Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where Have All the Ladies Gone?

I read through a gamut of blogs on a daily basis. Blogs about theatre, blogs about my friends' lives wherever they may be, blogs about celebrity gossip. It fills the hours and distracts the mind for a few brief minutes.

A lot of times I'll run into an entry that strikes the nerves of the readers and a huge comment battle ensues. I've noticed, as of late, that it seems like only men get into the exchanges on a lot of the theatre discussions, particularly. Why is that? Why are we women backing off lately?

I can only speak for myself but I've definitely backed off from getting into philosophical discussions with the guys online. I realized it was making me emotionally weary and, at the same time, bored and irritated after a huge exchange happened last year during the run of The Skriker. So, I really forced myself away from engaging on a daily basis. I was still reading the theatre blogs, but I didn't want to join in the discussions anymore. I was also pregnant and realized that I needed to focus my attentions on becoming Clara's mom and needed to provide a calm internal environment for her to take root and grow in. To not only grow, but to thrive. By constantly bristling and getting my moods in ever present craws, I imagined that I was creating a craggly nest for my sweet girl to float in.

Once I backed off and became used to that, I realized that my comments didn't seem to aid the discussion. The talks appeared to retread the same issues and, to be quite honest, started to reek of a lot of hot air and wind. Like the air on a plane, always recycling and starting to stink a little.

I wanted to focus on my family and my life. That hasn't changed 8 months after Clara's birth. I feel that if I engage and share my energy in the sniping, in the verbal castigation and masturbation, in the pettiness of the individual's GREAT IDEA, which negates everyone else's GREAT IDEAS, then I would be doing a disservice to the loveliness of my day to day life and the wonder that greets each morning with a brand new person taking in everything for the first time.

I gotta say though, boys. I'm tired of seeing the same names and hearing the same voices day after day. I scrolled through Scott Walter's big 75 comments blog the other day and only saw one lady saying something and that was at the beginning of the comment run. Where have all the lady bloggers and commenters gone? I know they're out there reading but they're staying mum and I'm not sure why. Any ideas?


Travis Bedard said...

They're NOT really out there. There is a VERY small pool of female theatre bloggers. Nick and I were talking about it the other day I think I only came up with 10?

RebeccaZ said...

I know there's me on occasion, RVCBard, Betsy Morgan, Jessica Hutchinson, Trailing Spouse Blues, SMLois, Rebecca Coleman ... who else? Alison Croggan ...

Why do you think that is? Why aren't women commenting more?

Betsy said...

On certain blogs, I feel like the female voice is treated with a little condescension. "Well, obviously you feel that way. You're a woman." Not all, by any means. Theatre for the Future and Storefront Rebellion are two major exceptions to this, and as such, you see more women commenting and engaging. At least I feel more comfortable commenting there. Dan Granata, too. Last year he made a great series of posts on being a theatre new arrival in Chicago and I really felt it was presented in a way that encouraged discussion, rather than...head butting. I think a good debate (in a deliberative way) can be really wonderful. But you're right, hot air gets stinky after awhile. (Also: sidebar. I LOVE the new pic!)

Anonymous said...

I think this question can be simply answered by the historic difference between men and women. Women rarely engage war. ("We're too busy doing our nails.")

Travis Bedard said...

@Lizarinny - well SURE, but why are so few setting up house?

@Betsy I agree (and not just the female voice - non-combative voices in general) but why are we missing places where that discussion is welcomed? (and feel free to stop by

Chloe Veltman, Wendy Rosenfield, Marisella Torta
But I mean we're talking the enirety of the field, not commenters because most of THAT field don;t play in the comment box, I just mean women who are blogging the field in general.

I don't know why, and I don't think it's just the testosterone-ladened flame wars.

RebeccaZ said...

I'd like to do some research on female blogging mentality, truth be told, and I'll write more about what I find, if anything, that would be of interest to this discussion.

T. Bedard - Thanks for those additional names as I haven't checked them out yet.

B. Morgan - We have that lovely lady hanging up in our house and she's very captivating. =)

What makes Storefront Rebellion, Cambiare, Theatre for the Future, etc so inviting, do you think? I think a major plus is you feel that the moderators and commenters aren't using your words against you ... and there's a written "active listening" that seems to be implyed. Not as much snark.

LZ - I'm totally getting my nails done for the first time in a couple of weeks. =)

RebeccaZ said...

has lots to say about theatre and the world, too.

