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Of ‘boring’ women and our interests

Posted: March 29, 2011

As women who write on issues that matter to us, we have talked about relationships, glass ceiling in the workplace, expectations at home that make it difficult for women to perform equal to men and the evident absence of equal participation of women in politics and men in household activities. In many spaces, the issues that women face stem from the very fact that the base line was unequal. However, the inequality of opportunities and spaces, has decreased in many of our lives, especially some of us who have the independence of a job, have partners who respect that space and have been exposed to what we may name as women s rights. (I am not discounting that even today there are some internalized social roles and expectations which pose as problems for us also) But things are definitely better than where we started from.

So, for the sake of this post, I assume that many of us are in positions of equal status in family and work. I am inspired to write this post, based on a discussion with a male friend. He likes to tease me with extremely provocative statements, especially when it comes to women s issues. However, those discussions do help me articulate my own thoughts on those issues. This time, our discussion revolved around knowledge. Women are boring , he started! The only topics women can talk about are, Personal reflections and introspection on their lives, women s issues, children and relationship stuff

He had succeeded in irritating me. But then, these provocations did end up in a far saner conversation, when we started looking at some of the women bloggers. In my blog roll, most of the women bloggers write about personal reflections, including me. They are in my blog roll because I enjoy reading them. However, it was true that I found it difficult to find women bloggers who followed politics, technology or movies with as much passion as they wrote about women s issues or their own lives. I wonder why? In this discussion we keep aside all the professional women intellectuals like Romila Thapar, Jayati Ghosh, Sevanti Ninan etc who write about other issues. I also know of women writers in Malayalam who write humour really well Chandramathi and Sreebala Menon. In this discussion we are not talking about professional writers but amateurs like you and me.

Among male bloggers, I have examples of several bloggers who passionately follow politics, movies and technology. My blog roll is biased towards Kerala, but I take these examples only to demonstrate what I see as a visible gendered knowledge discourse. I would love to be proved wrong.

For instance,

  • Tvmtalkies, a blogger friend writes about politics, movies and poetry. He also writes personal reflections, at times. But he is known for his political analysis and his own unique sense of humour.
  • ReadersWords is a blogger who writes about books and poetry and personally for me, has helped me rethink my political ideologies.
  • Scorpio Genius is another blogger who writes about political issues and about Kerala.
  • Tvmrising is a blog on infrastructural development issues in the city of Trivandrum.
  • One of the funniest movie reviews that I have read, comes from The Vigil Idiot
  • At the Edge is an equally interesting blog that takes us back to retro space about tv, movies and events.

There are a few women bloggers who do write on different topics:

  • Silverine s poomanam is known for its humour.
  • Our own Indiequill is a pleasure to read when it comes to movies, also spiced up with a lot of humour.
  • Sreeja s blog revolves around technology, marketing and entrepreneurship.
  • The EvilHRLady is known for her posts on HR issues in the corporate world.
  • Apu s own blog was a space I used to wander around for book reviews.

Of course, the above is a small sample of blogs and people I know and related to topics that interest me. That is no sample to make a generalization that this post is making. Therefore, I did a small exercise. I checked out India Blogs which has categorized blogs into different themes. You may argue that there are more bloggers out there, but atleast, India Blogs was not created to do this kind of a differentiation and therefore, I think would be good enough as a random sample of bloggers.

The exercise demonstrated a trend. See it for yourself. From their list, I have taken the number of blogs which are written by men and women. (A third group consists of blogs which are not written by a single person). Its not perfect, but certainly gives a trend.

indian blogosphere by gender

Food and Parenting blogs was a clear women s space and Personal blogs had 75% women authors. Similarly, Technology blogs, Internet based blogs and Management blogs were typical male spaces. Blogs based on political and social issues had 75% male authors. Out of the 30 topic categories, only 6 topics had a majority of women authors with two topics with equal representation. As much as I hate to admit it, the trend seems to be in line with what my friend complained about. Women seemed to be writing about a narrow set of topics. This sample is interesting to me, because I presume that many of us would have got similar education compared to our male counterparts and yet we seem to be comfortable in a limited knowledge space. This includes me.

