Why Boing Boing Doesn’t Blog About Housework
Mrs. Whatsit pointed out that Propter Doc has recently written on the topic of blogging under a pseudonym. It’s a very thoughtful post and touches on many of the issues we discussed at the NC Science Blogging Conference. In the middle of the post, Propter Doc says the following:
If you blog about being a scientist then you are probably in a position where you need to take steps to conceal your identity. The world doesn’t need to know what flavor of scientist you are, or even your gender.
Is this really the case? That is, does your gender not matter in science blogging, even (or especially) the pseudonymous variety?
Do male scientists blog about housework? I can’t remember Boing Boing mentioning housework…
Boing Boing’s inattentiveness to housework does tell us something about the gender of who’s blogging there, even if their names weren’t up there at the top of the page.
According to Tedra Osell
I suspect that the vast majority of pseudonymous writers are exactly who they represent themselves as, at least insofar as gender is concerned.
We all joke that “on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog,” but it seems to me that, in fact, this isn’t true. Even unschooled readers are fairly savvy about generic form, and one of the formal conceits of public discourse is that people whose social identities are marked as “other”-women, in this case-will, when writing personally, draw attention to their persons. Pseudonyms prevent texts from being impersonal, from pretending to objectivity; they draw attention to the author’s role in a way that a straight byline does not. At the same time, though, pseudonyms make a text more fully public: by hiding the author’s identity, the author becomes potentially anyone. Pseudonyms mean something, and one of the things they mean is that the pseudonymous writer has a reason for pseudonymity. When pseudonymity becomes a generic feature, as with essay periodicals and blogs, one of the things that means is that the genre entails risk, that publishing is risky.
Osell did a small survey about pseudonymous blogging, and reports
…92% of pseudonymous women bloggers self-report that their content is clearly gendered (by mentioning pregnancy, husbands, professional concerns as women). This despite the fact that most of their pseudonyms were gender neutral: “Dr. Crazy,” for instance, rather than (say) “Hysterical Woman.” In contrast, only 65% of pseudonymous men said that their content was clearly masculine-but some of those who claimed neutrality also said that they simply had never considered the question and therefore *assumed* their content was neutral, and two of these admitted that they mentioned their wives (one resolved this apparent contradiction by explaining that “nowadays, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything”-one wonders if he really thinks that lesbian bloggers are likely to mention wives, but not lesbianism).
Heh. Gender, and sexual orientation, and race, can come through in your blogging by what you do (or do not) attend to in your posts.
Does the world really not need to know your gender? Study after study has shown that when gender is not explicitly identified or identifiable, most people (men and women) tend to assume the gender is male. In science blogging, I think the world does need to know your gender. There is power in knowing that women like Ms. PhD are exposing the trials and tribulations of the postdoc life, or that men like Drug Monkey and Physioprof are speaking up for the issues of women in science. It challenges notions that women don’t do science, or that gender equity is “just” a women’s issue.
If Boing Boing has never talked about housework, there’s a reason for that, and it has to do with gender- specifically, the male privilege not to see housework as blogworthy. Or just not to see housework at all.
Drug Monkey writes
The father/PI who is seriously concerned about gender equity in science will go out of his way to exhibit his status.
and it matters that a guy is saying this. It matters greatly when a man speaks up and says gender is his issue, too.
I look forward to a day when gender doesn’t matter, in science blogging or science in general, but that day has not yet come.
Bunny Rock in Zuska’s Garden
Zuska is the kick-ass alter-ego of Suzanne E Franks. When not dispensing Zuska's wisdom, Suzanne can often be found gardening, reading, or having one of her thrice-weekly migraines.
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