Last week I wrote a PIECE asking for your views on Why Don't Women Blog?. Mary Dejevsky, a columnist who up to now has fallen way below my radar screen, seems to have taken great exception to it - and indeed to my blog as a whole. She has written a column in The Independent today headlined THERE'S A GOOD REASON WHY WOMEN DON'T WRITE BLOGS followed by the subtitle MEN SEEM TO TAKE IT FOR GRANTED THAT THEY'VE SOMETHING TO SAY AND THAT THE REST OF US WANT TO HEAR IT. Typical feminist claptrap. I've asked The Independent to allow me to write a follow-up column, but I doubt they will, so let me give my response here. Her words are in normal type, my comments are in italics
Iain Dale is a Conservative pro-Cameron MP.
It really must break some sort of record to make two factual innaccuracies within the first six words of a supposedly well-informed column. Just for the record, I am not an MP and having been David Davis's Chief of Staff it is slightly inaccurate to make me out to be a Cameroon henchman. But we'll see if things improve...
I do not know him, and I am just as certain that he does not know me. He does, though, put himself about. He writes one of the more prolific blogs to come out of this Parliament, purveying commentary, analysis, gossip and the like via his website, with what seems like hour-to-hour, if not minute-by-minute, frequency.
Ignoring the fact that my Blog does not "come out of this Parliament" - it "comes out" of Tunbridge Wells, yup, guilty as charged.
Iain - as I am sure he would like me (and you) - to call him...
Is this an insult or a compliment? I suspect it's a calculated sneer...
... recently made an observation that simply leapt out of his stream of consciousness. "It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem bloggers," he wrote, "you won't find many written by women." He went on to observe, admitting the sexist stereotype, that women, "being much better gossips than men ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging". I curtail his prolixity, but he concludes: "There must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector."
Now now Mary, we all know what out of context quotes are like. Do you by any chance assist the LibDems in writing their Focus leaflets? This is what I actually wrote: "Now of course if you were indulging in stereotypes you'd be making cheeky comments about women being much better gossips than men, so they ought to be ideally suited to the world of blogging. But perhaps the fact that 90% of bloggers are male shows that men are the best gossips after all. Tell us something we didn't know, I hear the females amongst you cry. Obviously blogging is not just about gossip but there must be some reason why women don't blog as much as men in the political sector. Do let me have your thoughts!"
Well, Iain, I venture to correct you on one point. It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between. And it does not take a huge of the imagination to suggest at least two reasons why. The first is that, for all the efforts to educate men and women equally, to encourage them to compete for honours, even to feminise the examination system by introducing coursework, women (still) tend to be more bashful than men about what they think. It is not that, as veteran male gender-warriors might growl, we have much to be bashful about. It is rather that we tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion.
Mary, I don't detect any sign of a lack of confidence in what you write...
Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading.
And you don't Mary? Why else would you write a column for a national newspaper if you, as a woman, didn't think you had something to say or that the rest of the world would want to hear?
Iain Dale is not the only verbal incontinent who ploughs on, apparently regardless of who might be listening or reading. Alas, his confidence is repaid by the dozens who seem to respond to every post. The cacophony of so many (mostly male) opinions is deafening.
Oh dear. You seem to have defeated your own argument without any help from me. If no one wanted to read my blog, they wouldn't visit it. It wouldn't be among the top three most read political blogs in the country. If people didn't think what I wrote was worth commenting on, they wouldn't leave comments would they? And it's not "verbal" incontinence, I write a blog. I don't speak it. Do be more careful in your use of language. After all, you as a columnist are paid several hundred pounds a column. The least you could do is write proper English.
Our female bashfulness, I submit, may be gradually being drummed out of us by a combination of good teaching, co-ed schools and colleges, and the example of opinionated women expressing forthright views in other parts of politics and the media. The second reason why women don't blog, however, is more serious, because it is more intractable: women simply do not have the time.
Indulging in pre-feminist stereo-types again, perhaps?
Earlier this week, I heard Finland's minister for foreign trade and development, speaking in London to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage in Finland.
Now I'm sorry, but if you imply that I'm a 'saddo' for writing a 'prolific' blog, please don't try and pretend that going along to hear Finland's Minister for Trade is anything but equivalently sad.
They were the first women in Europe to gain the vote. And the record of women's participation in Finnish life is as laudable as one would expect from Scandinavia. Yet, as Ms Paula Lehtomaki noted, without the diffidence that might attend the same observation in this country, the next frontier had to be the home. Women had come a long way: safeguards against discrimination, for equal pay and opportunities were all in place and largely observed. But the fact was that in joining the workforce on equal terms, women were all too often tied to two jobs: equality, even in enlightened Scandinavia, all too often stops at the front door. How many homes are there - here, or in tech-savvy Finland - where the man will think it quite excusable to shuffle in late for dinner because he has been reading or writing his online diary, but would greet with ridicule or fury the prospect of dinner being late (or non-existent) because his partner had been delayed in the blogosphere?
I am almost lost for words. The ridiculousness of the analogy will not be lost on most people. I have to say that blogging has not made me late for anything. Ever. Let alone dinner. A reminder dear readers - she's getting paid to write this drivel!
And for dinner, we can substitute baby's bathtime, the children's high-tea, the regular taxi-service families run between sports and after-school clubs, the elderly parents that need looking after. It is this old-fashioned, and persistent, division of responsibilities that frees men to indulge in the time-consuming fashion of the day; and the gadetry and self-aggrandisement involved in blogging only make it that much more attractive.
OK stop right there. Me writing a blog is no different from Mary Dejevsky writing her column. It's how she earns her keep. It's starting to be part of how I earn mine. So let's not let her get away with her continual inference that blogging is merely an activity for people with no friends and a good supply of gannex raincoats. If my blog were of no importance she and her journalistic colleagues wouldn't read it every day.
Iain Dale calls his blog "Iain Dale's diary". Those of us of a certain age - I can faintly recall the signature tune - know this to be an allusion to the fictitious radio diary of a GP's wife and receptionist which was broadcast on weekday afternoons. It was a soap opera for its day, very BBC Home Service. More tied to the Fifties way of life than The Archers, it did not survive into this more hurried, less homely age. But there is a point here.
I was beginning to wonder...
In the days of Fifties-style, essentially segregated working, Mrs Dale had the time to keep a diary. Today's Mrs Dale would be the doctor herself, rushing in to the surgery from the school run and organised enough to assemble dinner at the end of the day. She would be too tired at the end of it all, or have more pressing things to do, to advertise her thoughts in the blogosphere. Diary-keeping, unlike family responsibility, has entered the public sphere and crossed the gender-divide.
Do let me know if that makes more sense to you than it does to me. Surely the last sentence argues against the previous two?!
Wow. You really do have to laugh, don't you? I see this as yet another sign that the so-called 'dead tree' media don't quite know what to make of blogging. They use every opportunity to decry it, yet they are strangely fascinated by it. So much so, in fact, that some of them have started their own blogs. I would almost bet money that within twelve months we'll be seeing the launch of the Dejevsky Blog. I'll even link to it!