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“Hi, I don’t usually reply, but …” Women weigh in to Crikey

Last Thursday Crikey asked: why don’t more women read Crikey ?

We’re still sifting through all the responses in our boss inbox. There’s also a very engaging, and rather civilised, conversation humming along on the website about the issue.

A lot of responses started out with “… I don’t usually write in, but …”

Some of you have been reading and we didn’t even know you were there … Some of you say you don’t have time to read Crikey , others have admitted they don’t have the confidence to speak up, many aren’t interested in on-line shouting matches.

Some of you self-censor when you do comment or write for Crikey , so as “not to appear girly.” To which we reply, what’s wrong with sounding girly?

Over at blog The Dawn Chorus, sometime Crikey contributor and editor/publisher of The Enthusiast Mel Campbell wrote:

I contribute occasionally to Crikey (and some of my writing at The Enthusiast gets picked up by their new aggregator-style website), and I feel a little embarrassed that my articles about stuff like fashion, media and advertising tend to look lightweight compared to the ins and outs of the Liberal leadership. Even though these are my professional interests, I feel worried that this kind of writing is considered “female-friendly” because, to be frank, many of my Crikey stories are deeply, gleefully silly. Although it’s come to seem that way, silliness is not “women’s interest”.

But as Mel, and many other women, have pointed out, this isn’t necessarily about subject matter:

Perhaps women are more interested in social, cultural and sexual politics — that is, real-world politics. These are not just issues directly involving women, such as sex crimes, workplace and media sexism, consumer culture and work/life balance. Instead I’d suggest that women also respond passionately and empathetically to human rights and ethical issues of all sorts, from the environment to policing tactics, health funding to drugs in sport. These are not abstract policy debates but rather humanist debates.

Crikey ’s email subscription model is also a linear method of content delivery — it’s sent out to subscribers, who can write back with comments, which are then sent out in the next issue. However, Sophie Black cites studies showing that women are heavy users of blogs and social media technologies. These are not linear but use metaphors of networks and communities. (In the past, Crikey subscribers have vehemently rejected the jocular name for the site’s community, “the Crikey Army”.)

At the heart of this is a discussion about, well, the nature of discussion — the way in which men and women (speaking very generally, mind you) have conversations.

This feeds into the tone of Crikey, the nature of online content, the mediums that appeal to women as opposed to blokes, shouting matches as opposed to civilised chats, one-upmanship as opposed to polite, forceful, suggestions.

This talk goes beyond Crikey, and can be applied to the reading (and writing) habits of women and men across the web.

Overwhelmingly, resoundingly, the general consensus seems to be that the mere presence of more female names in Crikey would help to redress the balance and would serve to engage more women with our publication.

So watch this space for a Crikey women’s blog — written by women, for everyone, — very soon. Many of you have already put your hands up for this — I’ll be in touch.

As for the second most-common refrain, if we could somehow package up a few extra hours of time to compliment your Crikey subscription, we would. Failing that, tell your significant other to call his own mum, leave the washing for another day, and get someone else to read the bedtime story to the kids while you get your Crikey time.

Yes, we know, it’s not that easy, but at least make a point of reading some of these helpful hints from women (and a few men) that have come into Crikey over the last four days. There’s a lot of them, so follow the link to our website:

On online habits:

Marina Go writes: “Hallelujah!” We women are not technical beings, mostly, although that is a gross generalisation I know. Most would have given up long before - too many steps, not enough time or desire. You should consider making it easier for people to comment. Women love to share, we are networkers, talkers, want to have a voice. Make it easy for us to share and you’ll have us in your pocket — and we will spread your words for you.

Also, it’s not just about subject matter. Approach is extremely important. You may not have noticed but most women bloggers, including myself, shoot from the heart not the hip. We share experiences and I love reading about other people’s personal experiences on a subject. The facts alone are not enough for us, nor is one person’s intellectual opinion. Make it real.

I surf the news websites every day looking for info to update me. But it’s the bloggers who grab my attention with their personal spin, whether it be about interest rates or Iraq. No need to dumb it down by sharing lowest common denominator experiences — the personal accounts need to be representative of your target audience. You don’t have to branch out into sex columns or emotional exposes just because you want to attract women either. We want the news, but we want it presented our way. And that’s why editing for women is extra tricky. We’re complex people, we know what we like, hate what we don’t and like to keep you guessing. And we should be paid lots, lots more!

Good luck with it — but I’m delighted you’re taking a step in my direction. Bring it on.

Dr Sally Young writes: I’m writing a bit on this topic at the moment so Crikey’s question is timely for me and very interesting.

It’s not just Crikey or politics blogs, it’s broadsheet newspapers, public broadcasting news, public radio, online newspapers etc. Basically anything with detailed politics content attracts less women. In surveys, women say they are less interested in politics (formal politics). There are a variety of reasons why (lack of leisure time, the fact politics is still male-dominated and very blokey, etc) and it’s not something that’s easy to address without those systemic factors changing (equal division of childcare and household work, equal representation in parliament, equal pay and career opportunities etc).

Women and men also use different media to get news — women prefer TV and interestingly, the one area I can identify where women do seem to be catching up to men is in watching public broadcasting news and current affairs — especially Insight , ABC News and The 7:30 Report . But this seems to be at least partly because men are watching less TV and using the internet more so women are coming to constitute a greater portion of the TV audience — including the “serious” TV audience. In newspapers, The Age and Canberra Times also do pretty well at attracting women readers.

Online it’s more difficult. In 2007, men made up more than 60% of the audience for Crikey website, ABC website, SMH, Australian and The Age online. The only “news” site I can see that has more than 50% women is ninemsn and that’s probably because if you have a hotmail email account, you go there automatically once your email closes.

More women contributing to Crikey would help. Shame there’s not a female Guy Rundle!

There’s also a theory that more visual content in news media attracts women (e.g. content that imitates the visual aspects of TV) and it’s noticeable that Crikey ’s emails are pretty text-heavy and, excuse the critique, not all that visually appealing. But there are no easy answers. Women have been excluded from formal politics for so long and it’s been presented to them as boring and out of their sphere of interest — this seems to have stuck somewhat. It’s good that Crikey ’s looking for answers though …

Moira Rayner writes: Well, we subscribe and we’re all women. So I don’t see the problem. Women do tend to get “flamed” when they contribute as women in online conversations/chats, which could be one reason. And your bylines are (exclusively?) or seem to be all chaps. Want me to write for you?

