January 9, 2006

Where are the women lawprof bloggers?

Paul Caron outlines a panel on lawprof blogging from the American Association of Law Schools meeting. I found this interesting:
The last question came from a woman law prof who asked (1) why there were so few women law prof bloggers, (2) why there were no women on the panel, and (3) why no women had even asked a question of the panel despite the large number of women in the room. Much discussion ensued about the gender aspects of blogging.
I'll have to wait for the CALI podcasts to come out to hear what in all that "much discussion." Or maybe someone who was there can tell us more in the comments (or email me a description).

There was a time when a question like that would be not only anticipated, but feared, and an effort would be made to include a woman on the panel. But the heydey of feminism in the legal academy was about 15 years ago. Anyway, I think I can safely say that virtually no effort was made to include a woman on this panel.

UPDATE: Christine Hurt was there. (Via Instapundit.) She notes, quite correctly, that there are no barriers to starting a blog, once you decide you want one, and goes on to say:
I am beginning to think that the disparity may be due to something called a "preference."

Marketers make zillions of dollars a year recognizing that women like some movies, TV shows, books, magazines, and food items, and that men like others. There is some overlap, but generally there are preference differences between genders. Why is this hard to accept? I worked at Baskin-Robbins for a year, and every 16-year old BR employee can guess what kind of ice cream a 35-year woman is going to order. (In 1986, this was Pralines & Cream.) We didn't think too hard about why more women than men liked this flavor, and I never thought there was something insidious in the way women were socialized to believe that they like it. Maybe more men then women like to blog. What's so hard to understand about that?
I'll just say that back in the heyday of feminism, the "lack of interest" argument was a subject for vigorous, skeptical scrutiny. To be specific about blogging, most lawprofs, male and female, don't want to blog. We are talking about individuals. And the number of female lawprofs writing their own blogs and covering legal topics is absurdly low in proportion to the number of women law professors. And keep in mind that women law professors are already a group that is not as representative of women generally as the the group of male lawprofs is representative of men. Moreover, there is no reason to think that women aren't eager to express themselves in writing. Are women less verbal than men? I'm not an expert on the scientific research on gender difference, but I think the answer is clearly no. This is not a subject to be brushed off with an analogy to preferences for ice cream flavors!


reader_iam said...

Why, do you think, was "virtually no effort made"? As an outsider to that field, I'd be curious.

Ann Althouse said...

ReaderIam: I know I wasn't asked. Who are the other female lawprof bloggers?

bill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reader_iam said...

Interesting idea by ny_lawyer. Could be.

Is there some sort of tie-in with the comfort of women to write opinion (which, really, a lot of blogging involves, especially if you stretch the meaning of opinion to include "expressing strong point of view," even if not viewpoints? Remember that discussion about opinion writers a while back?

Do women not want to put themselves out there as much, or simply aren't very interested in stirring up, at least on occasion, controversy? Or at least aren't willing to risk the consequences of that?

I have to say--and perhaps this a misguided impression--that I don't know a whole lot of women (or men, I suppose, but far fewer women) that would be willing to publicly stand up to some of the sharp "criticism" that you, for example, have engendered, just to be able to blog bluntly and publicly. Maybe that's too unpleasant of a prospect. Or maybe it doesn't fit into their idea of being a "law prof." Except for the obvious posts, I think it's at least somewhat fair to say that you appear to blog despite being a law prof, and more (or at least as much) out of artistic and expressive impulses.

Thinking out loud ... could all be nonsense, of course.

reader_iam said...

I notice differences in commenters, too, do you?

It's not so marked on your blog, where there's seems to be more of a mix, but do you you get the impression that there are more male commenters generally than female?

Anonymous said...

she notes, quite correctly, that there are no barriers to starting a blog

Tell that to Dan Drezner, or the bloggers that didn't blog due to his experience.

Perhaps there are more men lawprof bloggers that feel more secure in blogging. Are the male lawprof bloggers tenured?

I do consider it important for all lawyers with eyes on the Supreme Court to become bloggers.

sean said...

I would think a big issue would be that female bloggers have to put up with a lot sexually oriented criticism. I can't imagine my wife, say, being willing to expose herself to that kind of abuse. If blogging by male professors attracted hordes of female commentators making hostile cracks about the potency of the blogger, I think it would be less popular.

So maybe what we need is not affirmative action, but a sexual harassment law.

vbspurs said...

