Sunday, August 12, 2007

If I Called It a Catfight, I'd Be Called Sexist --
Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher complains about the low visibility of women bloggers and remarks that an announced installment of PBS' To the Contrary with Bonnie Erbe is having a panel on women bloggers without having an actual woman blogger on the panel.

In the comments, Jennifer L. Pozner, Executive Director of Women In Media & News rebutts:

Actually, Jane, your entire premise of this post is faulty. Erbe had a panel without any women bloggers? False. She had me. As (just one) part of my work as the director of Women In Media & News, I run the popular WIMN’s Voices group blog on women and the media, in which dozens of women blog about different aspects of media content, policy and advocacy. I was on the panel as a blogger, a media critic, a feminist non-profit director, and (yes) an attendee of YearlyKos who has a valid critique of the overwhelmingly white and male speaker roster. I never said on the show or anywhere else that no women spoke or were involved, and I believe I actually mentioned FireDogLake on the show (though I was often shouted down during the taping of the show and I haven’t seen it on air yet, so I’m not sure how the segment turned out). But the argument that a few prominent women involved means that there isn’t a gender equity problem is myopic. It’s similar to traditional all-white, all-male corporate boards of directors saying, “We don’t have a diversity problem - we’re crawling with those people” when they have one or two women and/or people of color on a large board. Yes, it’s progress — but it’s not equity.

I’ve read an interview you’ve done - can’t remember for which outlet or blog - where you implied that people who complain of marginalization of women’s voices online are off base because if women were better writers, people would read their blogs more. That implies that there is no institutional discrimination in this culture, and that American culture (online and offline) runs entirely on meritocracy. If only that were true. But clearly, not so much.

Whether we agree or disagree on that point, I do want to encourage you to actually check your facts before you post. I can’t believe the irony of you griping that Erbe’s show ignored you when in fact we did mention your very blog, and complaining that the show included no women bloggers when in fact the guest list included a woman blogger who was at YearlyKos (me). The group blog I write for and manage — WIMN’s Voices — has been around for about a year and a half and has been linked from and discussed on Huffington Post, Feministing, AlterNet/Peek, Echidne of the Snakes, Shakespeare’s Sister/Shakesville, Feministe, Broadsheet/Salon, Women’s Voices for Change, Our Bodies Our Blog, PopPolitics and many others, and has been successful in generating discussion in larger independent and corporate print and broadcast media. That you don’t even know that it exists, or know that I’m a blogger (that you could claim that Erbe’s show included no women bloggers when I was at the damn conference) illustrates my point about marginalization of women writers online.

Jane Hamsher has a one-line response:

I occasionally change my own oil. I don’t call myself a mechanic.

Pozner replies:

Are you seriously implying that just because our blog is only a year and a half old, I’m not a “real” blogger?

Because if that’s true, my friend, you are part of the problem. You’re saying that as a media critic I can’t hold the same critical lens toward online media as I do toward old media, and in particular that my point about the underrepresentation of women’s voices in power circles online is off base because, oh, YOU have a popular blog — but then you’re saying that I’m not actually a blogger because, why? I haven’t been doing it as long as you have?
How long do I have to have been blogging before I can claim to be a “real blogger” in your estimation? Is it totally insignificant that I singlehandedly created a platform for several dozen women to blog who might not have
otherwise? Does it make any difference that in 1996, I was involved in online feminist activism circles and women’s leadership listservs and community discussion groups connecting women all across the country who used the net to advocate against violence, for reproductive justice, against media
consolidation, for clean elections and campaign finance reform and other issues many years before anyone dreamed up the phrase “netroots”? (Do you think you, Markos and Matt Stoller created online activism?)

Or am I simply not allowed to have any sort of critique — and am I not allowed to call myself a “blogger” because you have the trademark on that identity, simply because you’re winning the online popularity contest?

I’m really shocked, Jane, that you’d be so hypocritical in complaining that you
and other women bloggers are supposedly being overlooked (in response to a discussion about how women are actually being overlooked), yet you would say I’m not a blogger. WIMN’s Voices has very healthy traffic. We have dedicated
readers who devour our posts. We generate discussion in the blogosphere. We generate discussion in the media. And we create space for a wide range of diverse women to monitor media. If you think I’m not a blogger simply because I’m critiquing your friends (or because I think it’s great that you have a popular blog and I say that when I talk about blogs, but I also say that attention to a handful of women’s blogs does not equal equity) then you’re
really slow. Which is surprising, considering that you are often a very astute writer.

And, Rootless2, about this:
Does it? To me it illustrates that all those women bloggers who you mentioned who are much more well known than you would have been good choices to invite to the panel. Why were you chosen as the sole representative of women bloggers?

“To The Contrary” is a half-hour public affairs show that runs three segments on air and then one web-only extra feature. This week, one of those topics was about blogging and YearlyKos. Typically, the show features politicians, journalists and leaders of non-profits. I was booked on the show as a media critic and as the head of a women’s media analysis, education and advocacy group — NOT at all as a “the sole representative of women bloggers.” In fact, I was booked for the show about two months ago, and they only chose to include blogging as one of the four segments they discussed a few days ago. It was a coincidence that I was there during the week of this blogging discussion, and it’s a good thing I was because at least they had someone on the show who does, indeed, blog, and who was able to say that there is not any one monolithic way to describe “the blogosphere,” that there are amazing women blogging all over the net, and that people who say there are no women bloggers aren’t really looking for us. Also, to another point: guests on public affairs programs need to be well informed about a wide variety of topics. I wasn’t brought on as a “blogger,” I was brought on as the head of a non-profit that works on media issues. I do happen to know that the show has taped an interview segment with a couple of well known women of the blogosphere, that will air at some point in the near future — hopefully more of these issues will be raised during that show.

I have to admit, it's really, really hard not to see this as Hamsher whining on some level about specifically her own personal non-involvement.
(10:13 PM) Links to this post


Blogger NewsCat said...

I know somethings about how and why "To The Contrary" guests are booked which I feel means I understand the "mechanics" of guest booking better than Jane does. There's a lot of elements how shows are booked and Jane doesn't know or feel like she has to know anything about it to make her case. Like, for example, To The Contrary has no money to fly guests in and put them up in hotels. Pretty much someone has to be in the area and/or arrange their own travel. They often get authors/spokespeople who are on tour and therefore it is conveinant for them to do the show because someone else is paying their way. This is not "To The Contrary's" fault. It's an aspect of running a show on PBS with a limited budget.

And yes there are many DC-based women bloggers but there are other factors that go into booking guests and I guess it's easy to not work in TV and assume you know exactly what makes a good guest. (I'm not even talking about looks. "To The Contrary" is hardly the show that cares about the physical attractiveness of its guests).

But basically I feel like Jane was saying "why did 'To The Contrary' not book a blogger *I* know about?" That is what she is sniffing at.

10:08 AM  

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