Katalin Erdosi writes: I have a Crikey subscription and I visit LP, pollytics and pollbludger daily. I consider myself quite politically engaged. I don’t know any of my female friends who do the same, actually I can’t imagine any of them even having 10 per cent of my interest! It’s just not very common for 30ish women to be into this stuff I would say.

I enjoy reading the comments on the blogs but rarely ever comment myself. Firstly its quite combative, politics is where most people choose sides and have passionate beliefs. I find a lot of the comments get very personal and attack both the commentator and their view quite viciously. This turns me off from commenting as I think I might take people rubbishing me and my beliefs badly. I think lots of women shy away from that very “robust” sort of argumentative discussion, while men enjoy it more.

Also lots of the sites are populated by people who are there all the time and as someone who spends a limited time on blogs, it’s hard to say something new as someone who has more time and knowledge has already seen it, researched it, commented on it.

And lastly (and I don’t want to insult anyone with this) but there is a fair bit of conversation about governments and politics from an era I can’t relate to i.e. Hawk, Keating etc, I just have nothing to add as I was in primary school. So in short political blogs are populated by aggressive old men who have nothing else to do/are completely slacking off at work! I actually don’t think that’s true but there might be some elements of that keeping women away.

Nicholas Carah writes: I’m interested in the article on your gender balance problems. I teach a mass media and society course and one of the studies I’ve found really useful in taking this up with students is Matthew Hindman’s The Myth of Digital Democracy (2009) which really eloquently explains and illustrates how online media is overwhelmingly white, male, and well-educated …

You mention that all your interns are female, my classes are nearly 80% female, but this hasn’t (as yet) translated to the online media world it seems. Am keen to see this debate evolve on Crikey  — I think it is an important one.

June Carter writes: I own my own business and still work 50-60 hours per week. I am in the newspaper industry (newsagent/retailer) so the politics of my industry is important to me and Crikey does it quite well. “The death of newspapers” has been blogged about for ages but as yet I am to read about it in the mainstream media so Crikey has become an important source of info for me. Unlike most men who often use their time at work on menial things (like reading crikey in someone else’s time) we women wait until the shop is closed and the work is finalized. Then we can go home and make dinner and clean up and by 8pm maybe log onto Crikey for a read of the day’s activities.

I believe in a “fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” so to that end I would not sit in front of my computer doing anything frivolous (although Crikey is not really frivolous) in front of my staff. To me, it is just like sitting down with a coffee and reading the newspaper from beginning to end and because Crikey comes out in the middle of the day I usually on send it to my home and browse through it each night. I’m actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I don’t even bother to read newspapers anymore — it always seems like yesterday’s news after Crikey.com . Keep up the good work.

S writes: I’m approaching 60. A professional woman. I’m a school principal. Independent minded, very politically aware and very interested in politics. I am an election junkie! I am married but my partner has chosen not to take my name. I have one adult child — a son. I subscribe to Crikey !!! It comes to my personal email, not our shared family one. My husband is similarly interested in politics but rarely shows any interest in Crikey.

I never ever respond to blogs. I read, think, ponder, discuss with likeminded friends but never ever respond in writing. Nor do I write letters to the editor. We also subscribe to the SMH but lately, I am more likely to read much of it online during the day and for the first time ever, don’t run for the print version on entering the house. I do open my home computer asap of an evening to read Crikey. I have noticed the deterioration in journalists’ numbers at SMH.

For me the real power and importance of online forums is the ability to follow threads and do further reading on any aspect of a discussion/debate. It is harder to do that with the MSM. In my experience, from both men and women, a smaller group are passionate about political debate. It is those people who seek any option to find information and opinion. There are many trivial response comments on blogs, that would not have been printed in letters to the editor for example.

I think all of the reasons that have been stated about women not being active in blogs — when they do get time to sit down and enjoy the computer, there is not always time to indulge. But I think there is a bigger, more powerful reason, and that is that women always understate their ability and men more often acknowledge and overstate theirs. Many studies confirm this. I think women hesitate to respond as they are not always confident that their opinion is well worth listening to in a written word.

I know a number of women bloggers. Is it the no. of women bloggers you are seeking? Or the number of women who respond on blogs? Or do you think they are the same? I don’t. I retire soon so maybe when I am home entering the next stage of my life, I will suit myself up with a number of names and blog blog blog!! Having just said that I should note that entering the world of online information, blogs and Crikey , it took some time before I could feel confident in my feelings about different authors. That is always an issue for me when reading the print media. But now, I have a level of confidence in Crikey and several online forums.

This may not be useful, but I felt compelled to respond. I actually felt a little uncomfortable last night reading Poss’ article. And I wasn’t too keen on your justification today of the women friendliness of your staff. A publication (online or other) has to stand on its merits. I for one would not have become such an avid participant in Crikey if you were alpha male. I enjoy Crikey!

On dumbing down:

Veronica writes: Why don’t women read Crikey ? I’m probably not the right person to answer that because I do read Crikey , but your readers have already pointed out a couple of issues — time and having to subscribe. The issue here is really perceived value — I used to subscribe, but stopped because I didn’t have time to read the daily mail so I felt it wasn’t good value for me. But I hasten to add that women DO NOT want Crikey-lite ! As in, don’t dumb down the content because we aren’t dumb. Think of it like a newspaper — we don’t read the paper every day but we’ll read the News Review on Saturday. Not everyone is going to be interested in Possum’s graphs & spreadsheets, but we’re interested in the key points and Possum’s conclusions.

So my suggestion is — add a subscription option that gives you a once weekly email with the best bits and access to the online subs-only content. And make sure you have some female editorial staff — the tone will always be blokey while blokes are in charge, no matter how many female writers there are.