Not that there's anything wrong with finding reasons for something in life (we'd have no science or sex if we didn't), but sometimes this question about "why no x-women bloggers" drives me up the trolley-car.

It's not new either here or in other blogs either.

When Jeff Jarvis posted a quote by a Wall Street Journal writer (IIRC), who handwringingly queried why there weren't more women bloggers, or indeed, minority bloggers, I, a woman blogger, obviously, posted a slew of reasons.

They included everything from "women usually don't have a lot of outside time to devote to hobbies" to "men usually just lead the charge in almost all forms of human activity", suggesting that both leisure and socialisation could be included in the reasons.

I agree with Sean that women might be shyer because of sexist innuendo many bright or capable women have to endure in life (look at Michelle Malkin).

But I honestly think that if you want to do something, you'd do it and stick at it.

Taking this specific topic as a benchmark, that's why they got into law in the first place, no?


vbspurs said...

In case of interest, here is the Jeff Jarvis thread called "Blogging White Male".

Because of course, that's another subset of this question.

There's at least one female law prof blogging, our own Professor Althouse, but Ann is white.

Where are the black female lawyer bloggers?? Etc. etc. etc.

P.S.: I am amused at my comments in the Jarvis thread. I sound so very ponderous (not that I can't now, and frequently do!), like the newbie blogger I was.

Look what I wrote in reply:

A quick rundown of my non-vital statistics (this isn't Wonkette's blog, after all):

I'm white. I'm a woman. I'm a blogger. One out of three ain't bad, right?

As for the reasons for the question posed originally, listen, it's not hard to come up with three quick responses: (1) Men predominate in most endeavours. (2) White men do more than other men as well, (3) and white English-speaking males even more than that.

The reasons are manifold, but it strikes me that (1) Men predominate because they have more acceptable leisure time than women (2) White men are more likely to be in academia and law, the two areas which bloggers seem to have the market cornered (3) the internet is an English-speaking medium which favours these men.

Someone get me a Vivarin.


Tonya said...

If you all are looking for a blog with black law profs, and black female law profs in particular, I'd suggest that you check out the site below.


Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

Can you be a bit more descriptive and explain why you feel Ann's blog is drivel? Thank you Steve.


Along with that ice cream preference theory, I would add that women have an innate caution when it comes to new things.

Men are more apt to engage in an activity for experimental reasons--more willing to putz around with technology and other stuff--jumping in first, and then finding a purpose to justify the time wasted or attention given.

I think women look for purpose first, and are less willing to spend time at things with no specific desirable outcome. So their adaptation process is different: slower, more calculated.

Men are like the marines, women like the army. Both do important things, but the process in doing the same task is just different.

KCFleming said...

Conjecture: there are fewer lawprof bloggers due to:

1. The avoidance of pain (see The Malkin Effect).

2. The preference for face to face verbal communication (men glean less from nonverbal cues).

3. Logorrhea is a predominantly male disorder.

Robert said...

Why do more men law professors blog? Obviously, because women refuse to live up to their responsibilities and men, as always, have to take up the slack!

gt said...

The costs and risks and benefits.

There are some people who get some direct monetary benefit from blogging - sell more books, get new clients, more new york times editorials, or directly by selling ads or a tipjar.
But most of us do it for reasons involving reputation capital.

It takes a lot of effort (or skill) to blog well. One reason I didn't apply to the top rated law schools is I was worried about competition from people who work harder or better than I do - I skated by on brains at a mid-level school.

I am often amazed at the productivity levels of folks like volokh or baude. They blog better than I do, while writing for publication, classes, social life, travel, etc. Some women might prefer to invest some of that focus into childcare or housework or tenure-chasing.

There is no shortage of women blogging - look around livejournal or myspace. But they blog to and with and about their personal networks, with less focus on vast impersonal themes - supreme court, iraq etc. Women connect, men compete.

Men compete, like chimpanzees do, for social status, which then attracts mates. Look at me look at me! is their cry. Women prefer not to be looked at, because being high profile is risky - it attracts stalkers. Women get to choose mates, so have less invested in attracting mates.

Women lawprofs who do blog, may not choose to blog -as- women lawprofs.
James Tiptree Jr., George Elliot (or do I mean Sand)and conversely David Lat. I blog as arbitrary aardvark, which I hope is at least a little ambiguous about gender, occupation, species.

What I'm trying to say is apply a little law and economics/ praxeology, to figure out what the incentives and disincentives are.
I think I know some of the amswers, but I really don't know why the praline crunch.