The Wednesday Weigh-In: Are female bloggers more ‘positive’ and ‘happy’?

You may not have heard of him prior to this week, but Felix Salmon is one of the most influential business writers in, well, the biz. He drew ire last week, including from prominent feminists such as Irin Carmon of Salon, for publishing the following comments in an essay on Maria Popova and her “blogonomics” (read: her blog’s business model):

“The consistently positive and upbeat tone to Popova’s blog might generate healthy Amazon income as a side-effect, but it’s also genuine: she’s one of those bloggers – Gina Trapani is another very successful example – who have no time for snark and who naturally look for things to celebrate rather than things to tear down…

To a certain extent, this is a female thing: positive happy bloggers tend to be female, as do their readers. And when someone like Anne-Marie Slaughter supports Maria Popova to the tune of $300 per year, there’s definitely an element there of supporting the sisterhood. Which is a good thing!

But to many male observers, there’s something a bit off there.”

Hmmm. Salmon has apologized for the comments, which he calls “stupid” and “wrong”. Notably, he only uses the word ‘sexist’ once during his entire apology, in a rhetorical question indicating faux-outrage (“How could I be so sexist?”). He presumes that the ridiculousness of such a premise will be apparent to us all, but alas, as a female-identified blogger myself, it is not.

I happen to think there’s a lot for feminists to take issue with in Salmon’s blog post even outside of his “ill-advised detour into gender politics.” (Some questions I have for Mr. Salmon: What’s behind the focus on Popova’s lifestyle and work ethic in addition to her business model? Why not choose to focus on the more interesting and broad question of affiliate links still qualifying sites as “ad-free”? When considering the sustainability models of female-run blogs such as Popova’s why not at least mention some of the deeply embedded systemic barriers to female bloggers achieving institutionalized, mainstream success like you have with Reuters? Too close to home? Is it possible that your criticism of Popova’s “dual-income model” was, in part, influenced by the kind of sexism – intentional or not—that is inherent to the generalization of female bloggers as “happy” and “positive” and therefore less deserving of “serious” financial compensation for their work?)

But today I want to focus in on the assertion that got Salmon in the most trouble: that shirking snark for celebration on the web is a “female thing” and that “positive happy bloggers tend to be female, as do their readers.”

From Salmon’s apology:

“…there’s a line between being plainspoken and being needlessly provocative, and I crossed it. In doing so, I made it far too easy for my readers to miss the precise meaning of ‘most positive happy bloggers are female’, and to read it instead as ‘most female bloggers are positive and happy’, or even ‘most females are positive and happy’.”’

This strikes me as splitting hairs and sort of missing the bigger picture of what went wrong in Salmon’s analysis. I’m curious, though, if at the end of the day, even the most exemplary of feminists (that’s you, dear readers!) might be open to the idea that women have an overall more positive presence on the web — or completely laugh it off the playground. Which leads us to this week’s Wednesday Weigh in:

In your experience, are female bloggers more positive and happy? Are they more likely to write, and are their readers more eager to consume, content that chooses to celebrate rather than tear down? What do you look for in online spaces from your favorite female writers?

You know what to do: leave it in the comments.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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