One enormous factor, no surprise to those of us who have a brain, is the role played by women being in positions relevant to the topics followed in the news.
While women continue to show more interest in local and community news–where they comprise 58 percent of the audience–plenty are also focused on global events. The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto attracted nearly identical levels of interest from men and women, according to the Pew survey.
It’s likely that women’s interest in the U.S. elections and the Pakistan assassination was heightened by the key figures in these events who were also women. This is consistent with the finding described in “The Private Roots of Public Action” (Harvard University Press, 2001) that in states with no female senators or candidates, only 51 percent of women can name a senator, compared to 79 percent of women in states that have a female senator or candidate. [my emphasis]
But when it comes to blogs, women who read blogs for political content exceed men in their interaction with them:
More than half (56 percent) of Americans say they never read blogs that discuss politics, according to a Harris Poll released March 10. However, nearly a quarter of men (24 percent) and nearly 1 in 5 women (19 percent) say they do read political blogs regularly.
Within that group, women have a high level of interest: 35 percent of the women and 25 percent of the men read at least one blog a week; 17 percent of women and 18 percent of men read five to nine blogs a week. Women and men post comments to blogs in similar proportions.
Sadly, despite constant and high levels of women involvement in the subject matter of politics, they are still not entering politics at the levels proportionate to their population:
Barbara Palmer, who teaches courses on gender and politics at American University in Washington, D.C., confirms that women have generally expressed less interest in politics and don’t run for office as often as men do. But that’s not the whole story.
“This has actually presented us with a paradox,” she says. “There is a high correlation between levels of education and political literacy and interest in politics. And women have outnumbered men as college students for quite a while. In addition, women are more likely to be political science majors than men. And finally, we know that women are more likely to vote than men. There is some kind of disconnect here; there is a gap in our understanding of women and political engagement.”
Perhaps a way to close this gap is for women to continue expanding their media choices themselves, beyond their traditional attachment to network TV programming. This is a key idea behind the founding of Women’s eNews more than seven years ago and an ongoing explanation for the growth of female-focused sites for news, policy, opinion and chat.
Finally, Gibbons sees female political bloggers as a sign of hope:
Morgan’s extensive list of female political bloggers offers another bright light. The independent and interactive features of the Internet–versus the passive model of news consumption offered by television and newspapers that still tend to reflect more of a man’s world–would enrich women’s political knowledge and whet their appetite for political involvement.
I see a promising media environment increasingly supportive of women and their interests, with the potential to create communities that can bring about large-scale change. There’s time; the election is still seven months away.
Last, this all goes back to why I’m pissed off about the allegations related to the atmosphere in Marc Dann’s office and have chosen to spend time on The White House Project.
Oh, alright – for good measure – I can’t believe I’m saying this but Dan, Moulthrop, when you have at least two topics that deal with issues largely targeting or involving women on the regional roundup – get at least one woman in there? It’s a matter of offering different perspectives and keeping you guys in check with all the pajama jokes (aren’t we glad that no one has had to imagine Marc Dann in pajamas?).
UPDATE: I’ve received word from WCPN that a woman was among their first choices for this week’s panel, but she chose not to participate. I’m told that they’ll “keep trying.” I’m just glad they haven’t blocked my email address yet!
Okay – I’ll stop now and head to James Garbarino’s conference session called See Jane Hit: Girls and Aggression:
See Jane Hit: Girls and Aggression
This session explores the ways in which changing patterns of physical aggression in girls are related to cultural trends and increased opportunities for physically assertive behavior. Many of these changes are highly positive–for example, participation in athletics that builds self esteem and confident assertiveness—but they are occurring in the context of a socially toxic environment that links sexuality and aggression, that promotes shallow materialism at the expense of spiritual depth, and that erode positive structures of benevolent adult authority.
I’ll let everyone else see the irony in that for themselves.