Blogs as a feminizing influence?

For a long time, I didn't see what the big deal with blogging was. I didn't see anything that couldn't have been done with plain old web tools. Shoot, many of my antique Web pages sort of look like blogs.

What is new, what I didn't really recognize was the change in expectations. It is now okay (and even trendy) to post very personal experiences and observations. I think that this could have a profound feminizing effect on society, reversing millenia of literacy-driven patriarchy. (I'm cringing at the moment at how radical that last sentence sounds. Bear with me.)

In The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, Leonard Shlain finds an overwhelming correlation between the advent of literacy and increasing patriarchy: goddesses get displaced by gods, women's rights decrease, and women are even sometimes violently persecuted. (He points out, for example, that many women were tortured and killed as witches in Germany after the increase in literacy brought about by the printing press.) Shlain's thesis is that learning to read changed the way brains were wired, making them more ordered, more procedural, more masculine, less wholistic, less feminine.

I think there's a much simpler explanation: prolific writers self-selected for misogyny. The most prolific writers, particularly of the early Christian Church, were the ones who had renounced family! St. Paul apparently hinted that he had been married, but was unattached when he spread the Gospels. Origen castrated himself. Jerome and Augustine both joined monastaries to escape the temptations of the flesh (yet still struggled mightily). The founder of the Benedictines went into a monastary precisely because he had been unlucky in love.

The men who had happy, fulfilling family lives spent their time at home playing with their kids and cuddling with their sweetie, not churning out page after page of theological doctrine.

Furthermore, when publishing was expensive, it only made sense to publish things that were of interest to a wide audience -- things in the "public" sphere. As Ferdinand Mount points out in The Subversive Family, for most of history, husbands were responsible for the "public" sphere and women took the "private" sphere. (This makes sense: men are raped far less often and excrete much less baby food than women.) Ergo, the things that were published were principally in the "male" sphere: by men, about men. As the corpus of literary work evolved, more and more of the role models encountered were men.

Now, with blogs making it easy and acceptable for people to publish in the personal/private sphere, I imagine that we will see more writings that show women in a positive light. I expect that we will see more written by women and more written about women by men who actually like women, much like Ted Leung's heartfelt post to his wife.

Will it change things overnight? Nah, not hardly -- we have several thousand years of male-dominated writing to counter. But it might make a difference.

-- DuckySherwood - 29 May 2004

Ducky Sherwood