Is writing reflective blogs on development a girl’s thing? And if so, am I really a female blogger?

Duncan Green’s post Is blogging (or commenting on blogs) a guy thing? And if so, why? on development blogging gender disparities tackles an interesting issue with surprisingly sexist contemplations that may generate comments for the Huffington Post (where his article was also published), but really don’t take the debate forward.
Just to get two things out of the way. First, Tom Murphy would be the first person to admit that the ABBAs shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Many interesting comments have already been made as to how to improve them, but the basic question is whether it should turn into a ‘serious’ award or remain on the level of group of friends engaging with development blogging.
Second, as always on topics with very little data, one should be careful about generalisations.

Many of my favourite development bloggers are female – Saundra Schimmelpfennig, Jennifer Lentfer, Whydev (e.g. Lucy Daniel's recent post on children, education and disability), Linda Raftree, Shana Johnson, Erin Antcliffe, or Akhila Kolisetty among others - and one of the issues that combines their writing/sharing is a qualitative, reflective and self-reflexive voice that talks/shares/cares about things like professional development, qualitative insights into their work, mental well-being, feelings, personal struggles, mindfulness or creative writing/spaces. In short, just because Chris Blattman doesn’t share poems or Stuff Expat Aidworkers Like would probably make fun about ‘liking poetry/stories’ they exist and I believe they are often great starting points to think and write about development and its people differently. This is an important group and it will probably be growing given the gender distribution of development studies programs (at least 60% female in the UK), but often there contributions may not get the attention they deserve because their 'findings' are not as easily 'tweetable' as the summary of a study with numbers. But there’s a risk of stereotyping as well: So am I suggesting that female bloggers write with maternal dispositions in mind while telling stories to the children around the virtual fireplace whereas male bloggers go out into the wilderness of the Internet to hunt links and quirky quotes? No. Because if I dig a bit deeper and include ‘female bloggers’ like Ian Thorpe, Ed Carr, myself or many non-economists and political scientists who write about development topics including social learning, stories and qualitative methodologies it becomes clear that these different perceptions are not simply divides across an easy ‘male/female’ blogging universe but more fundamentally about different approaches towards change, growth and professionalism that often don’t find their way into the mainstream of development (blogging). This doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any gender biases in blogging and commenting, but it depends to some extent on your own standpoint and your beliefs as to how development should be researched, represented, challenged and approached of how much of a 'gender gap' you will be able to find and acknowledge. 

P.S.: Why not stay connected with @aidnography ?


  1. I would also argue that how people blog does not always represent something definite about their wider worldview - it's just what works for them as the part of their activities that they express via blogging. So Chris Blattman and Marc Bellemare tend more towards short links to interesting papers, Ian Thorpe and Ed Carr tend to do longer more reflexive posts. But I don't think this means the former are less reflexive than the latter as people and professionals more widely, just that their blogs have different purposes.

  2. Thanks for including me as one of your favourite female development bloggers! While I think the foray into gender stereotypes was a bit dangers, I'm happy to make the list :)
    I guess I need to start blogging again... I've had a dry spell lately, which is correlated to (or caused by? I'll have to run a study) a busy spell at work.
    Thanks again,
    p.s. I love the new "flip card" style on the site! Well, not sure if it's new - I usually use a feed-reader so I don't see these fancy things. But it's great, how do you do it??

  3. Yes, thank you for including me as well - I feel honored :) I agree that there are some sexist undertones to that post and to classifying all female bloggers a certain way. However, I do have to say that having spoken to many of my female friends about blogging and and "personal branding," most women I know don't like the idea and think having your own website is more self-promotional than they would like. I feel like there is something to this idea, and perhaps one reason women bloggers are not as "well known"? But I do agree with you that writing style is a large factor here. We can't just assume that women are more reflective and less snarky/vice versa.

  4. I think I'd agree that it is probably dependent upon time and also what the aims of your blog are. I think long, reflective posts are extremely useful but as any blogger finds, blogging is much more time consuming than people think! I try to be as reflective as possible ( but sometimes a link, resources, articles, news has to suffice.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Sadia. Just added your blog to my reading list :)! T.

    1. The fact that I'm replying to this so late is clearly a case of bad blog etiquette! But, thanks :)


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