Published on Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010
People often ask me why I don’t start a blog. After all, it seems almost everyone else has. Thousands of new blogs spring up in cyberspace every day. All the mainstream media have added bloggers to their websites. Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish, can get 20 million hits a month, and has made him one of the most popular opinion-mongers in the world.
The answer is pretty much the same as why I don’t get a souped-up snowmobile and drive it straight up a mountain at 120 kilometres an hour into a well-known avalanche zone. It’s more of a guy thing.
Guys seek thrills and speed. They go for the adrenalin rush. They get pumped by going higher, faster, farther than anyone else. They want lots of action and instant gratification. That’s also why guys like blogging – instant opinions, and lots of them.
Men clearly have an urge to blog that women lack. Like extreme snowmobiling, the blogosphere is dominated by men. Not many women are interested enough in spitting out an opinion on current events every 20 minutes.
“Do you think men are more opinionated than women are?” I asked my friend Sarah the other day. (Sarah is 24, and several of her male friends have started blogs.) “No,” she said. “They just don’t feel the need to think before they open their mouths.”
Sarah and I believe the urge to blog is closely related to the sex-linked compulsion known as male answer syndrome. MAS is the reason why guys shoot up their hands first in math class. MAS also explains why men are so quick to have opinions on subjects they know little or nothing about.
Do you ever wonder why, long after the rest of journalism has become pretty much gender neutral, the talk shows and opinion pages are still dominated by male voices? That’s why.
Opinionizing in public is a form of mental jousting, where the aim is to out-reason, out-argue or out-yell your opponent. Women are just as good at this as men and, in some ways, better. (No man could do it the way New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd does.) Women are simply not as interested in doing it.
It’s not just blogs that tilt strongly male. The people who call in to talk shows are mostly men; so are those who post comments on mainstream-media websites. These days, you don’t even have to start a blog to get an audience. All you have to do is write “Margaret Wente is an idiot” and hit send. Instant gratification!
Perhaps you’ve noticed that most of the comments on these websites are not terribly sophisticated. They contain a large insult quotient, even when they come from people with advanced degrees. They remind me of nothing so much as a bunch of 12-year-olds holding peeing contests in the snow.
Women never held peeing contests. Perhaps that helps explain why women tend to be more restrained and less concerned with public displays of prowess. We are just as interested in listening as in talking, and more interested in relationships than scoring points. We also tend to lack the public confidence that comes so easily to many men.
Are these things cultural? Not entirely, perhaps not even mostly. For most of my adult life, I was almost struck dumb in the presence of strangers. I managed to complete five years of university without raising my hand, and the idea of a dinner party used to make me faint. Several of my female friends tell similar stories. No matter how brilliant they were, they lacked the confidence to express themselves in public.
Fortunately, something happens to women in midlife that disinhibits them. It is the same thing (in reverse) that turns bold, extroverted little girls into painfully self-conscious adolescents: a drastic change in hormones. These days, I no longer care when someone calls me an idiot, and my husband often has to drag me home from dinner parties.
But blogging? No way. That’s guy stuff. And they are welcome to it.