Why are Women Not Blogging Politics?
Today on Twitter, GreenJ, one of the Crikey writers asked “serious question: why don’t women (proportionally the unbalance is weird) subscribe to crikey?” This question was retweeted by Pollytics who took the issue up on his (her?) blog, asking “where are Australia’s female political bloggers?” [oops, just burnt the soup because I’m trying to blog while cooking tea] Some of the people who left comments, especially JaneShaw, Anna Winter, and BH, made similar points to those that I had made on Twitter, but I’m going to repeat them here anyway. And I will admit at the outset that what I am about to say does not apply to all women, any more than what I may say or imply about men does not apply to all men, but it does apply to large numbers of us. I also acknowledge that there are many women who do blog and do cover politics, as the responses to Pollytics’ posting showed, but for the moment, let’s put that aspect aside.
Time is a major factor. Why aren’t we reading Crikey and blogging? Because women are still carrying the major load in terms of housework and the relational work required to keep a household running these days. Much of this work isn’t recognised and is so piecemeal that it chews up hours without you having anything to show for it:
Because we’re reading the school newsletter over breakfast and trying to make sure that the kids have their permission slips and money for school excursions as we try to get out the door to go to work. Because we use our morning tea or lunch breaks to pay bills or make dental appointments (or ensure that others remember to). Because when we get home we’re cooking and making lunches and ironing uniforms and helping with homework and paying bills online and reading “fine print” on contracts and reading the local freebie paper because, even though it is frequently appalling journalism, at least it tells you which local roads are closed and when services are closing and when to put your rubbish on the kerb. We’re co-ordinating the family’s activities and making sure everyone gets where they have to be on time and trying to keep all of this in our heads.
Because when we finally collapse at the weekend we’re making sure that the washing is done and our parents are still alive and our in-laws know that we haven’t forgotten them and the neighbours still know we exist. We’re organising food and get-togethers because “we never see our friends any more.” We’re arranging holidays and weekends away because “we really need a break.”
Many older men just haven’t been socialised to pay attention to these sorts of things. For the most part, it is not deliberate neglect of maliciousness; most older women have been socialised into it. Maybe the younger generations will be different.
Because we’re already doing politics. Many women, and men, are involved in their communities. The difference for women is that they are usually doing it on top of everything I’ve just said above. Much of this goes under the radar and is not considered to be “politics”:
We’re working on parents committees and progress associations and community groups. We’re working on stalls and at working bees. And yes, this is politics. Many of these activities involve meeting the local members and trying to influence them to get much needed facilities for a school or community. When your school doesn’t have enough classrooms, or your eight year old can’t get help with reading because there aren’t enough teacher aids, or you can’t get to the local shops safely because there is no footpath, that is a result of political decisions (or indecision) and it takes political action to get it fixed.
This type of local politics, frustrating though it is, often achieves results. The politics of much media and Canberra often leaves those outside the circles of power feeling that they have no ability to affect anything.
So, how do we get women involved in political blogging? First: Maybe the question we should be asking is not “how do we get women more involved in politics or political blogging?” but “how do we free women up to do more of what they choose to do?” For some, that will be more involvement in conventional politics or blogging, for others it won’t. Second: Let’s recognise the breadth of political interest, involvement, and action and give credit where it’s due.
[Haven’t got the toast ready to go with the soup because I’ve been blogging. But I am one of the lucky ones who does get help with this some of this stuff and I have had the last two nights off cooking duty. Sharing too much? – the personal is still political.]
UPDATE: I have been personally attacked over on Pollytics’s blog for this post. I will respond to some of the issues raised by that criticism here as soon as I get the chance, but just at present I really need to give priority to an article and some other stuff that I’m writing for publication. So, watch this space!