Lorraine Leach writes: This ageing (70 years) female reads Crikey every day and has occasionally offered comments that haven’t made it to the website. FYI I promote Crikey and The Age as the only Melbourne based news mediums worth reading — the rest are too often deliberately misleading, in particular that daily dose of dedicated disinformation, the Herald Sun . Sophie Black’s excellent article provides the reasons why women are simply unable to correspond, let alone read news regularly. Keep up your excellent coverage — we desperately need responsible reporting.

On being blokey:

Clare Ellis writes: What is this, chicken for the girls, beef for the boys? It has never occurred to me that Crikey is too blokey. The only time I have ever considered gender and Crikey was during a long-running argument with my male cousin over whether First Dog was male or female (I was right).

As for posting comments, I barely have time to read the content each day, let alone post a comment; and I have better things to do with myself in the evening, quite frankly. But this doesn’t mean I’m not engaging with the content on Crikey . I could send through a “thinking of you” email once in a while, if this would help. However, I would be interested to see what tone and shape a female political blog would take. Comely, no doubt. Maybe a bit grumpy too.

But if you introduce horoscopes, I’M OUT!

Eva Cox writes: I’m more than happy to do more and have found you very receptive to what I have done in the past. However, I did wonder whether /where my stuff fitted.

It was often feminist and usually social policy and interestingly few responses were made to my items. I have often self censored by not putting something up in fear that I would outstretch the welcome for the stuff I submitted and have therefore kept my efforts to those I felt had a more general appeal. I am happy to do more, e.g. am working on a piece on equal pay trying to work out why we are currently going backwards, and Sept 1 will be equal pay day for women, when we catch up with what men earned by June 30.

I have been seething about the pissy social inclusion area which gets no attention, and the role of NGOs who are to sign a compact with their funders, lots of interesting stuff, or is it? I suppose one often feels that these ‘soft’ areas are not of general interest and these are the areas in which women predominate. And there are fewer female motor mouths than men, as we get punished/or ignored for talking too much and being pushy!

I’d like to see more women writing, particularly younger ones and we should encourage them to move into the limelight and become part of the bear pit to mix a few metaphors. It’s still not woman friendly territory out there, as criteria are still that nice/good women are more admirable than stroppy ones. Maybe we should work out better supports for difficult (outspoken)
women, both amongst women and men, because neither gender is very supportive!

In the mean time expect more from me and blog on the way…. and I recognise that more women are needed to dilute my presence if nothing else!

Sue Gilby writes: It might be tongue in cheek, but that language is half the problem, I’m an already pulled chick, only I’m more of an old boiler. I have subscribed for a few years now and sometimes I read it end to end, other times it really is too blokey and I don’t read it at all.

Also I have written articles from time to time and sent them in but obviously they don’t pass muster. That was one of the things that attracted me to Crikey in the first place, that it was open to anyone who has an articulate comment to make.

So, you coulda fooled me that you’re interested in what I think, except for subscription time when my money talks!

OK so I’ve had my gripe the fact remains that Crikey is good, (could be better by publishing my articles, but still good) and is a very much needed alternative to mainstream media and since us xxxx’s make up a little more than half of the reading population, you need us. I like the idea of a women’s blog.

I consider myself an activist in the human rights, social justice arenas and I spend many hours in front of the computer screen.

Because there are so many choices and I have only so much information absorption ability I have, over the last few years narrowed my email subscriptions down to women only groups. All the information without the testosterone!

Trust you meant it when you said you wanted to hear from me. Yours with oestrogen.

Lionel Elmore writes: I send articles from Crikey to a gang of women. I spoke with a few about subscribing to Crikey and they said it was too blokey too. It is the financial and academic pedigree I think. All the modern economic hard arse stuff that puts money first and worries about what single mothers, the handicapped, druggies and pensioners are going to cost the economy way down the list if not last.

In Crikey and across the media there is a blank when economic matters may impact the lower income sector of society — women again…

…Nursing homes that are privately run, understaffed, poorly regulated and demand pensioners entire savings and income as a bond mostly care for women. The growing opposition to and disastrous consequences of the academification of nursing — a predominantly women’s profession. On the job training meant that potential nurses got to do the real dirty jobs first — and found out whether they could handle human s — t or not day 1 — not after two years. There was never a shortage of nurses — ever — with three levels of training at least at any one time in every hospital. Now nurses “qualify” with a debt — and women suffer twice — as nurses and as the majority of elderly patients without proper care.

Across the media generally women still do not farewell. Country women are portrayed as redneck farmers wives or CWA fodder by an arrogant city media — yet the CWA is a grunty organisation I have been bloody impressed when working with them with their ability to “do politics” and stand up for and support their communities whenever required.

Women lead in revegetation organisations, nurseries and seed banks — on farm sustainability education and trying to insulate their rural communities from the assaults from the city consumers of their food that have the vote. These women rarely rate a mention and are seen as contributors to weekend media lifestyle pieces rather than able political/expert commentators on things like bushfires.

A widowed young mum living in a crappy shack set up and ran community centre which now employs people, runs things, fights for things, trains country women so they can legally sell f — king sandwiches again and so-on. The return for taxpayers from their investment in single Mums pensions — how mingy it is too — was repaid many times over as it is by tens of thousands of low income women that the media and gutless politicians like to kick rather than praise. Why are single mums with kids at school forced to work during school holidays in Australia in 2009? No media interest.

The environment issue that most concerns women when it relates to birds, plants and animals — not just the academic threats of global this that and the other — way more women than men tackle the dangerous issue of forest management from the country with forest managers. The live in the forest communities and bravely stand up to frightened timber workers manipulated by paper companies and a compliant print media written on the stuff. Women have headed up most of the major successful conservation campaigns for the last thirty years — and still do — across Australia. Other women like Jenny Barnett, who lost her life in the recent fires, worked tirelessly for the National Parks Association and had made a huge study on the tough issue of the environmental impacts of fuel reduction burning - burning that did not save her and little or nothing else on Black Saturday — an issue skirted by too many gutless well paid academics.

