Friday Puzzler: Where Are All the Female Bloggers?

By Taylor Marvin and Barbara F. Walter

Blogging on international relations is dominated by male writers. The Monkey Cage’s regular authors are entirely male, Duck of Minerva’s permanent contributors are 75 percent male, and all of Foreign Policy’s individual author-headlined blogs are written by men. A quarter of The Smoke Filled Room’s contributors are female, and while Political Violence @ a Glance was founded by two women, 65 percent of our listed contributors are male. These numbers are especially puzzling given that the majority of students majoring in international relations and a majority of students in professional schools of international affairs are female.

So today’s puzzler is this: Why are the leading voices of the IR blogosphere male? Or, to put it another way, why are so few women represented in the big blogs covering IR?

  1. This was a subject at the last IPSI workshop (which introduced me to this blog, incidentally….) brought up by the authors of the monkey cage and crooked timber who cautioned female bloggers to be prepared that when women do blog, the critiques take on a particularly gender specific, sometimes violent slant. Another observation that was raised is that blogging is a form of self-promotion that women have been socialized to avoid. Women offer their opinion or assume authority. Women wait to be asked and even then; nice girls aren’t opinionated now aren’t they?

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Students of IR may be mostly female, but bloggers are professionals/academics. Most IR academics are male – according to TRIP survey only 30% of IR scholars in the US are female. Therefore, in the pool of potential bloggers, female bloggers do not seem underrepresented. Or you could say the reason they are underrepresented in the blogosphere is the same as what hinders them in the academia in general.

  3. In the recent TRIP survey of IR professionals, about 70 percent of the respondents answered that they were male (69 per cent, to be precise; p. 21). Although this is a survey and not an objective head count of gender percentages in IR, this pretty much reveals that IR at the professional level is still a very male-dominated discipline.

    Given that almost all of the blogs you mentioned are run by IR professionals (=professors, researchers, post-docs), and only a minority is run by students (=Smoke-filled Room), it is very likely that the lack of female IR bloggers is simply a function of the lack of female IR professionals.

    So, the problem doesn’t seem to be found in blogging, but in the hiring practices (and their legacy) of the IR profession more widely.

  4. The Magazine pondered something similar on a few months ago: why were article pitches 90+% from men? (

    “Several women noted that they thought writing for The Magazine was invitation only, which it was pre-launch when Marco asked people he knew to contribute. However, we’ve had hundreds of pitches since, leading me to wonder why women felt it was an exclusive club and men did not.”

  5. As a young female academic with a Masters in International Affairs, as well as a family, it seems to me that this question fits into the larger discussion that has been occurring re: women “having it all”. It is incredibly exhausting to meet personal, familial, and professional obligations (and by no means in that order), while trying to self-promote through academic articles and social media. Adding blogging, which requires far more time and thoughtful analysis than the 140-character Twitter quips that constitute my daily engagement with the field, is just overwhelming. I think that in general, the fear of failure/not being ‘good enough’ limits the scope of what women participate in, and in IR/IA blogging especially, where the propensity is to battle to the ideological death, it is very difficult to stick your neck out there without the ability to be 100% confident in what you are saying, and having the time to defend that position. And for most women in this field, I think that is sadly an unrealistic goal, and thus it is easier to not bother participating than to be unable to devote the requite time and energy.

  6. Blogging within the IR realm is an extraneous medium through which academics can showcase themselves and their work. I think the lack of women participation reflects the problem that women do not self-promote as much as their male counterparts. As discussed by Sheryl Sandberg, when congratulated on a successful project women often contribute the work to the team or deflect the praise. They are less likely to apply or fight for promotions. So, looking at blogging as a self-promotion tool employed by academics within the already women-deficient IR field, these numbers are, unfortunately, not surprising. But, I also think that blogging provides an opportunity for budding IR academics and professionals (just like myself) to gain exposure. So, as the IR blogosphere develops, I sincerely hope that women begin to capitalize and join the discussion. Also, I just spent way too much time on this comment, thus confirming Mila’s point that women often put too much emphasis on being 100% confident with our work.

  7. By asking this question, are we assuming that the lack of female participation in blogging is a bad thing? Are we expecting women to engage in a form of discourse more suited to men?

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