntLawGrrls. I added their feedburner feed to the side of my blog for two reasons: there are often posts that are historically oriented that my legal history readers will be interested in, and I think it’s a great blog and I want to support it.
For readers
You have a part in this, since the blogosphere consists of the relationship between bloggers and readers. When you find a post by women, or any blogger who can use more exposure, why not e-mail it to others? Blog readership is often built up by word-of-mouth (or word-of-keyboard).
For women bloggers and new bloggers
A little shameless self-promotion is in order. Certainly send an e-mail about your blog launch to everyone you can think of. Then send an occasional post, with a link, to folks who might have an interest, and especially to relevant listservs that you are a member of. Everyone who has gone before you has built a readership by doing just that.
University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ann Althouse (above right), author of Althouse blog, offers her thoughts on the topic here. And at Feminist Law Professors Blog, University of Southern California Law Professor Ann Bartow (left) weighed in on this topic earlier here.

(Original appeared at Legal History Blog, cross-posted at Balkinization blog. More thoughts on this subject below.)

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