Jenny Warfe has been the brains behind the Blue Wedges Coalition and dedicated herself to fighting Brumby’s Channel Deepening Project since 2002 — a Premier who has her locked into potential damages claim with the threat of seeking costs from a court case that failed on the western worlds weakest environment legislation - the EPBC Act. She gets sh-t from the media — especially the ABC — and is rarely given time to talk compared to zealous government corporations — and then pilloried by suburban ABC coffee jocks because no-one has died yet from the toxic waste dump contaminating Port Phillip Bay — yet she is extremely articulate, accurate and knowledgeable. Indeed it was the majority of women from that organisation that sat through 60 days of hearings patiently and politely asked pointed intelligent questions and earned the respect from internationally respected panel members — before Brumby dumped them for pointing out the flaws of the project.

These women are smart, tough, articulate and rarely heard given free rein so the public can benefit from the experience and expertise — yet they are popular the majority of other women and men.

Women ran and organised the dozens of small organisations that the Kennet government defunded — played a prominent role in getting justice for refugees under Howard — from students and Nuns to social workers…

The media too often go to men in the same organisations or cut down many of these women because they are “not qualified”.

Women are too busy as well - as many of your correspondents pointed out — to justify subscribing to Crikey as if they are going to read it every day without it being more “hard ovaried” and “ballsy” on smaller issues. It is not just kids and housework that make these women busy but family businesses, solo in many small business yet with families and working partners, voluntary community work — especially shops and retail, doing the markets, selling takeaway food, doing house and office cleaning jobs etc.

I work with predominantly women in the bush. They are the brains we have to convince and then we do the work — they are definitely the multi taskers and relied on heavily as such when governments are acting like irresponsible arrogant teenagers — like all state governments and a too high a percentage of the feds.

If Crikey was cheaper to subscribe to in a weekly digest form — dealt with actual natural history issues like revegetation — mostly women — wildlife caring and study — mostly women — even archaeology and palaeontology of interest to most women — but was less academic middle class and less economic rationalist and championed poorer people getting screwed — which it can do better than most — I reckon you would get more women readers and more readers per say…

…When people collapse with mental health issues, families fall apart, when people die or are killed or do the killing drunk or in a drug induced haze it is most often women that pick up the pieces, take up the challenge and try to sort the mess out — regardless of age or income.

Violence against women is still an ongoing issue across all income ranges and men get off way way way way too light…

…It is not a matter of the gender of the writers — or whether JGreen is a snag or not — but the relevance of the issues raised in Crikey to women and the standing Crikey gives to leading women across all communities.

Angela Clark writes: How to attract more female subscribers?

1. Fix the gender imbalance in media/business/arts/politics/sports. If more women were in executive positions across all fields you’d also have more subscribers to Crikey .

2. Your articles are very blokey. They are smart and snide commentary pieces on Australian politics and business but they have a very male brutish edge. They revel in their superiority and in “knocking the establishment”. Some ballsy women love this style of writing but lots don’t. Women are struggling to get taken seriously in all the worlds you are exposing. And even if they know all their bosses are the lying wankers you say they are, well, it’s just depressing, on top of having to do the washing later that night. Women need uplifting. Not because they are soppy or sentimental but because they need the positive energy of something other than to be reminded that the world is run by corrupt men driven by greed and ego. “Positive” is not Crikey ’s territory, this is not your “genre”. After ripping someone apart you don’t provide a paragraph of hope, a way of reconciling the madness . You don’t even a pinprick of light, let alone the occasional beacon. In the crikey world all the dickheads are morons with a vested (conflicted) interest and perhaps that’s as it should be, that’s your credibility. You don’t exist to help us through the madness. But this is what women need, not just the “truth” but also a way to get through it’s depressing reality.

So instead of reading Crikey smart women will continue to read what others might describe as “light” or “fluff”, just because it helps them stay sane and even if they are slightly ashamed at doing so.

Helen Hosking writes: I don’t usually reply, but I also feel the need for Crikey to be less blokey. We don’t need horoscopes or gardening help, but perhaps more feminine input by good female journalists. I often glaze over by the end of reading the articles and realise I need to be more stimulated. That too could be the layout rather than the content. I’m very interested in the concept of Crikey though.

Kate Olivieri writes: I love politics. I talk about it. I write about it. Mostly to my friends, but I do occasionally blog about it. Not having a family, I don’t have that busy-in-the-home thing to keep me from reading about politics on the net, or even writing about it. I do agree that’s one reason more women aren’t hanging around Crikey  — no time.

But one other really important reason why women aren’t interested in Crikey is staring you in the face — this language:

So email boss@crikey.com.au, comment on the website, give it to us straight. Crikey wants to pull more chicks, tell us how.”

Or as Green put it, ‘we’ve considered carefully the advances of feminism over the last few decades and placed ourselves within that context, while still pulling chicks.’”

As with the behaviour of most co-dependent spouses, it is mostly flounce and theatrical suitcase packing and the occasional half-hearted suicide attempt. If you want to know what being a Liberal party leader of the Coalition is like, go out with an actress.”

Really? Not an actor? Men never flounce, do the theatrical suitcase pack or go for the occasional half-hearted suicide attempt? (Actually, I suppose they don’t — men tend to do it “properly” and go for options that are more likely to kill.)

There’s more, obviously, but you can see the pattern. In an article about asking for women’s serious political participation — wondering where it is (like it doesn’t exist because you don’t see it) — you’re using language that doesn’t take women seriously.

Don’t bother with the “ho-ho it’s just a joke” line. Of course it’s a joke, one that’s funny if I’m not in a serious environment. But insulting gendered language like that, used consciously or unconsciously, especially when you’re *saying* you want more women reading, shows that Crikey doesn’t f-cking well consistently take women seriously. Like most forms of media. You expect us to contribute and read, but you also expect us to laugh at our own perceived inferiority and the idea that Crikey is some kind of s-xual entity luring us in! Doesn’t anyone else find that extremely weird?

This article is the kind of joke that *should* be up on a feminist blog. Ever heard of http://viv.id.au/blog – hoyden about town? What about http://thehandmirror.blogspot.com ?

Where are the women? Go find them — we’re out there — and when you want us to contribute don’t beckon with one hand and give us the finger with the other.

Regards, Long-time squatter, one year subscriber who is definitely female, decidedly interested in politics, and sick of the way women are treated by the media.