I don t mean to say that what we write about has no value. As you might have noticed, very few men write about gender/women s issues. So, if we don t talk about it, who will? In fact, I was a little uncomfortable with a tag named My Sins against gender stereotypes , especially when some posts displayed a tone which looked down on women who loved make up, fashion or the colour pink. At the same time, the tag also brought out that in many homes, women were more interested in financial investments than their male partners unlike what was usually believed. I don t think that all women should turn into men. If most women like some things and like to write or talk about it, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I will continue to write personal reflections in my blog and I am proud that I have the ability to express my emotions unlike many of my male friends. And yes we do need to talk about our issues.

However, I would be a little concerned if our topics of interest are narrow, because it would mean that our world view is limited. My own personal experience with respect to my interest areas and topics of discussions, in my blog and in person, is quite close to this trend. When I spend time with my girl friends, we tend to discuss our personal lives more often than anything else although, I have to admit, talking to my friends is a stress buster. Politics takes very little time in our discussions. Technology is a utility mechanism and we talk about it, to perform a function. We do talk about movies, although, many of us write less about it. Of course, I don t talk sports 😉 We do talk a lot about women s issues, mostly because our own personal lives are manifestations of those issues. So, I do wonder, in spite of being equally educated as many of my classmates, why am I not passionate about so many other things, which matter to this world? I would like to hear your comments. In my own blog, I may have written a few posts on politics, sports and technology but you do get what I mean, right? I am not passionate enough to follow the intricacies of those issues, is the point. If you have a blog in which you passionately follow any of these supposedly, male spaces, do let us know. As I told you, I would love to be proved wrong.

Preethi is currently pursuing her Graduate Studies in Sociology in Purdue University in the US.

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  1. That women are boring is certainly a stereotype and like all stereotypes, grounded in statistical evidence, whether we like it or not. On my personal blog, no longer in public domain, I did on occasion write about food. But I mostly wrote about politics (a lot), society, culture (anthropological views mostly) and travel. I also for several years wrote a multidisciplinary blog that parsed the science behind obesity. On my work blog, I write about strategy, investment and regulation. Most non-desi male readers have been shocked to find I am not a guy (which actually confirms the stereotype about women, and that is it held widely, not just amongst Indians).

    All I can say is your male friend needs to get out more. If most women are boring, nearly all men are boring and unidimensional. It is not for nothing that we describe an interesting man as being in touch with his “feminine side”.

  2. Oh and I do write a separate blog on book reviews too where my reading is not about chick-lit or other stereotypical categories associated with women. In fact I read no fiction at all.

  3. Interesting what Shefaly above says; while it may be a stereotype, since it doesn’t reflect changes, it is not entirely basis.

    What I would question is the assumption that family, relationships, food by themselves are boring. Of course – you’ve acknowledged that and yet – somewhere – why doesn’t the conversation go the other way around – that men are not taking up issues like family, food, domestic issues and “restricting” themselves to politics, technology or sport? 🙂

    Is there somewhere a judgement about what a world view ought to be like?

  4. baseless, I meant!

  5. @shefali: nice to hear about your blog. And of course, to hear that you write about a wide range of topics is heartening to hear.

    @Ritika and Shefali: While the title does take the idea of ‘boring’ women, lets not get stuck with that. As my friend intended, its only being used to be a provocation. Ritika, so there is no judgment that parenting, family etc is boring. I am only concerned about the diversity of topics women seem to be interested in. Yes, men also need to take up topics which are considered foreign to them.
    And most importantly, the purpose of this post is not to get defensive. I am only wondering about my own world view, if it is indeed narrow and if many of you also feel the same, lets share that too.

    • Oh no – I didn’t mean at all that you are “judging” – what I meant is, in general, do we assume that the outer sphere is more important than the inner one? cos we rarely hear about men’s lack of interest in the home/personal sphere.

      Totally agree as far as diversity is concerned – it is obviously enriching for any individual to draw from different areas rather than just a few.

