Is It "Perilous" To Be A Female Blogger?

Sofia Resnick of the Austin Chronicle wants to know if the online world is, in fact, tougher on female bloggers. Susannah Breslin of XX Factor isn't so sure, and to be honest, neither am I.

Resnick's article centers around the idea that prominent female bloggers come under tougher criticism from their readers due to the "stud/slut dichotomy of men and women that exists throughout all threads of media thrives on the Web. There are endless examples of female bloggers coming under the knife for being bitches or media whores, while male bloggers' gender is either ignored or heralded."

As someone who gets to see the unapproved comments on this site, I can tell you that this is true: in many cases, we have random people stop by just to drop "You dumb whores should shut the fuck up and go back to the kitchen" comments on various posts. "Feminazi," "stupid bitch," and the ever popular "you're just jealous because Ann Coulter/Sarah Palin is hotter than you'll ever be" comments come along quite often as well. The actual content of the articles is ignored: the focus of these commenters' wrath is gender, appearance, and the notion that women should keep their opinions to themselves, unless these opinions happen to fit in with their worldview.

Yet attempting to paint the entire blogosphere (ugh, that word) as a place where only women get attacked is a bit ridiculous. As Breslin notes: "If there was ever an equal opportunity attack forum, the Internet is it. Mostly upper-middle class, well-educated, by-and-large Caucasian women who seek to publish their words on the Web get what everyone else gets online: a free, uncensored platform with a roving pack of readers who have the right to say whatever they want as part of the "conversation." Get over yourselves, and get on with it, ladies."

The internet, unfortunately, is a rather nasty place. Whenever a blogger of either gender posts something, that work becomes the property of the readers and commenters, who react in ways that are often surprising and sometimes quite upsetting. At this blog, we have a system in place to remove those who can't hold a respectful discourse; we don't expect everyone to love or agree with every article, but we do expect our readers to come back with something a little more clever than "stupid whore." The pieces are a springboard for discussion; often enough, personal stories from the writers will bring out several opposing viewpoints from the commenters, and these discussions are often heated, yet respectful. The "shut up, dumb bitch" comments are disemvoweled as a means to remove unnecessary distractions and keep the discussions on topic.

While I can't deny that I have seen examples of Resnick's article in action, I don't think the overall answer is to paint female blogging as a "dangerous" occupation; that only reinforces the idea that women should be afraid to express their opinions, and only feeds into the notion that our gender restricts us from writing the pieces we need to write, for fear of not being able to back our own words in the face of opposition or internet taunting.

To be honest with you, writing the headline for this article made me feel ridiculous. Is it "perilous" to be a female blogger? In my limited experience, it's a bit nerve-wracking, often exhausting, sometimes upsetting when a particularly nasty comment or email is lobbed your way, and at times a bit scary when you publish something incredibly personal for the world to read (though I do post somewhat anonymously, which is a safety net I suppose many others do not have, in fairness). Yet "perilous" seems a bit much. There are women all over the world working under extremely dangerous conditions to improve the quality of women's lives everywhere. Danger and peril are a true everyday occurrence for them. To put yourself out there on the internet and face the consequences is scary and, as I said, at times quite upsetting, but I'm not sure "peril" and "danger" are appropriate descriptions, 99% of the time.

And yet while my first reaction was "Uh, no. It's perilous to dismantle land mines, not to sit here, eat Pop-Tarts, and wax poetic about Jem," I recognize that the majority my blogging is much more lightweight than the women focused on here; women like the editors of this very site, who openly express their political opinions and share personal experiences with abortions, relationships, sexism, racism, sexuality, rape, and other issues that often elicit strong reactions from readers—both positive and negative—on a daily basis. But I don't believe they do so under some impression that it's "dangerous" as much as it's important and necessary.

There are also certain instances where women are threatened with violence for expressing their opinions; in 2007, the Washington Post reported on several women who were forced to shut down their sites after receiving graphic threats from readers. "Two factors can contribute to the vitriol, experts said: blogging in a male-dominated field, such as technology, and achieving a degree of prominence," wrote Post writer Ellen Nakashima.

What say you, commenters? As readers, do you feel more inclined to criticize writers of your own gender? Or does a writer's gender pale in comparison to their actual words? And do you think blogging is "perilous" for women? Or, perhaps just a platform to express our ideas, in spite of the potential reactions?

Is Blogging While Female Really So Perilous? [XXFactor]
The Perils Of Being A Female Blogger [Austin Chronicle]
Sexual Threats Stifle Some Bloggers [Washington Post]

[Image via Married To The Sea]