Anni Gethen writes: I like Crikey , and I’m a woman. However, it is pretty much a young adult version of The Chaser  — i.e. the tone can be a bit blokey, silly and good naturedly smug — hence, appeals mostly to men. I don’t buy all that “no time because I’m doing all the housework” stuff either; women make time to read all sorts of crap.

As for pulling the chicks. I once read in Dolly magazine that it improves one’s chances of meeting a man if you hang out where they are plentiful — e.g. a heavy metal concert or at motor sport events (although ‘man quality’ as a factor was possibly not considered by Dolly ). Perhaps Crikey could pitch itself as a great place to meet intelligent witty blokes? (and have a dating site sideline).

Hanifa Deen writes: No matter how many women are on your editorial committee, your articles remain outstandingly blokey in tone and content… in fact I’d go so far as to say that Crikey sheilas who work at Crikey have been blokerizied.

I’m an author; I spend a good part of the day trying to get a quota of words done in order to meet my publisher’s deadline. I do all the usual household things plus extras like getting ready for the bushfire season, paying the bills, organising tradesmen, getting the car serviced, remembering birthdays — the things that my partner has never been “socialised” into doing.

I recently renewed my Crikey subscription (a year ago I cancelled because of the recession and hard times) only to find that I’m skipping through your contents page and, compared to a year ago, currently, there’s little tempting me to stop what I’m doing and read on. Instead, I say to myself, “Yes, I might go back and read that.” Of course I rarely do.

On priorities:

Older M writes: Really, it’s extremely fundamental. Men mostly want to plod about, poking things with sticks, considering the generality of things at the pub or in the jungle, and don’t really give a rats about nurturing the family in more than a sort of broad-sense-as-it-relates-to-their-own-ongoing-wellbeing-and reputation-vis-à-vis-jungle-status, because babies are relatively easy and accidental to make for M’s, more or less only occurring as a surprise rather around the actual time of birth.

Whereas women are often interested in nurturing the hard won fruit of their loins that they spend an increasingly uncomfortable nine months each time considering, so F’s are actually interested in sorting out the fine print of dental appointments and bills at morning tea time. M’s less so unless teeth are actually hurting them. F’s that have not spent 9mo. contemplating offspring in this manner appear to have a more theoretical attitude.

All generalisations are false, and the race goes not necessarily to the swiftest & the strongest, but that’s the way to bet. Of course there are plenty of F’s that are vital players in the games that happen outside nurturing, but your demographic is seriously skewed because of the different basic drives for genetic/mimetic reproduction; and all the theory in the world that might reasonably demand equality of opportunity isn’t going to change those fundamental patterns; they do come home when you view the issues on a population based sample rather than debating around a convivial table with bright individuals.

Crikey is not actually about an appeal to the broad masses. Your readership is skewed against high school dropouts too. Though the affairs of politics and commerce are of greater interest to stickweilding jungle plodders than dental bill examiners, nonetheless you should embrace your fans, and relax with the skewed demographic. Take it easy. The F’s that are interested in who’s who in the zoo, and what’s happening in the jungle are cheerful participants in your community and though you have a lesser proportion of them on board, size is quite irrelevant here.

They are often opinion leaders and role models among the F demographic crossing gender boundaries just as well as the striped socks wearing M mob that interest you for their broader social capacity. Revel in the quality and spare a moment for the marketing crew around the table at New Idea who would love to have a few more M’s from your demographic on their readership.

Love your work.

On don’t change a thing:

Liz Van Dort writes: I’m a woman, and a subscriber of three years-ish. Can’t think of anything that should change — I like it as it is.

A slightly warped Fannie, also known as Wendy Thomson, writes: Now you have truly upset my equilibrium. Am I a Fannie or a Freddie? I am a 73-year-old mother of five, worked hard on a farm for 30 years of my now non existing marriage, try bloody hard to come to terms with this computer, mobile phone, LCD TV and all other technical THINGS, and today, Telstra is going to charge me an additional $2.20 if I persist in paying my bills in person at the local post office instead of using BPay. Things keep on changing too fast for this old girl.

However, I do want to tell you that I am a bit of a political and current affairs nut, and now that I no longer have to be concerned with things like reading school notes etc, and my time is used quite selfishly, I am ONE FEMALE subscriber who keenly anticipates receiving Crikey every day. As to your lack of female readers, I can’t help. I am sure I have an overdose of testosterone because all my life I have been sport mad as well as my previous declared interests.

Now as the body is showing its many difficulties, and my choices of doing needlework, knitting etc are not an option, nor is charging around the tennis court, it is only the old brain that is receiving its sustenance. I thank all at Crikey for helping me. In the meantime, good luck with the new female subscribers.

Jennifer Dillon writes: 50 (mumble, mumble, mumble) something female lawyer available for conversation, companionship and fun times!

More to the point, I work (normal day about 14 hours) in my own practice, I do quite a lot of the pro bono thing, I lobby, I manage (with the greatest of respect to my partner of 35 years) the house, the family and the animals AND I do read Crikey daily. I also read some of the blog sites (Culture Mulcher, Rocky and Gawenda, for example). It’s just an additional perspective I’m not always getting elsewhere in my other daily reading, which might include The Age, The Oz, The Fin and professional journals.

However, I don’t usually feel the need to tell you I’m here — I’m not some sub-species that needs a distinctive writing style or a special section or selected female writers. I can actually just take the rough and tumble you dish up along with the rest of the readers, sort out what’s good, bad and indifferent and I’ll bring my own feminist perspective to it as well.

I think I’m pretty representative of the sort of women who form your readership and I hazard a guess that there are lots of us. However, I suspect that what might differentiate me and those like me is that you’ll only hear from me if I believe I actually have something relevant or (delusions of grandeur?) important to say. I don’t blog or tweet or whatever. I don’t have time and I don’t sort of need it …

So, just keep it up. And, keep the sharpish, investigative, alternative view going too, could you? Don’t get too sleek or self-important or BIG! Women are out there, they read you and they’ll be in touch if they think you’re straying too far from the line, believe me!

Beryce Nelson writes: Just a brief overview from a small group of over 50’s women who read Crikey from time to time.