      And – two blogs by Indian women in different areas –

      Travel – http://indsight.orhttp://traveholic.wordpress.com/

      Photography/adventure –

  6. oops, sorry, I think I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today 🙁

    That first link shd be http://traveholic.wordpress.com/

  7. I think it is also about dimensions to one’s life. Women have several dimensions. Personally, writing about work is unnecessary to me. It happens enough in that space. While I totally take the point that women should get out of their comfort zones, that needs to apply to everyone.

    What would a women CEO write about that is any different from her male counterpart? If anything, the pressure’s on her to not be very out there with women’s issues, being one of the club and all that. Gadgets, technology and sports are interests for a lot of guys. So they talk about them. It is high time men start writing about parenting and personal reflections – makes for a more rounded individuals.

  8. yes, I agree, although I know some male blogger writing about cooking or parenting but they are exceptions. I have noticed among kids age 6-11 boys and girls have very different interests, either guided due to peer pressure or social set up. I have noticed boys at age 6-7 are very much data oriented, they memorise the names of dinosaurs, planets, sport persons, capitals of countries, girls on the other hand feel comfortable in the company of fairies, princesses, story books, more qualitative things. So gender issues remains only thing is if a boy want to learn about princess he should be allowed to do that and if a girl get excited by data she should be enable to do that. And above all I think we should get more mixed up, I admit in my blog roll I have most of the blogs from Indian women but then those are the topics I like to read about!

  9. agreed @ Sangitha, comfort zone there is and differences in women are the various sizes of the comfort zone. Its sowewhat defined on how much they explore and claim as their own zone.
    to make it simple, lets not think about now the 21st century with a million topics to muddle your thoughts and think about cavemen. Women would have only talked about food, progeny among themseleves and not bothered if it was interesting conversation or not. Conversations may never have existed. Boring never existed.
    Its with the NOW concrete jungle we bring the word boring and women make inherent choices either to still have traits of cavemen or explore and hunt with men to feel yourself interesting..
    flipside – wouldnt you find a man who cooks interesting? 🙂 rounded as per Sangitha.
    So, yes women more you read and broaden your horizons with topics, the more interesting you can be with the other person in the same spectrum.

    • Satish, the issue is not about women being interesting or boring. I was more concerned about anyone’s point of view being more rounded, as sangitha mentions. Just as much men can write and talk about feelings, can women also think, read and talk about other topics. Actually, i still dont know, if women dont know about these topics or if they dont talk about these topics. I am not sure. Actually the post is more about their own ‘knowledge’ rather than about being interesting.

  10. I think it has something to do with the conditioning of men’s mind. They are never comfortable discussing family, parenting issues etc. with their friends. women do it on a regular basis because it somehow seems to be alright to bring up these issues and discuss them. The same mindset translates into the blog-sphere. But I was surprised that environmental issues do not concern women. I bring it up quite often in my workplace and my colleagues and students do pitch in. so I think I’ll begin by asking myself why I don’t bring it up more often in my posts although I do refer to these at times.

  11. I’m amazed actually that such few women are listed for film/movie blogging. I blog about books and movies (mostly Hindi, and some English/other languages) and I read many female-written movie blogs (although most are not Indian). I agree with the Book-blogger thing though – all the book blogs I read are female-written – they probably have the market cornered as far as as fiction is concerned.
    I think social conditioning plays into this a great deal, along with the practicalities of life; you blog about what you do/what you’re involved with on a day-to-day basis.

    • “you blog about what you do/what you’re involved with on a day-to-day basis.” – so agree with this. when parenting/ domestic work starts becoming a BIG part of men’s lives (in terms of hours spent each day/ primary responsibility), they’ll start blogging about it too 🙂

  12. @Preethi,adding to my last comment – ‘So, yes women more you read and broaden your horizons with topics, the more interesting you can be with the other person in the same spectrum AND to yourself’
    Only if you are passionate and interested/interesting to converse or gain would you gain knowledge.They are related in ways.
    There are women who have gained that knowledge , driven by passion and by being interested and some who choose not to inherently.

  13. The article might be true. I’ve found that whenever women (esp. married ones) get together, the topic is on family, food and child rearing. I do not have any kids and I find the topic of child rearing quite boring. But whenever I sit with men to discuss philosophy or career topics, I am shooed off by my husband to go and mingle with other women!!
    While I agree that women need to broaden their horizons, I also think that men should encourage (or atleast not discourage) that interest.
    Also my friend blogs a lot on religion. She rarely blogs on personal stuff.

