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Commentary of the Fairer Sex

What is it about Susan Estrich? Somehow, in an attack on Michael Kinsley, she's managed to stir far too much of the blogosphere and op-ed pages into a flurry of "Where are the women?" Where are the women's voices on our editorial pages? Where are the women's voices in the blogosphere?

As you'll be able to tell from the links above, this debate has been raging for weeks, which is several weeks longer than the debate deserved. Where are the women's voices in the blogosphere? You'd think no one had bothered to look. Most of the commentary has centered on various strange lists of the "top" blogs, in what has to be the most backasswards criterion ever devised. The beauty of blogs is in the linking, not the ranking: as big as they are, giants like Kos or Instapundit make up a trivial share of blog traffic in total, far less than, say, the New York Times share of the newspaper market. A better study--but of course, no journalist will go to this much investigative bother--would have to involve links between blogs: are women under blogrolled? are they ignored and unlinked? And here the evidence would certainly be more mixed. Glenn Reynolds links to Ann Althouse so often you'd think he's got a crush. It doesn't take you long to find the women in the hodge-podge of commentary at Kos. And it's worth noting that even curmudgeonly old me has seven women in the blogroll. (That would be Ann Althouse, Sherry, Not for Sheep, Irishlaw, PG, Heidi Bond, and Sua Sponte, not including the group blog Tres Chicas or any women solely on the group blogs.)

Of course, I'm a conservative, and I've often wondered if we solve our "woman problem" through inattention much more easily than liberals do whilst whinging over quotas. The British Labour Party demands all-female shortlists, while the Conservatives still worship at the altar of St. Thatcher. Estrich laments that the LA Times has a dearth of female commentators, but doesn't suggest that they poach Cathy Seipp or Kate O'Beirne from the relatively female-heavy National Review. And of course, as I've already mentioned, Republicans are trying to see what it would take to get Condi Rice on the ticket. I'd work for her.

What eventually prompted me to comment on this was a final bit of silliness from my friend Chris Geidner. In the process of giving Dahlia Lithwick as much respect as I normally grant her disdain, he bemoans that he only has four women's books on his bookshelf, and a dozen women's blogs on his reading list. Chris, stop beating yourself up. Far from listening to women's voices too little, you link to the perpetually-tacky Wonkette with a frequency that makes me wonder if you have a crush.

The self-flaggelation by bookshelf seems particularly odd. No one is ever going to accuse me of reading by quota, and yet a quick glance at even a portion of my bookshelf reveals more female authors than Chris will admit to. (And this doesn't fully reflect my reading: for instance, all of my Florence King, the rest of my collection of Carson McCullers, and anything I own by Kate Roiphe or Peggy Noonan are in storage.)

There's no reason to think that if Chris has "underread" female authors--to the extent that term has meaning at all, and I'm not convinced he has--it's because they've not written to issues he's been interested in, or he's been more interested in what male authors have had to say. This isn't a "problem."

But then, that's an advantage of being conservative: we actually have to commit a sin before feeling guilty about it.

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While Chris Geidner frets and A. Rickey mocks his fretting, I've not been paying much attention to the "Are There Enough Women on Op Ed Pages/ Blogrolls?" debate. [Read More]

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Comments

Derek Laud who is black, rides to hounds, and is a Tory MP once said in an interview: "Those to whom race is an issue are those to whom race it a problem." (or words to that effect). This seems like one of the most sensible and succint pronouncements on the subject that I've heard. By attempting to follow quotas, you are clearly forming judegements on people based on race. I have no idea how many female authors there are on my shelves, offhand, simply because I don't choose books based on the sex of the author. I don't care, or even feel I need to know, anything about the author at all.
The WaPo had a pithy editorial by a female columnist, who aptly pointed out that the reason for Estrich's pique is that *Estrich* isn't writing for any of those papers. I've always been leery of people who insist that I include women or "women's voices" in my reading/studies/whatever simply because the writers are female. (Perhaps my preference stems from the mustached women who taught Women's Studies at both of my undergrad colleges; they were so militant about their feminism/womanism that the whole notion of choosing only women authors turned me off.) To me, it's more important that the writer/etc. be a GOOD writer and/or thinker than being a "woman." "Curmudgeon"? Please. Don't confuse a character trait with being smart enough to think before you write/open your mouth. :-)
Meanwhile elsewhere on the internet is a network of mostly female bloggers who are blogging up a storm over the vexed question "Where are the men ?"
On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog. Or a fox.

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