1. Because older women who were previously vocal and very active in politics continue to have high expectations for positive social change and continue to be disappointed by the actions of politicians of all parties and persuasions at the three levels of government;

2. Because despite the higher number of younger women completing tertiary education over the past twenty five years, these numbers are still not being translated into key senior decision-making positions across the country;

3. Because the public primary and secondary education systems are now so lacking in “real” curriculum content that there is neither informed understanding of Australian politics nor knowledge of how the country is (should be) governed; and

4. Because there is no apparent career path in OZ for political and investigative journalism — most current media comment about OZ politics is superficial and focused on individuals instead of issues and policies — it is easier and cheaper!! The Fourth Estate is our bulwark against dictatorship and is being increasingly muzzled through direct intervention by overseas owners and restricted through legislation designed to “protect our freedom”.

So basically most women see through all the cow manure, stay focused on the things they really can influence in their lives and largely leave the political killing fields to the boys.

On subject matter:

Jackie French writes: Possibly — just possibly (don’t want to be accused of heresy here) just a touch too much football? And perhaps the assumption that readers will find the sight of anyone in satin hilarious?

P.S: Also bloody cricket. Men in white playing with their bat and their balls are rarely “news item no 5” for most women. Well, not that sort of bat and balls, anyhow.

Sharon Segler writes: You’ll find the answer lies somewhere between George Clooney and Brangelina. I consider myself a serious reader of news but we all need light relief! The boys will find it in your sports section , but what about the girls? I flick over to tmz & news.com to check out the celebrity gossip. I’m sure Crikey could do “the frocks” with a lot more wit and tongue in cheek humour than nine msn so how ‘bout it?

On having no time:

Leeanne Willows writes: I think the answer to Crikey ’s enquiry about how to “pull more chicks” is already in the article. Perhaps as an older(‘ish) woman I am, as Sophie suggests, ‘socialised” into paying attention to the exhaustive list of things-to-do that crowd my diary each day. My chance to skim Crikey ’s emails each day and critically select a couple of articles that most interest me amounts to just that, skimming. I wish I had more time (and energy) to read, and digest properly, more of the articles on Crikey but unless Crikey can come up with a few extra hours in my day I can’t see things changing … sorry!

On the whole though I enjoy Crikey ’s perspective of issues that interest me — largely political ones — and I find this perspective refreshing and enlightening on how issues are presented in the mainstream media.

Mary Walker writes: I’m too busy! I don’t have time. I can’t sit for an hour staring at a computer screen for my own amusement. At best, I scan the opening para and the blue list, pick a few to read and then scan them. I always read First Dog (I love you First Dog) and on Friday — Lowbottom Diaries. The rest I promise myself I’ll get back to … but I rarely do! No time! Not time!

Brigid Tancred: Reading Crikey is the highlight of my day. I admit that I am a politics junkie - for example, I can’t go anywhere on Sundays until the Insiders is over. And, unlike many of your other female correspondents, I’m a grandmother, not a mother, so I have lots of time. Perhaps you should be concentrating your efforts on older women, like me, who can remember that the issues may change but the story remains the same. Now that I’ve heard about the paucity of female participation in the various blogs I’ll make more of an effort. At the same time I’ll be striking a blow for all the invisible women over 50.

Clare Hughes writes: I subscribe. I’m a “housewife” with two pre-school aged children and previously held a professional position for one of Australia’s top five companies.

I have 20 unread Crikey emails in my inbox and that’s a priority item that I have not unsubscribed from. Eventually I’ll realise that some of these contain news that is no longer new and will delete them. Only the really lucky ones get read, even if one month out of date.

It’s a great day for me if I get to read Crikey on the day it hits my inbox. But, I’ll still keep subscribing because it makes me feel like I’m keeping in touch with the intelligentsia of the nation …!

24
  • 1
    jules
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent! I look forward to it. Already blog on The Punch but do and have read Crikey for some time now. I have to admit to being a little intimidated by the more intellectual comments as I did not go to university but at 57 years have “self-taught” myself by reading and of course using the Internet and talking to people I worked alongside when I was in the Public Service. A much more relaxed and less authoritarian form of education I reckon! (smile).

  • 2
    Greg Angelo
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I find this whole process quite patronising as I do not differentiate between women and men in terms or news or current affairs information. I don’t care whether a good article (or bad) is written by a man or woman, and I think a women only blog is a slightly patronising, unless you have a men’s blog as well which I would find quite retrograde and equally patronising.

    I smell a promotional ‘“rat” here. Is Crikey pursuing the issuing of sexism as a promotional exercise in the expectation of increasing its readership by women? I would have thought that the average Crikey reader was well beyond sexist discrimination.

  • 3
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    A female Guy Rundle (Dr Sally Young, above)? Marieke Hardy would fit the bill very nicely. I despise her politics (very similar to Guy’s, from what I can tell), but by golly she can write. Her byline has only occasionally appeared in Crikey before; I’d like to see her become a regular.

  • 4
    Jenny Morris
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Like Greg (above), I don’t distinguish between male and female writers. I subscribe to crikey because I want an alternative source of news and views on politics and related matters. I enjoy the digressions into sociology, law, even sport sometimes. I’m less interested in the straight business news, but recognise I can’t expect to read/enjoy everything in a publication.

    I am not interested in a Crikey women’s blog. I fear it could turn into the same sort of thing The Age is now serving up on Sundays in its smaller coloured mag. I no longer read it so haven’t even bothered remembering the name. The Age has made “women’s” a synonym for lightweight, frothy, self-indulgent, navel-gazing, simplistic and shallow. If I want to know how other women are coping with a) childbirth b) child-rearing c) relationships d) work-life balance etc etc, I talk to friends, read the “women’s magazines” or go to other sources. I don’t want to read about it in Crikey - that’s not why I subscribe (see above).

    If Crikey is going to put together a women’s blog, may I suggest it also puts together a men’s blog. Which begs the question what’s going to be different. If nothing, why bother?

