Female Christian bloggers: a rare breed?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

What does the apparent absence of high profile female Christian bloggers in the UK tell us?

Lesley Fellows blogged this morning about the sadly short list of them that she was aware of and it's generated some discussion throughout the day.

As is the case with political blogging, I often think it’s not so much a case of there being no female Christian bloggers, it’s that they don’t have such a high profile. I have to admit, I have struggled somewhat when trying to find them in the past and haven’t really known where to look. And in a religion which is still so patriarchal, is there any wonder? On the blog aggregator of the group of churches I was once a part of, there are 122 UK bloggers listed. 19 of them are female. I wonder if this is a natural consequence of not allowing women to hold leadership positions, seeing as so many Christian blogs are written from the point of view of being a church leader or member of the clergy.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of blogs written by conservative and fundamentalist Christian women in the USA, where blogs devoted to the conservative ideal of ‘Biblical womanhood’ (and associated topics such as homeschooling, frugal living, courtship and modest clothing) are big business – so clearly views about gender roles are no barrier to blogging and indeed, having an extremely popular site. With this not being a Christian ‘trend’ in the UK, it’s just not something you see much of this side of the pond.

It is true that Christianity-themed blogs by women seem to be few and far between but I suspect that there are a lot more which, while written by Christian women, are not ‘blogs about Christianity’. Mine is one of these and while I have written a lot of posts about my faith, the blog as a whole tends to have three strands: Christianity, feminism and media. For some people, blogging about their religion means they write about personal faith and how it affects their life and their family. For others, that means writing about the latest religious news and providing comment.

When the lists of ‘top blogs’ hit the web, it’s the latter which will feature heavily as ‘ones to watch’, but in fact there are many more of the former. I think it has to be looked at in the same way as the issue of women and political blogging – it’s not that it’s not happening, it’s that women are engaging online far more in ways which are less prominent because they will always be seen as less ‘serious’ or ‘credible’ than men, unless they happen to be an academic or renowned expert.

In a conversation on Twitter, Lesley told me that she felt it was a question of confidence and that women are often concerned about appearing to be ‘strident or opinionated or competitive’. I agree with her - and I wondered whether this might have anything to do with particular attitudes fostered in churches. I do believe that even in the most encouraging and inclusive church environments, it can be difficult for women to really step out and be confident in who they are because of certain messages given out and attitudes displayed. I think it’s a major reason why you see fewer women in roles of responsibility even in the most egalitarian of churches: deep down, there’s still a worry that putting yourself out there and being confident isn’t quite right and that remaining quietly in the background is the best place for women.

We all know the reactions that a woman with a strong and opinionated character can receive – and that they range from ‘slightly disapproving’ to ‘downright abusive’. This is highly likely to come into play if people believe that by offering opinions about scripture and doctrine, a woman is attempting to exercise spiritual authority over men - which they believe is wrong. When it comes to self-promotion and joining blogrolls, it might be the case that women do not want to open themselves up to this, especially if they see a group of blogs dominated by male voices. One of the things that's most important to me is seeing women really encouraged in their gifts by their churches and religious leaders and if this means being opinionated and confident, so be it as far as I'm concerned.

The general consensus in the comments on Lesley’s post seemed to be that women are less likely to blog for ‘status’ and rankings and more likely to blog ‘for themselves’, which might explain the lack of ‘high profile’ blogs written by women. As someone who isn’t remotely competitive I can understand this, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily a female trait, as anyone who reads a wide range of blogs written by women would tell you. There are more of us, in general, blogging and communicating online than men and competition between a great number of these blogs is fierce. Plenty of commenters also agreed with my point above that they tend to blog about a wide range of subjects and therefore would probably not be considered simply a ‘Christian blogger’.

It was really good to read Lesley’s post because it ended up providing plenty of recommendations for Christian women in the UK who blog and Tweet – which can only be a good thing. I was aware of only around half of them before reading the post, so it does show that there really are more of us out there. It is so easy for our voices to go unheard.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a rather... extrovert male, it often annoys me when women don't speak out. I was sat next to one of the more brilliant theologians I know earlier wishing that she wouldn't respond to what other people were saying under her breath but out loud.

Conversely I had a rather frank and open exchange of views with one of my close ordained women buddies via facebook. Which makes a change from us meeting up once a week to talk at each other on a par on a level playing field each vying for the next oportunity to get a word in edgeways.

I need more loud women to come and shout at me. The problem I find is that the loud opinionated well though out opinionatores I know never bothered getting into blogging. Of the many I know from college who are brilliant theologians and loud and opinionated (basically, the people I hung out with because they were interesting) they never bothered to blog.

Interesting postulation - is there a difference (broadly) in the way in which men and women see the internet as a tool?

Liz said...

I caught Lesley's blogpost earlier, but didn't get chance to comment. A couple of years ago Dave Bish did a top 10 UK Christian female bloggers list (via Technorati I think), which was interesting reading:

Personally, I think you're right. Women tend to write on a variety of topics and also are less inclined to be controversial/opinionated. I'm a British Christian female blogger, but I don't just write about my faith - in fact, most of my 'religious' posts are tongue in cheek.

I also shy away from controversy because I don't actually like getting argumentative comments - for me that's not what blogging's about. Not sure if that's a female thing or a me thing, but that's what's shaped my writing over the last 4 years!

Ruth said...

I know quite a lot of women clergy who blog but probably would be not be overly opinionated because the parish read it. So they (we) tend to blog about incidents and resources to share.

Hannah Mudge said...

changingworship, I'm glad that want to hear more from women! I really appreciate frank and open exchanges about stuff and although most people don't like 'drama', it's often so good to just have a decent debate about something.

I am the same, Liz - i don't mind if people disagree with me but i have no desire to get into long and complicated arguments which ramble on for 100 comments or something, partly because i just don't have the time to respond and get into discussion like that! It's draining. It's good to find your blog as well, btw :)

Ruth that's a really important point and one i totally forgot to take into consideration! With things the way they are now i think you do have to be careful when you have such 'standing in the community', if you like. I know that there are plenty of people out there who are very willing to start major drama over minor doctrinal differences and it's not always good for a church.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to "frank and open" that doesn't mean "vitriolic and hate filled". Disagreement is great as it opens the eyes and inspires the mind. It is in disagrement that we come closer to God as we are invited to give up more of ourselves and embrace more of The Almighty.

If we live in a world that reflects our own viewpoints we become more like ourselves and less like God.

Sig said...

Hm, not quite sure what to reply here as several of my friends - female and Christian - are blogging, but maybe they're just blogging for a smaller audience/less known in bloggoworld?

Here's a selection of the female Christian bloggers know personally (some are more interactive than others):

http://practicinghuman.wordpress.com/ (American studying in the UK)

I've met the author of Significant Truths - didn't know she was that high up on the list! :)

Glad I found your blog via Running Life (again, know her personally)

Anita Mathias said...

Hi Hannah,
Excellent, well-reasoned post. It's good to discover your blog!
Dreaming Beneath the Spires

Hannah Mudge said...

Thanks Anita :)

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Emmie M. said...

Hi there, I am in the same boat looking for fellow Christian bloggers who are women. I am relatively new to blogging myself, starting about 6 months ago. If you could give it a read that would be great! http://spreadalittlejoy.blogspot.co.uk/

Sophia said...

I've found lots of female Christian bloggers, just that a lot of them seem to talk about homemaking, homeschooling or being a "good wife" rather than about theology. Very few seem to be British though, that's much harder to find.

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