Nick Keenan said...

That word listening is helpful. I'm glad you said it, RZ.

They may not be commenting and posting as much, but I will say this: I am so much more likely to talk to a woman face to face about a blog entry than I am a man. Part of that is that I work in a company with a lot of women, but I don't think that's the whole story. Women are largely powering the traction we have when it comes to translating the energy of the blogs into face to face conversation and collaboration. That doesn't get recognized on the blogs, but I think it's true.

And I think Travis and I especially are in the same boat. We are two dudes who are uncomfortable with conflict (what was the word, Travis, "exhausting?") and crave community over debate. This is certainly why I've been blogging less and talking about more and more practical applications of ideas lately - I'm exhausted by theory when it's not given a chance to take root into practical application.

Other names not on this list are Jen Ellison ( and @sarahmclellan, who is alas only on twitter now due to a sensitive balance with her job - - but she's still doing a lot of that "connecting-of-ideas" work that RZ is craving. We've been talking about this issue a lot recently as well.

Did any of you Chicago folk make it to the "Women at the helm" or Women in criticism panels at GMan? Interesting stuff. Anne Filmer shared a realization that I think is shared here - that when you tend towards being a resolver of conflict, it takes a change in emotional impulse to assert the value of that impulse against more conflict- and dominance- driven impulses. We tried this before with the old "tone" debate, but the theatrosphere is still very much a hunt. I've had many fruitful conversations get abandoned (by women, too!) because everyone smelled blood in the water. Don has a point there - he knows what is interesting to people.

I think if it becomes uninteresting, we get to say that. We get to say, "when this dialogue gets into this kind of conflict, I'm excited for about 10 seconds and then that gets replaced by a feeling of boredom and disappointment as this old play for dominance is repeated ad nauseum." That honesty will be rewarded by yet more conflict and debate, but ultimately if women speak honestly and point the conversation towards an environment that is open to their ideas (in my case, practical application), more women will participate more often.

Not that I'm a woman. But for a while I often identified as a lesbian since that's who I was friends with in college. It takes all kinds of people, I suppose.

Chris Ashworth said...

My wife (finishing up nursing school) was recounting to me a clinical study she saw where the researcher put pairs of friends in a room with two chairs and videotaped how they interacted. The pairs were kids, not adults.

The female pairs would grab the chairs, pull them together, face each other, and talk, making eye contact. Their conversations often gravitated toward identifying similarities between themselves.

The male pairs would situate the chairs so they would not be seated facing each other. Their conversations often featured leap-frogging. ("My dad can throw a baseball this high. MY dad can throw a baseball THIS high. MY dad can throw a baseball to GOD!")

Whether those behaviors are innate or trained I have no idea. :)

I hope that even when the guys are head-butting that we're at least aware that we're head-butting. The thing that makes it less exhausting for me is that it seems folks have been wrestling and bashing around ideas, and not so much bashing around each other.

By way of comparison, four years ago I found myself (a rather liberal fellow) dropped into a job teaming with raging conservatives and libertarians. It was a tech job, which sadly meant it was 95% men. Needless to say, that started off years of head-butting. It could be utterly exhausting and frustrating and feel like a lot of hot air, and it was a lot of hot air much of the time. But over the long haul it became clear that we were affecting each other in the long run, even if it didn't look that way when we were flailing and frothing in a conference room. :-) Which isn't to say it isn't exhausting, but speaking for myself I feel affected in a constructive way by engaging with those guys on those comment threads. I don't think I came out the same person I was when I went in.

I would love to see it balanced out by other styles of discussions, though.

And darn it if all that hard-nosed edumacated phila-sophizin' don't make me wanna shudup and go find some purely wordless delight after awhile. :)

Chris Ashworth said...

Heh-- I wonder if there is any parallel to the classic "features vs policing" debate in the software world.

One camp encourages you to put increasingly baroque locks on your product to keep people from "stealing" it. They're focused on all the money they're "losing" from lost sales. That's one kind of problem you can solve, and one way to spend your energy.

The other camp says lost sales are an illusion--a pit of negative energy that will suck you in and keep you from working on what actually matters. The other camp says: "I've only got so much energy, and there's no shortage of opportunities to be creative. What a waste to waddle around clutching at the problems I've already solved! I don't even know if that does me any good! If I don't know, and there are so many other great things to make, hell, let's just focus on making something new." So you go and put an extremely simple constraint on the program to keep honest people honest, and then you don't think about it anymore because there are cooler things to do.