    • @Jyothsna – infuriating, isn’t it – the ‘go mingle with the women’ bit – I’ve found it at parties too, that some men will not be comfortable unless their wives are away in the ‘ladies group’. perhaps you could share your friend’s religion blog.

    • Seriously, I also imagine these family get together at people’s homes with the men sitting in the living room chatting in a group and with the women chatting separately near the table…. happens in my family too 🙁

    • Or rather, women standing and chatting in kitchen (helping the host cook)!! And I live in Canada. Most would think one will broaden one’s horizons if you live in North America!!

    • If the kitchen is big enough, _everyone_ regardless of gender congregates there. Nobody likes to leave an interesting conversation just to get a chilled drink or to top up snacks. Design often changes behaviour; kitchens aren’t just cooking spaces anymore, they are living spaces.

      On gender segregation, if it infuriates you, don’t fall in line. It really is that simple. I rarely join a group based on my gender, even at dinner parties. I have seen that my soi-disant renegade act encourages others – both men and women – to pick their own stand-around-and-chat group based on interest and not gender.

  14. I have a slightly different take on blogging. I started blogging when I took early retirement from my job, at 55, for some very personal reasons having to do with elder care. And my focus keep changing now, depending on what happens around me. I blog on just about anything because thats what interests me. You see, different things interest different people , and this changes with age. The environment you grow up in, at that age, decides on your interests.

    I dont think one should take hints from statistical analyses of stuff . Blogging is a very personal thing, in , that, I am free to write whatever is important to me. And I could be an industry professional writing about, say, toilet training of babies, or a chap writing about omelettes, or an elder person writing about marathons or whatever.

    At the same time, its OK for women to immerse themselves in womens issues, or even attack male bastions. People change , and this change should happen naturally, as a function of their environment and not because someone expects them to behave in a particular way.

  15. @suranga, this is where I differ. The post was about sharing a knowledge space. Blogs are one example of that space. My own understanding is that, the overall trend of blogs mirrors the space that women occupy otherwise, as well.
    “Different things interest different people” Sure enough. I am not even saying that all men are passionate about all topics. But you would find that in a group of men, there is a wider variety of interest ranging across several topics. Why is it important? It is important because, knowledge is one of the first steps that defines our space in any area. How do we influence politics, if we dont know politics? How do we make technology cater to women’s needs if we dont have a say in technology. How can we make the corporate world women friendly, if we dont talk and understand marketing, strategy and so on? To say that knowledge is just another personal thing is to me, a step backwards in what women seek to achieve. Like they say, for women, personal is political – so is knowledge, is my point.

    • I find this a dangerous assumption – that we don’t talk about it does not mean we don’t know it. Besides blogging about strategy does not really get a women (or a man) an advantage in the corporate world – this is also not the space for a woman wanting to make a difference. That’s in the real world with real HR policies – there we do HAVE to speak up. Here we choose to, if we are passionate enough about it.

      FYI, there’s a blog called Motherlode at the New York Times (maintained by a woman) that marries parenting and women and HR in several posts, which has a gender neutral following, even non-parents follow it.

    • point taken! Exactly the reason why this post is up. I know that in some group forums which has men and women, i dont intervene when the discussion is about politics – the only reason being I dont know enough. When I say I dont know, it means, I dont know details of current elections like who are the candidates, what is their ideology, which, some of my own male counterparts seem to be knowing. But thats me, the reason why this post was written is to know, whether women like me do know enough to participate in such forums. Which is why, i would be glad to hear from those women, who write about other issues.

      About strategy and HR policies – well, of course, I did not mean it like an IF…THEN statement. What I mean is, knowledge is power. Understanding strategy in an organisational set up, to me, defines power. Thats all i meant. Women, who want to influence HR policies to make them women friendly, should have that power, was my point.

