Are Male Bloggers in it For the Women? Revisiting the Blogosphere Gender Gap:

There has been a lot of debate over the issue of why there are so many more male political bloggers than female ones. Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit has his own explanation:

Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action, in the hopes of attracting women. It's true, of course that blogging is a relatively ineffective way of doing that — but so are many other ways this urge manifests itself, like extreme Star Trek fandom. The point is the genetically programmed urge, which isn't programmed into women in the same manner.

I don't doubt that men (at least heterosexual ones) have a strong genetic drive to attract the attention of women. I'm a bit more skeptical, however, of the claim that this explains the predominance of male political bloggers. Looking at the demographics of political blog readers some 72 percent to 80 percent of them are men themselves. Since political blogging reaches an overwhelmingly male audience, it probably isn't a very efficient way to attract women. It may not be quite as irrational a dating strategy as trying to attract women through "extreme Star Trek fandom," but it's probably less effective than checking out to Ladies' Night at the local bar. If you spend a lot of time blogging, you probably could have devoted that time to other activities where meeting women would be more likely.

What then explains the prevalence of male political bloggers? Many factors may be involved. But one crucial one is probably the fact that women generally have a lower average level of interest in politics than men. The gender gap in political blogging is just one of many manifestations of the broader gender gap in political engagement.

Numerous studies show that women on average pay less attention to politics and have lower levels of political knowledge than men do. I summarize some of the data in Part VI of this 2004 article. In the blog context, it is telling that men are the overwhelming majority of blog readers, as well as bloggers themselves. While it's at least superficially plausible to believe that male bloggers are trying to attract the attention of women, it's hard to argue that this is true of the readers.

The causes of this gender gap in political engagement are complex. It is not that women are dumber than men or less academically inclined. To the contrary, women now have higher average levels of academic achievement than men do, which is why women now account for some 55% of college freshmen, and many college administrators are worried that they can't find enough qualified men to maintain an even gender ratio.

Presumably, part of the gender gap is due to lingering effects of the traditional sexist view that politics is an exclusively "masculine" sphere. At the same time, however, it is striking that the gender gap in political knowledge has not diminished much over the last forty years despite the rise of feminism and other social changes that have weakened the grip of traditional sexism. Persistent sexism is surely a piece of the puzzle, but probably not the only piece.