Crikey has been indulging in a bit of reader research of late (yes, you people fascinate us) and there’s one particular thing that continues to bug us no end.

The gender split amongst our email readership is a shameful 70/30. That’s 70% male, people.

Keep in mind the website could be a whole different kettle of girl fish, we don’t know, but we know that comments are predominantly from men. Crikey has occasionally been accused of being too blokey, but in house, around the editorial table, the gender split is a perfect 50/50.

University interns tend to be predominantly female (we hear that ladies regularly top their university class these days) and interestingly, the work experience kids are always boys. Actually, the scales were tipped as of this morning when Mick, our new subeditor, joined the team (hello, Mick.) He wears cowboy boots.

Besides, it was generally agreed around the editorial meeting table this morning that the men in here are “reconstructed.” That is, they bake, they talk about jasmine, they wear rainbow stripey socks, they make pots of tea, they play mixed netball, they are very caring and sensitive to their own girlfriends, wives, daughters and sisters, but they still like footy and wrestling and dogs.

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.” Our production editor Leigh is probably the most traditionally blokey of all the men here. He threatened to sue if that wasn’t pointed out.

In short, the men in here defy description. But blokey would not be it.

But despite that, occasionally women have accused Crikey of being too macho, and complained that there are no female voices, to which the four females around the editorial table have replied, “what are we, chopped liver?”

So it seems there’s hurt feelings on all sides.

Especially after reading studies that contend that women’s online presence is beginning to outstrip men. Studies like this one that report that 42 million US women use social media and that women worldwide really, really like reading blogs.

So what’s going on here? True, the majority of Crikey‘s outside contributors are men, but is the content really that blokey?

Yesterday on twitter editor Jonathan Green asked:

@GreenJ: serious question: why don’t women (proportionally the unbalance is weird) subscribe to crikey?

Crikey received some very interesting responses, and in the process triggered a debate about the gender imbalance across the spectrum of political discussion:

@GreenJ because we’re too busy shopping and cleaning and slaving away in the kitchen

@GreenJ (seriously though i’m just cheap, but i do enjoy the site)

@GreenJ how many accounts are shared under the husband’s subscription?

@GreenJ On a serious note, if you look around the political blogs, the ratio of male to female comments is about 4 to 1 at best.

@GreenJ do they have computers in kitchens now then?

@GreenJ Printed word politics seems to be a mostly male affair for some reason.

@GreenJ My partner claims she doesn’t have time to read it. Generally, women disproportionately do housework as well as paid work.

@GreenJ Apparently blog users are overwhelmingly male. Maybe Crikey appeals to same users?

@GreenJ because there are fewer of them in politics and commerce?

RT @JohnGunders @GreenJ My partner claims she doesn’t have time to read it. Women disproportionately do housework as well as paid work.

@GreenJ it’s a gender imbalance evident throughout all the industries that flitter around politics – and on all sides – it’s not just print

@GreenJ magazine / journal buying habits, age group, online habits

@GreenJ for example, it would be interesting to see if same pattern existed with , say, tha monthly. And no, I’m not being funny

@GreenJ maybe women in general don’t care about political minutiae or are less likely to waste an hour of employers time reading it.

@GreenJ maybe men are over subscribed?

@GreenJ I don’t think a single one of my regular commenters is female.

@GreenJ Do you know what percentage of subscriptions are paid for by commercially as opposed to privately?

@GreenJ @piawaugh subscribes (for her new job), but finds it hard to read piecemeal due to weird/non-indicative article titles

@GreenJ but then, she’d probably prefer email reminder + summary -> read on the web

@GreenJ U need to dedicate a good ½ hr at least to the Daily Mail — male middle management is more likely to spend lunch in front of a PC

@GreenJ The stories in the recent squatter emails seem to be 100% male contributors. That may influence some people, I don’t know?

@GreenJ *sometimes* feels that headlines / carousel gags have overly male sensibility or humour

@GreenJ and totally from my POV, there aren’t that many female voices or bylines (despite the editorial team being substantially female)

@GreenJ Of the 68% of our newsletter subscribers who state their sex, 63% say they are male

@jg_rat @GreenJ Among online Oz adults, most activities beyond browsing/search/email skew male. Using social networks is a notable exception

@greenj Beloved Crikey is predominantly written by men. Female viewpoint might make it more interesting for us?

@GreenJ How many women do you know who even say “Crikey!”?

@GreenJ maybe because we like our news for free?

@GreenJ What’s the proportion of women who read broadsheets for current affairs, or women working in news media? Similar to your femme subs?

Mr Possum Comitatus put the call out for female bloggers on his Pollytics blog:

…the ratio of male to female comments here ranges between about 4 to 1 on a good day, through to 10 to 1 depending on the topic.

Pollbludger is similar.

Over at Catallaxy it’s nearly all male, Tallyroom is nearly all male — the only place on the Australian political net where the gender balance seems to be a little more equal is with some threads at Larvatus Prodeo.

So the big question is “Why?”

…where are the dedicated Australian political bloggers of the likes of Wonkette or Pandagon that we see in the US?

Lisa Gunders responded to the question on The Memes of Production:

…I will admit at the outset that what I am about to say does not apply to all women, any more than what I may say or imply about men does not apply to all men, but it does apply to large numbers of us. I also acknowledge that there are many women who do blog and do cover politics, as the responses to Pollytics’ posting showed, but for the moment, let’s put that aspect aside.

Time is a major factor. Why aren’t we reading Crikey and blogging? Because women are still carrying the major load in terms of housework and the relational work required to keep a household running these days. Much of this work isn’t recognised and is so piecemeal that it chews up hours without you having anything to show for it:

Because we’re reading the school newsletter over breakfast and trying to make sure that the kids have their permission slips and money for school excursions as we try to get out the door to go to work. Because we use our morning tea or lunch breaks to pay bills or make dental appointments (or ensure that others remember to). Because when we get home we’re cooking and making lunches and ironing uniforms and helping with homework and paying bills online and reading “fine print” on contracts and reading the local freebie paper because, even though it is frequently appalling journalism, at least it tells you which local roads are closed and when services are closing and when to put your rubbish on the kerb. We’re co-ordinating the family’s activities and making sure everyone gets where they have to be on time and trying to keep all of this in our heads.

Because when we finally collapse at the weekend we’re making sure that the washing is done and our parents are still alive and our in-laws know that we haven’t forgotten them and the neighbours still know we exist. We’re organising food and get-togethers because “we never see our friends any more.” We’re arranging holidays and weekends away because “we really need a break.”

Many older men just haven’t been socialised to pay attention to these sorts of things. For the most part, it is not deliberate neglect of maliciousness; most older women have been socialised into it. Maybe the younger generations will be different.

We want more talk on this. And we’re thinking of starting a political blog written by women, for everyone.

So email [email protected], comment on the website, give it to us straight. Crikey wants to pull more chicks, tell us how.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW