Like many of you, I read a lot of blogs, and lately I’ve noticed a trend: it seems like I see a lot more blog comments from women than from men. I wondered if it was just my imagination. This weekend I decided to investigate.
That’s right, peeps. IT’S SCIENCE TIME.
I have 24 blogs that I read on a regular basis. For each of them, I simply grabbed the latest post and counted up the number of comments by each gender. (This took a surprisingly long time.) A few notes:
- I counted commenters, not comments. So if a person left multiple comments on a post, I only counted that person once.
- I did not count comments from the original poster.
- Commenter gender is not always obvious, but I did my best. If they linked to a profile or website that gave their gender explicitly, I used that; if not, I judged by first name. No doubt I made a few errors, but I think by and large I guessed right.
- If I couldn’t figure out the gender (“Anonymous,” gender-neutral name, etc.) or if the individual did not fit neatly into either gender (e.g. transgender) I put them into the “Unknown/Other” category.
I ended up with a total of 245 commenters.
My suspicions were confirmed:
I don’t have a single good answer for what’s causing this, but (lucky you!) I’m full of ideas. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Here are the possibilities as I see them.
Maybe women just comment more than men as a general rule. I have no idea if this is true or not. It’s the most obvious explanation, but that doesn’t make it the right one.
Small sample size. 245 commenters on 24 blogs is not really a huge sample. Maybe these imbalances would even out if I just had more data. Based on my own anecdotal experience, though, I suspect that’s not the case.
Biased sample. Now we’re getting to the heart of it. These 24 blogs are not a random cross-section of the Internet; they are the 24 blogs that I read regularly, which means they are skewed toward my interests. Specifically, all 24 are related to writing in some way: they are written by agents, editors, authors, etc. What does that have to do with gender? Two ideas. First…
Women are more into literary discussion than men. It’s no secret that publishing is a mostly female industry; something like 85% of the publishing world consists of women. Moreover, women read more than men, especially when it comes to fiction; women read four times as many novels as men. So maybe men just aren’t into this sort of thing anymore (and isn’t that a cheerful thought). Or…
Maybe men don’t comment on women’s blogs. Largely for the reasons I just mentioned, 19 of the 24 blogs in my sample were written by women. Maybe that has something to do with it; that is, maybe men aren’t avoiding these blogs because they’re about books, but because they’re written by women. I don’t have data at the moment, but anecdotally I’ve noticed a striking feature: blogs written by men seem to be much closer to 50/50 in the comments, whereas blogs written by women tend to be skewed much further toward all-female commenters. “Anecdotally” is always a dangerous word, of course, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see a trend.
As you see, I have no shortage of possible explanations, but I don’t think I have enough data for a conclusion yet. What are your thoughts? Have you noticed anything like this in your own experience?