    Oh, and I’m not intimidated about commenting. The only reason I don’t comment more often is a) I’m too busy at work; b) I don’t have anything to contribute on a particular issue; or c) my computer is blocking the comment function. I’m surprised some women feel they can’t comment, and apparently are asking for a safe harbour in which to do so. At first glance, I’m unlikely to visit, but never say never, eh?

  • 5
    Nadia David
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Screw a chick’s blog, I want more articles by chicks! I know it might sound completely contradictory, but I’m not the slightest bit interested in reading what a bunch of women have to say about a topic (I get quite enough of that at work!). I want professional female journos writing actual articles.

    Seems to me a blog is a bit of a piss-take and a cop out, Crikey. Sorry, but if you’re serious about wanting more women involved then include women in the main game, not just the side show.

    And Jenny Morris, I completely echo your thoughts about commenting. I can’t imagine why women would feel too intimidated to comment other than being flamed, which is all part of the fun really. :)

  • 6
    Mary Kozlovski
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    The idea of there being a ‘woman blog’ makes me cringe. It just reeks of tokenism.

    This debate seems to have moved from ‘why doesn’t Crikey have as many female subscribers’ into ‘Crikey doesn’t publish enough female writers’. Whether the two are correlated I can’t say, but if you’re concerned that you aren’t publishing enough material written by women on parliamentary politics or business or whatever, then commission more female writers and journalists to write for you. Although, I’m a subscriber and I personally never noticed until you brought it up.

    I think your time would be better spent making the quality in Crikey the best it can be, rather than wasting time creating a ‘woman’ blog and a ‘man’ blog. If I stop subscribing to Crikey, it’ll be because the quality of the writing drops.

  • 7
    Jenny McFarland
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I am a woman and a Crikey subscriber - and occasional writer. I also comment on Crikey articles when I know I have something pertinent to say. Nadia, being “flamed” may be OK for women who are sure of themselves and their ideas, but many women put up with entrenched disrespect for their ideas and opinions in their home and work lives, and may not have the ego resilience to want to contribute to a “robust” debate. Some things are more enjoyable to watch than join in. That said, the last robust exchange of comments I participated in on Crikey afforded me great amusement - proably for all the wrong reasons.

  • 8
    Sophie Black
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Just need to clear on a few things: launching a blog written by women would not mean we wouldn’t be endeavouring to publish more stuff by women in the email and across the website.

    And to reiterate Mary Kozlovski’s point, the consideration first and foremost is the quality and relevance of the writing, not the sex of the author. Same goes for the readers — the blog wouldn’t be written exclusively for women, it would be written in such a way that it could (and should) interest everyone.

    This blog would be launched in the name of adding yet another layer to our coverage, one that doesn’t already exist. And it’s not to say that female bloggers would all be herded into one play pen, either. Women who write about climate change for example, stay on our environment blog Rooted, etc… We’re not rounding up all the contributors who happen to have ovaries into one space to talk about… the fact that they have ovaries.

    This blog would be about covering the stuff that currently falls through the cracks here, for various reasons… We couldn’t say for sure what that is yet, it all depends on who jumps on board.

    Personally, I’ve always cringed at the idea of a ‘women’s blog.’ But the more I’ve read the feedback from our innocent little tweeted question last week, the more I’m convinced that Crikey could do with a space for this stuff. I also know that running the initial question has prompted some of the most engaging correspondence we’ve read in ages.

    And there are blogs that do this kind of thing well — The XX Factor on Slate, http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/, The Dawn Chorus, http://thedawnchorus.wordpress.com/, Jezebel, http://jezebel.com/, Wonkette http://wonkette.com/ (which is just great writing on politics with an ette on the end)….just for starters.

    What the blog won’t be is a token nod to stereotypical light, lady fluff.

    OK enough accidental euphemisms. As you were.

  • 9
    Linda Manning
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Linda Manning
    I don’t think the majority of readers are seriously interested in what women think, feel or do. It is still a man’s world. Women, if they are visible and their voices are being heard, are still only on the periphery.

    I read Crikey and love it. I seriously miss Stephen Mayne’s comments on business and economics.

    The reason why there are fewer female subscribers could be that women rarely spend money on themselves. A man, or a husband, would think nothing of spending hundreds (even thousands) of dollars on subscriptions and hobbies, but a woman and especially a wife would think twice.

    Look at the difference in size and expense of their cameras, their TV’s, cars, hobbies etc..
    A women has to spend on decorating the house, clothing the kids and giving them a holiday, and on herself and probably in that order.

    The actual subscribers may be skewed in favour of men, but a lot of those subscriptions would be read by the women in the household. In my case, I am the subscriber and my husband does not read Crikey, however I cut and paste interesting articles for him to read.

  • 10
    Elisabeth Kinnear
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Yes, more social comment please. I would like articles such as those found in the ‘Big Issue”

  • 11
    AR
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    VERBOSITY = on-line anthrax.

  • 12
    j-boy57
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Who do you think you are The Australian Club ?

  • 13
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Business and politics. More please. Male or female: I don’t mind. But leave out the social media stuff. Social policy, yeah sure, why not, but please no more social media.

  • 14
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    On a serious, and somewhat related note, can you make the daily Crikey a bit shorter please? Quality, not quantity, etc. Neither females or males have time to read 25 articles on their lunch break. Cut it down to 15 articles tops and make them good and original. No need for that aggregation stuff, we’ll survive without it — and most importantly, be able to stretch our legs!

  • 15
    lynne carolan
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I like all the political articles and opinions! I don’t agree that women do not necessarily share the same interest in the way the nation works. Please don’t go down the road of social comment, so-called ‘womens’ issues’. There are already plenty of outlets pushing those. Why not have some of the women journalists who comment on politics? The female journalists on The Insiders didn’t particularly push a woman’s perspective but they always had interesting and insightful things to say. What about Michelle Grattan?

  • 16
    Moira Smith
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to my Crikey email each day, and subscribe even tho my discount pensioner’s subscription is still fairly expensive for me. I comment often, and quite often get quoted … I’m one of those ‘letters to the editor’ nuts … but on Crikey I’m ‘Moira Smith’ whereas when I write to the Canberra Times I always sign myself ‘M A Smith’ and therefore responses sometimes cite me as ‘Mr Smith’. The thing about Crikey is that when I comment on a particular article, it’s my log-in identity (Moira Smith) that automatically registers so I think I’ve got into the habit of signing my fairly regular missives to boss@ with the same moniker. Or, I’ve persuaded myself that since it’s a subscriber-only service, it’s OK to reveal my gender when I comment.

