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.