Saturday, November 12, 2005

Shann Palmer

It was Shann Palmer’s comment in response to my note on Nadia Anjuman that brought me up short: am i the only woman who replied? Of the first 21 responses to my note, it did appear that Palmer was the lone female, although there have been a couple more since then.

My initial reaction to her note was the thought that the comment stream had predictably been overwhelmed by some of the same five or six guys who show up most days, arguing this time about the role of Islam in Anjuman’s murder. Women, I thought, would have recognized her death as the consequence of a phenomenon much older than either Islam or Christianity – violence by men against women.

But Palmer’s remark made me conscious of just how one-sided the comments stream of my blog has become, gender-wise. I knew, for example, that Thursday’s note on the Anthony Braxton Sextet would be largely male because 40 years of jazz concerts has made me recognize that perhaps 70 percent of that music’s audience is male. Not as bad as the computer industry events I go to for work, but not so far removed from that level of imbalance. Yet that sort of breakdown on my blog's comments stream on days when I'm not discussing jazz, when in fact I'm discussing violence against women, bothers me.

The poetry world was like that once, but not in the past 15 years. In comparison with the Donald Allen anthology in 1960, using that as an index of the post-avant world of its time, with just four women among its 44 contributors, and even my In the American Tree, which has just 12 women among its 40 poets in 1986, the poetry world of today certainly appears to have at least approached parity. What percentage of MFA students are women?.

Yet a quick count of noses among the first 200 participants in my blogroll to the left, down through Scott Esposito, turns up 117 blogs by men to just 59 by women, almost a two-to-one ratio, the rest being collective blogs, ambiguous blogs and/or ambiguous people (Hi, Kari!). I’ve read elsewhere that this disproportionality exists among blogs, and I’ve read pieces on the problem with science blogs & tech blogs, but it’s disconcerting to see it in my own blogroll, especially since so many of the very smartest & most well written blogs about poetry are by women.

There are multiple possibilities here. One is that my blogroll is reflective of the current state of blogging about poetry & poetics. But another is that my blogroll is not so reflective as it should be. In general, I add new blogs to the list in one of two ways – people send me emails and ask to be added or else I come across their blog, usually through that of someone else on my blogroll, and add them because their blog is clearly about poetry &/or poetics, broadly defined. I’ve found some blogs in particular, such as that of Eileen Tabios, to be especially useful. In Tabios’ case, it’s because (a) she’s conscientious about adding new and interesting blogs to her own blogroll, (b) she’s a perfect example herself of that “very smartest and most well written” category (which means, in practice, that I go back to her blog more often than I do some others), and (c) we travel in somewhat different social circles.

I’ve noted over the past few months that when I add the link of a woman writer to the blogroll, it’s more often because I’ve come across it in scrolling about, less often because they actually emailed me to ask. One way to at least minimize whatever skewing I’m adding to this process, however, might be just to put it out here – if you have a weblog that’s relevant to writing & is not already listed here, please send me an email. If you know of one that I should know about but don’t, send me an email & let me know.

I have heard – from three different women in the past month – that the requirement of registering with Blogger has kept them from posting comments. Therefore I am dropping that for the time being, to see if it makes a difference. If there is a return of the problem of vicious personal attacks from anonymous posters, I will have to go back to that. Hopefully, the verification task will be enough to keep spam to a minimum.

Maybe this will make a difference. I’d like to hope that it will.