    This convoluted, partial and clearly disingenuous explanation may illuminate for some why women either don’t subscribe to Crikey or conceal their involvement behind a husband’s/male partners subscription.

    Perhaps someone could explain it to me sometime …

  • 17
    Posted Monday, 24 August 2009 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Huge YES to the suggestion above of Marieke Hardy as a regular writer, whether as a blogger or a contributor. What a good fit for Crikey: wit, intelligence and knowledge. Hunt her down Crikey and lock her in your basement!!

  • 18
    Jenny Morris
    Posted Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Sophie, it’s still not clear to me after reading your response, what this ‘women’s blog’ is going to do, or be about, or why it’s necessary. You say it will “add another layer” and cover things that “fall through the cracks” depending on who writes for it, but then you define it by a range of things it won’t be: not a corral for all the girl writers, not just for women, not light fluffy stuff. Double X on Salon looked pretty lightweight from what I read.

    Seems to me Crikey could address the apparent issues without risking creating a place that is perceived to be the No Idea section of Crikey. further isolating women who apparently don’t want to comment on the daily stories. These things have already been suggested: a) commission more female writers and more female lead bloggers - I think many of your blog leaders are men; and b) work out what issues you aren’t covering that you need to or want to, and include them in the daily mail or a new blog.

    If it’s a subscriber recruitment issue, that’s a matter for Crikey, of course. But please, please, please, don’t call it a women’s blog. I think that’s a retrograde step. One of your commenters refers to women reading lighter stuff and feeling guilty about it. If you want to include a different angle, a pop media blog, a family issues blog, a work-life balance blog, a health and beauty blog, be brave and call it that, and make it clear that both men and women need and/or want to read lighter stuff. Though it begs the question, then, why readers of that would subscribe to Crikey. At the risk of repeating myself, I subscribe to Crikey for politics, not recipes.

  • 19
    Posted Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear Jenny.

  • 20
    Ilona
    Posted Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The concept of a women’s blog annoys me as much as finding copies of the Monthly and Spectator in the ‘Men’s Interest’ section in newsagents.

    Crikey, don’t go down this path. Just keep listening to your readers and provide good content.

  • 21
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    The environment issue that most concerns women when it relates to birds, plants and animals — not just the academic threats of global this that and the other — way more women than men tackle the dangerous issue of forest management from the country with forest managers. The live in the forest communities and bravely stand up to frightened timber workers manipulated by paper companies and a compliant print media written on the stuff. Women have headed up most of the major successful conservation campaigns for the last thirty years — and still do — across Australia. Other women like Jenny Barnett, who lost her life in the recent fires, worked tirelessly for the National Parks Association and had made a huge study on the tough issue of the environmental impacts of fuel reduction burning - burning that did not save her and little or nothing else on Black Saturday — an issue skirted by too many gutless well paid academics.”

    Lionel Elmore wrote that (see above). I don’t know him, or anyone at Crikey or on it. But yesterday I attended a DSE meeting in the bush. Wanting answers about the new crazed policy of burning the bush in bulk. Eight women, two men. The women had battled away for decades revegetating, weeding, confronting rednecks, bureaucrats, loggers etc.

    So Elmore is right: many women resist the sick sociology of the bush, the intimidation, ostracism and marginalisation. Very few men do. Yet they remain unsung. They don’t exist in any media, except local papers. One was locally quite famous, Mary White. I came across the elderly Mary weeding the Otway foreshore one freezing day. She loooked frozen and ill, red eyes popping out of her head. I prevailed upon her to go home. A week later she was dead.

  • 22
    laura ingalls
    Posted Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    This is becoming strange.

    A special women’s blog is a crap idea. Totally tokenistic. And why keep the females in a separate pen? If you’re serious about this issue you’ve raised, you need to get more women writers on board and bring a wider variety of viewpoints and subjects to your website as a whole.

    In relation to the above comments, I see there are a lot which seem to be focusing on women’s perceived inadequacies of themselves, e.g. ‘We’re technically incompetent,’ ‘We’re more emotional than rational,’ ‘We’re too timid for robust debate,’ ‘We’re too busy with housework to participate in online communities.’

    Whaaat?

    It’s more WHO WANTS TO LISTEN TO A BUNCH OF MIDDLE AGED GUYS TALKING ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY KNOW ABOUT POLLS?

  • 23
    Carly Macoun
    Posted Wednesday, 26 August 2009 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Argh, i agree that a women’s blog is likely to do absolutely nothing to address the ‘blokeyness’ of crikey. It is offensive to think it might end up being a repository of ‘distraction’ pieces and even at best that only women are interested in serious articles about gender and feminism.

    But that’s the point isn’t it. It’s not so much a question for women of crikey to answer what needs to be done but for the men of crikey (aka, the majority of crikey’s subscribers at present) to determine if they really ARE interested in reading better coverage of women and gender.

    I’m not so sure.

    As one of the regular contributors who is not simply parachuted in to talk about their area of ‘lady business’, Helen Razer’s voice has for years been unapologetically authentic and is far too frequently met with ‘is it her time of the month’ style backlash.

    I’ve worked in politics/government and read crikey for years but have become an adament non-subscriber in the last year or so because the anti-woman, anti-feminist clangers that come up in the writing occasionally have just pissed me off so much.

    There should be no getting around the basic idea that if it’s important to women it should be important to a leading independent national news service. And certainly important enough to be front and centre in the content.

    Frankly, clean up your act and become consistent, principled and inclusive and I’ll be back in a heart beat. Waste this opportunity by doing nothing but try and cram us into a women’s blog and i’ll stay as where i am, a disappointed but resolved squatter.

  • 24
    Rebecca
    Posted Wednesday, 26 August 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I agree - in fact I think a women’s blog would make a strong statement that the rest of Crikey is for men. We need more women in the mainstream, not on the margins.

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