There's a moment in Backbeat, the underrated movie about the Beatles in Hamburg, where Astrid Kirchner asks John Lennon: "Why are you so angry?" That's a question, and a image, any male blogger understands. People say we're angry white dudes, and -- if observers like Ellen Goodman are to be believed -- we don't let girls in the clubhouse. You'd think our mantra was "Bush sucks and so does diversity."
But what's worse than the stereotyping of male bloggers is the fact that Goodman dismisses a brilliant group of female blog writers as "women's issues" types, just because they don't fit her premise. In doing that, she's propagating the same prejudice she says she wants to change.
Clearing up the "angry" part of this stereotype would take more space than we have here. After fifteen years of concerted rightwing and media assault on liberals, any voice raised in protest was bound to be labeled "angry" for a variety of reasons -- not the least of which was to maintain the false equivalency that passes for journalistic objectivity these days.
Now Ms. Goodman of the Boston Globe is getting in on the act. In her latest column she derides liberal bloggers for the dominance of white male voices, and cheerfully spreads the usual stereotypes about the blogging community. (The column's entitled "E-Male," but be grateful for small favors. She could have called it "Junk Male.")
Ellen Goodman is hardly an "enemy of the people." She seems well-meaning enough. And she's right that we need diversity -- in fact, we need parity -- in both gender and ethnicity. But in pushing her chosen theme -- a netroots dominated by "angry white males" -- she manages to paint liberal bloggers as bigoted honkies who think women ought to be in the kitchen while they save the world.
In real life, diversity is a topic that concerns much of the blogging left -- male and female, white and minority -- and has been the source of controversy in the past. (See here and here, for example.)
Male bloggers need to work harder to ensure that they support, publicize, and link to women and minorities. But the very fact that sexism and diversity have been topics for heated debate means that it's a problem bloggers want to fix. Ms. Goodman preferred to leave a more negative impression of blogging as an insular and self-satisfied "boys' club."
There may be a little innumeracy problem with her column, too. She writes: "(Of) the top 90 political blogs a full 42 percent were edited and written by men only, while 7 percent were by women only. Another 45 percent were edited or authored by both men and women, though the 'coed' mix was overwhelmingly male."
Those figures aren't acceptable to most progressive bloggers. But let's look at Ellen's mistakes. First, do the "top 90 political blogs" include liberal blogs only? She reserves her criticism for the left, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Little Green Footballs and other righty sites might be on that list. Secondly, 7 vs. 42 means that women comprise 14.3% percent of single-sex blogs. That's terrible -- but as Duncan Black points out, the Globe editorial board consists of six men and two women. That's 25% women - probably well ahead of the newspaper industry as a whole, but not radically better than the blogs.
If 45% of political blogs are jointly run by men and women, then women hold at least some position of leadership in 52% of them. And bloggers have an ongoing debate about how to achieve better parity. Can the print media say the same? (I hope so.)
Nor does Ms. Goodman look at issues like traffic, or visible leadership in the blog community. Take a look at the masthead on this page and you'll see the name of a woman. The Huffington Post is apparently the most-trafficked political blog ever, surpassing even DailyKos in traffic and influence. Where did I read that the Post gets 70 million hits per month? Oh, right. It was at Firedoglake, where Jane Hamsher has become one of the most prominent bloggers in the country.
Based on "eyeballs," women hold a much more prominent position in the liberal netroots than Ms. Goodman suggests.
A number of other brilliant women have highly visible roles in the netroots, and Ms. Goodman gives them all short shrift. In addition to Arianna and Jane, here are some others worthy of Goodman's attention: Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister. Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake. Amanda Marcotte, Roxanne, and Pam Spaulding of Pandagon. And at least enough others that I'll hate myself when I remember their names later ...
Check out these sites, then tell me whether you think they're what Ms. Goodman calls "mommy blogs."
As for the "white" part of the "white male" construct, that's a matter of definition. Kos is Hispanic American, and several prominent bloggers are African American. But it is a predominately white enterprise, and that -- as with the gender mix -- needs to change.
Ellen's cheapest shots involve women who have received hate mail on the Internet. They have, and its horrifying. But there's no evidence to suggest that any of that hate mail has come from male liberal bloggers. By implying that it has, Ms. Goodman has done a terrible disservice to a whole group of dedicated people -- just to fit her "angry white male" theme. She should write a correction immediately, if only on this point.
And what about that hostility we hear so much about? Are liberal bloggers of either gender the rage-filled people Ellen Goodman describes? I've read tough talk and harsh language on blogs, from both men and women. I've even written some. But this is a world where people are still being killed in a needless war, Americans die daily from lack of health insurance, and worldwide environmental catastrophe comes closer by the minute -- while the lies of politicians too often go unnoted by the mainstream media.
So let's leave the last word on this topic to John Lennon, whose answer to Ms. Kirchner's was recorded in the memoir that formed the basis of the film.
"I'm not angry, sister," he told her. "I'm desperate."