    • actually, I’d disagree on the bit that blogging does not give you an advantage – the most influential bloggers have all leveraged their blogs to further their careers. If those most succesful in the technology or strategy blogging areas are all men, that will reflect on their influence and their careers.

  16. The following is a blog on sanatana dharma. http://ourdharma.wordpress.com/about/

  17. I like the purpose of this post if it’s encouraging women to broaden and deepen their knowledge base. I’ve maintained that as women we’ve to make a constant and determined effort to upgrade our knowledge. I do meet many women professionals who scoff at the idea of touching their machines off-work. That’s a sad approach for so much learning (and resultantly, blogging) can happen in those hours.
    And yet, I find that our daughters are turning out to be academically strong. We need to give them a learning culture so they can continue to have that mindset in future too. If we push them into adhering to conservative models of womanhood, then we’re pulling them back. We’d have to recognize the fall-outs of this approach; more women would want to prioritise career over marriage or parenting. So be it. Why push them into cooking fabulously and then despair if that’s all they are focussed on?
    Another point: through personal reflections, however biased towards a certain genre, we’re doing something that men don’t do. We do it because we’re good at it and express our inner turmoil more effectively and honestly. That different direction of thought process is essential in workplaces as it is outside. It aids cohesion in relationships too.
    No disputing the need to broaden our horizons though…let’s resolve to keep an open mind to learning as long as we’re thinking and ticking.

  18. you know, viewed another way, this study could be used to argue the exact OPPOSITE point. Please note that the no. of men bloggers on 2 topics alone – Technology and gadgets – 63 and 32 respectively. Add that to the total and we have a vast majority of male bloggers confined to exactly 2 (very related) subjects! So whose world view is narrow?

    Men talk matches and gadgets, women talk personality, relationships and cooking.

    Where does a “narrow view” even come into this? They are 2 different focus areas. But they are not essentially narrow or wide.

    Case dismissed 🙂

  19. There – i did the maths – 26% of all male bloggers are limited to 3 topics – “broadband, new media, telecom, gadgets” , “geeks, programmers”, “technology, gadgets, software” .

    Add SEO, web designing and we are at 28%.. there is a skew all right! 🙂

    There is an even bigger skew among women. My sense is that a lot of blogs are not here.. the sample size is of course, ok, but one never knows.

    Another observation is that, what men would call “general” , women are likely to call “personal”. With that observation.. there are more women general bloggers than men.. this is a very interesting study.. thanks for taking this up!

  20. Women bloggers who write about only personal issues need not fall into the category of ‘boring’, according to me. Men/women bloggers who write about politics need not necessarily be ‘interesting’ either. It is the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ that I look for in any post. I judge the blogger by the depth of her thought and the clarity with which she can put it across.

    I stick to mostly personal posts in my blog because I know that I and only I can write it the way I write it and it is unique, guaranteed. A political opinion, for eg, carries the risk of being cliched or repetitive.

    Admit it, we are all more ready to accept the masculine in women than the`feminine side of a man (a man in pink is still a faux-pas in a typical crowd but a woman in blue is deep 🙂 ), which goes to say that the spectrum of women has scope to be wider than that of men.

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  22. your post inspired me to write my own on the issue: http://falouka.blogspot.com/2011/10/women-and-blogging.html

    as noted by others, the stats are a little skewed, so it’s not possible to make any generalizations from them. and as i noted in my post, it’s a little difficult to categorize blogs, as they tend to overlap into different categories. also, there must be thousands of blogs not listed on Indiblog..
    i’d be very interested in a genuine research into the topic though!

  23. Shantanu Bhattacharya -

    I have had the exact ‘mirror-image’ experience from Jyotsna. My wife is part of a loose mommy circle i.e. mothers of my daughter’s classmates. She gets embarrassed when I try and join them for discussions or in kids’ parties, saying that I should not be there since none of the other dads ever come, and that the other ladies might be uncomfortable. I find it fascinating – both the hands off behavior of the other dads and the ladies’ lack of comfort, if true, at my sometimes joining what is perceived as a mom-only clique.