I feel like it might be related.

RebeccaZ said...

NK -

"I'm exhausted by theory when it's not given a chance to take root into practical application."

I totally agree with that statement. I also think that's part of the reason I have been veering clear from writing tons of blogs rehashing what everyone else is talking about ... I'd love to see someone DO something that's directly inspired by one of these gigantic treatises.

One great thing about the online theatrosphere is that I've become aware of people here in Chicago and elsewhere that I'd like to meet, support, work with, etc, that I probably never would have connected with if I hadn't run into them on facebook, twitter, myspace, bloggy blogs, what have you.

I didn't make it to the panel but it sounds like there were many fascinating things discussed. I haven't gotten a chance to make it out much, in general, which is another blog for another day, but it has to do with a sweet baby named Clara. =)

I also agree with the hunt aspect of the theatrosphere. I think, and this is a part of the research I've been doing online about female bloggers, that we could all benefit by exerting our own rules over our own spaces and if more people did that with their blogs, we would all be a little more "civilized." =) I have told people that I wasn't going to post their comments because they were inflammatory, derogatory, etc and I didn't want that energy on my blog. It definitely made a certain type of person stay away and shun this blog, but ... this is, ultimately, my space and if I don't want nastiness to hang around here, that's just that. We've been having a great discussion here so far and I don't think I've seen a swear word or a negative comment used. It's very nice.

Would you like a cup of tea?

And, finally ... I identified myself as a drag queen who finally hit gold there for a while. =)

RebeccaZ said...

CA - That clinical study sounds fascinating and I think it definitely relates to what we're wondering about.

"I hope that even when the guys are head-butting that we're at least aware that we're head-butting." I think the consistent head butters are well aware of their butting tendencies and kind of get a thrill out of leading the unsuspected commenter or blogger into a situation and then *BAM!* butting their heads into them. We should put them in their own little enclosure with a mountain to climb and cans to chew. They can ram heads to their hearts content and we can just sit and watch them and feed them pellets when they've gotten it out of their systems. Heh.

You said that you once worked with lots of men ... have you ever worked with primarily women? If so, what was that like compared to the guys?

"Purely wordless delight" I love that phrase.

Paul Rekk said...

As what would probably be considered one of the head-butters, if not necessarily one of the most rabid, I do wonder how much of it might be nature rather than nuture.

I've long preferred empassioned debate (and empassioned brainstorming) over the less frenetic situations. Personal preference, I guess. But I can tell you that the joy -- for moi, at least -- comes purely from the thrill of the interplay of ideas, and has zero to do with the thought of blindsiding any unsuspecting customers.

I think everyone does a pretty good job of exerting their own blog rules -- I read Nick and Kris' blogs as regularly as Don and Scott's, but I comment less because they've created a different environment. I appreciate all, but am very willing to participate in the back and forth that Don and Scott foster when it's an idea that strikes me. And, even more incidentally, my blog rarely encounters discussion of any sort. And reflecting on that, it would seem to be because I rarely create the environment for any, much less ask for it.

Already long story short, I think the idea that anyone is out to get anyone else is suspect. We all have different ways of engaging in the transfer of ideas. There appears to be a large natural divide in how that happens among women vs. men, but there are a number of subsets within and aside from that as well.

RebeccaZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RebeccaZ said...

PR - Your engagement, while right to the point with an eye opening honesty, rarely crosses into personal or generalized attacks and is remains civilized even when you're going all out at your opponent. From my perspective anyway.

"And, even more incidentally, my blog rarely encounters discussion of any sort. And reflecting on that, it would seem to be because I rarely create the environment for any, much less ask for it."

Why is that, do you think?

Scott Walters said...

I'm late to this particular discussion, for which I apologize. While my blog is the focus of this post, I would also say that such controversy exhausts me, too. However, it also leads to clarity. I attribute my ability to write a clear, focused NEA grant that was funded to the discussions on my blog that forced me to express in words what had only been unformed feelings before.

I think if you look at your original post, and many of the comments both male and female, you'll see that you are bashing as well, just in a more genteel way, and in a way that is focused on agreement concerning a "common enemy" (those darned loud, uncouth men). My experience is that some men (myself included) tend to use more blunt objects, whereas some women (and some men) use sharper slicing instruments. But the blood is spilled nonetheless.