  24. Perhaps women who have opinions about a wide range of issues don’t always have the time to blog about it? They are probably juggling the role of mother (way more work than a father, in most cases), a career woman, a friend/sister, a daughter, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a housekeeper, and someone who is interested in technology/fashion/politics/sports/arts/(fill in your “non-boring” topic) (and hence has to spend considerable time keeping up with the interest). Where would one find the time to blog about it?

  25. Hey I am a doc. and yes a female. write about medicine ,health etc..

  26. I have always felt this. Intellectuals are at a loss when it comes to enjoying time with the feminine gender. Banter and sharing personal life can last only so long. I find that I find very very few (actually none if I apply strict standards) that are true intellectuals. That is, interested in absolutely everything, from discussing technology to futurism to philosophy to psychology to anthropology to controversial issues to aphorism to vocabulary to , to advertising to ideas to human nature to geography to development of theology to the history of fashion to iconography to sexual politics, etc.

    Lets take for example vocabulary. Now there are women interested in improving their vocabulary, but because it leads to greater social or practical benefit, not because they are interested in the words themselves. That is what I’m saying, knowledge without any other objective in mind. Truth and wisdom a goal in itself.

    I find women tune out/feign interest in intellectual debate after a very short time. They need humor, wit, sarcasm, etc, emotional content. Now considering woman as a whole, you might find them interested in everything, because few women may have obscure interests of their gender, but I have met no ONE woman in my life that is interested in ALMOST EVERYTHING, the mark of intellectuals. Of course there is a heirarchy of knowledge, with philosophy and theology in the highest positions, and subjects in lesser degree as they lead to lesser understanding of the world, but only time constraints prevent the truly great minds from exploring everything.

    They lack curiosity in things not of personal or practical benefit except for a very few areas when considering the sum of topics and knowledge as a whole: Or one or two niche interests that each women may have. But the mark of the intellectual is universal interest, understanding the world, wisdom and knowledge for knowledge sake. Basically insatiable curiosity.

    Emotional interest means they are enjoyable things either naturally or sensually. Or things that relate to love (children, relationships, marriage, weddings, fashion,

    The few areas usually are:
    food (practical,
    relationships//gender issues
    social connections
    arts (not interested in analysis, just enjoyment)

    I am in medicine myself, and I find women interested in medicine, but that is because it has a practical goal for them, that is helping others, get money, good career. Not an interest in knowledge for knowledge itself. I don’t blame them, medicine is a very boring subject, because it leads to no increase in wisdom.

    Even if women are interested in a topic, it is usually emotional or personal in nature, relating personal anecdotes and how they enjoy it, rather then intellectual analysis and discussion.

    Women are boring to intellectual men is a fact.

    “There are no uninteresting subjects, only uninterested people” – Chesterton

    • Umm, very few men are interested in ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

      In fact, very few PEOPLE are interested in “absolutely everything”.

      Do not make sweeping generalisations because a counterpoint can be made to all your observations just as easily.

      People, (including women) gravitate towards things that interest them. There’s no reason to look down on the entire female gender because you have decided that they are not “true intellectuals”.

      That’s very Freudian.

    • You are a lot like Mr Causabon, in Middlemarch. He tried to unravel the “key to all knowledge” but failed, spectacularly. George Eliot was a woman and an acknowleged genius whose talent was dismissed by Herbert Spencer because she was well, a woman.

      History has been kinder to Eliot than it has been to Spencer. That should tell us something about the dangers of intellectualism for its own sake.

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  28. Women may not be exactly boring, but they are generally limited in their reading and knowledge. This is because, right from our younger days, we are persuaded to leave worldly concerns to our menfolk. Our world-our sansar- is meant to be our home, family, the kitchen! There are, of course, women who have rebelled against this. But those who do, the way I did, find themselves difficult to make conversation with the majority of women! I found it easier conversing intelligently with men, than with women -with whom I had nothing in common. Thankfully, things are changing now, with a lot of women qualifying as professionals and taking a keen interest in the world around us. Of course, it has helped that many are the daughters of rebellious mothers who fought all adversity to carve an identity for themselves.

    Yet, of course, the majority continue to be sweet, simple and dumb, with limited knowledge of the world beyond their homes and hearths. Or is it a ploy to keep their menfolk happy and secure? I wonder!

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