RebeccaZ said...

Scott - I think some of the conversations can be enlightening and memorable, don't get me wrong. And I've certainly gotten rankled and riled up in the past, to be sure.

Congratulations on your grant! I wasn't sure if that was an April Fool's joke, so I'm glad to hear that it's the real thing!

I think what I would like to know, regardless of gushing geisers or scalpled trickles of blood, is why women stay away from the discussions. Even this one right now ... the ladies started talking then the guys started talking and now the ladies aren't talking. Except me. But, I'm a talker. I can't tell you how many times I had to stay after school for talking out of turn and often for talking without tact. Never learned my lesson, I guess.

But, maybe my answer lays in my pondering ... does it have to do with tact? Speaking out of turn? Not speaking out of turn?

Chris Ashworth said...

" Even this one right now ... the ladies started talking then the guys started talking and now the ladies aren't talking."

I was wondering that too....

"You said that you once worked with lots of men ... have you ever worked with primarily women? If so, what was that like compared to the guys?"

I've tended to be a guy-girl in the rest of life, finding it much easier to make friendships with women. Not sure how to compare them, though.

The questions you have sprinkled through the comments remind me that one trend seems to be that women have a tendency to ask questions that don't have a right or wrong answer but open up the discourse, whereas men have a tendency to lay down declarative sentences that can be refuted or buttressed. (Case in point.) "Chris is possibly making shit up" alarm is now going off in my's way too easy to paint the sexes with casual observations that may or may not have any basis in reality. Selective perception and all that. So I should probably at this point take the advice to talk less and listen more.

Would there be value in creating a forum for women's voices only? (The men could read, but only the women could write?) If only as an experiment?

Chris Ashworth said... think the proper formulation is "girl-guy", rather than "guy-girl". Hmm. I wonder if that's freudian.

Betsy said...

Okay, you're completely right. I just started reading rather than commenting.

I will say this, and I don't think it's a gender thing necessarily, but obviously some people post every day (which is grand, and I'm really glad they do.) I often wait until I just HAVE to say something (as far as my own personal blog goes.) Sometimes that's every day. Sometimes it's after six months (my huz would laugh right out loud at that...but it does pertain to my writing.) I tend to have a "pre-debate" with myself before I publish. I ask myself "Okay, what would a devil's advocate say here? Where are the holes in my argument?" I have a need to make things as well-thought out as I am capable of at that moment, rather than taking advantage of the instantaneousness of a blog. It's like a little monologue or an essay. I suppose I should really look at a blog as a blog which is it's own thing. I suppose in some narcissistic way I'm hoping for "You said it!" type comments instead of "hey, what about this" which kind of is what blogs are about. So short answer (after a really long one), as with all things involving me, there's an element of ego. And perfectionism. Like I said, that's on a personal level, not a gender one. But that is what silences me occasionally. AND I want to feel like I'm adding to the convo, not repeating myself.

RebeccaZ said...

You said it!

Heh heh.

Anonymous said...

You should attend

It's this July in Chicago! Sounds like a great forum for this kind of discussion.


Dawn: said...

Catching up on your blog...

I'm a Los Angeles-based female blogger who writes about my own artistic process (

I love following the theatre discussions in Chicago, New York, and Canada but I rarely, if ever, get involved in the debates. I usually only comment when something INSPIRES me (such as this blog entry).

Theoretical conversations about theatre are so interesting to me but I find that the ideas are rarely put into practice (as RZ pointed out) and that they are usually a way to engage in a lot of drama or to FEEL like one is doing something instead of actually DOING it.

I'd rather be a doer than a talker; I want to create art, not drama.

RebeccaZ said...

Hey, Dawn -

Thanks for commenting! I've been meaning to write the followup to this blog for a few weeks now, but life (and the end remembrances of a life, as it were) have gotten the better of me.

"...they are usually a way to engage in a lot of drama or to FEEL like one is doing something instead of actually DOING it."

Agreed. I feel like that sometimes when I am compelled to write an entry these days especially since we're not actively producing anything right now. Keeping it up for appearances.

I also want to create art, not drama, because, quite honestly, I like keeping the drama to the stage if I can help it. Drama definitely comes knocking on my door a little too regularly these days, so why start shit up with others especially if it's over semantics or opinions?

RVCBard said...

Intriguing post! I respond over on my own blog.