Writing about politics does not make me a man

At Talk Left I saw a reference to the Gender Analyzer, which uses artificial intelligence to "determine if a homepage is written by a man or a woman." You enter the address, and in an instant it scans the text, giving you a prediction. When I checked my blog home, Bleeding Heartland, I got this:

We think http://www.bleedingheartland.com is written by a man (79%).

How about the home page of frequent MyDD diarist canadian gal?

We think http://kickinitwithcg.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (88%).

The computer program hedged its bets with Iowa blogger Lynda Waddington's Essential Estrogen:

We guess http://www.essentialestrogen.com/ is written by a man (59%), however it's quite gender neutral.

I admit I assumed Digby was a man for years, but that was mainly because of the illustration of a man shouting on the front page of Hullaballoo. Without scanning images, the Gender Analyzer makes the same false assumption:

We think http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (74%).

Hilzoy's place, Obsidian Wings, yields a similar result:

We think http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_ wings/ is written by a man (84%).

In fact, I've been unable to find any political blog by a woman that the analyzer can recognize as such:

We think http://iddybudjournal.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (81%).
We think http://www.feministing.com/ is written by a man (60%).

We have strong indicators that http://leftylane.blogspot.com/ is written by a man (91%).

BlogHer does register as being written by a woman, probably because of the posts about shopping, food and fashion.

Bleeding Heartland commenter ragbrai08 looked up the details and assumptions underlying the Gender Analyzer. You can find the pdf link to the paper "Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging"at the bottom of her comment.

The analyzer mostly ignores the content of blog posts, except for certain key words. Computer programming and gaming words, along with some words relating to politics and the economy, are tagged as "male." Female words include "shopping,""cute,""pink,""freaked," and "husband." The analyzer also looks at elements such as sentence structure ("male bloggers use more articles and prepositions") and the number of hyperlinks (male bloggers use more).

So, just about any blog with a bunch of hyperlinks and political words will be deemed a man's blog by the Gender Analyzer. I have to agree with ragbrai08's assessment:

The only thing this algorithm is telling you is that the political blogosphere is dominated by male authors.

It would be interesting for some researcher to study a large sample of political blogs only, to see if politically-oriented male and female bloggers write differently or use hyperlinks differently. I suspect that a content analysis of political blogs would reveal a lot of overlap but also significant differences in the subjects covered by men and women.

Please share any relevant thoughts and opinions in the comments.

Speaking of gender issues, if you missed this in Natasha Chart's linkfest yesterday, go read about life as a female reporter.

Tags: blogging, feminism, gender, Gender Analyzer, gender issues, women's issues (all tags)



Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man
I was another of those people that thought Digby was a man until she received that  award and was spotted on You Tube (2005?). I will even admit I thought you were a male blogger until a five or six months back, DMD.
But that Gender Analyzer needs more work on it's "gender neutral" programming. Imagine concluding that a blog named "Feministing" is written by a man because there are no posts on fashion and shopping?
I'm always in favor of more female voices in the political blogosphere, but we do have some really good bloggers here, over at Kos and on other political sites, so I don't feel women's voices aren't being heard.  
Everyone has their favorite subjects, some are fascinated with polling, others cover the war or health care, others like to delve into the politics and the back room deals.
Can those subjects be divined as being written by a man or a woman simply by their content? Evidently not.
by skohayes 2008-11-23 02:54AM | 0 recs
I would like to see some analysis

of political blog coverage and author's gender. Of course you'd never be able to predict with 100 percent certainty whether a blog was written by a man or a woman, but I bet there are some noticeable differences in content.

One of my brothers works in statistics, which is a very male-dominated field. Even before I knew poblano was Nate Silver, there was no doubt in my mind that poblano was a man.

by desmoinesdem 2008-11-23 04:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

I write about sports and politics all the time and the thing thought I had a 100% chance of being female.  I think it just throws out a random number.

by thezzyzx 2008-11-23 03:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

Yeah, it's 55% sure that my site is written by a  female.  Pretty sure it's just random, or maybe I really don't know anything about myself...

by gravypatrol 2008-11-23 07:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

Tagging political words as "male" only works for non-political blogs.  When analyzing the political blogosphere, every blog regardless of gender is, of course, going to have political references in it.  So, I'd say this is a piece of garbage for that.

The same thing would apply to sports blogs.  I think there would be a strong tendency for males to use sports references on non-sports blogs, but if you are analyzing specifically sports blogs, both males and females will, of course, use those references, so the algorithms breaks down.

by NJIndependent 2008-11-23 03:31AM | 0 recs
Well they pick me as male too

On three different blogs, and my own. Their biased formulas are showing.  

by NeciVelez 2008-11-23 04:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics

On canadian gal's site, the sentence 'I am Canadian and a gal' at the top of her web page clearly explains who she is, easily grasped by even the dimmest lightbulb. So much for the current state of artificial intelligence development.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, in a brand new Gallup Poll, 67% of Republicans chose Sarah Palin as their #1 pick to be the party's presidential nominee in 2012. I kid you not.

by phoenixdreamz 2008-11-23 04:55AM | 0 recs
while this might actually prove your point

In fact, I've been unable to find any political blog by a woman that the analyzer can recognize as such

We think http://michellemalkin.com/ is written by a woman (89%).

by Bob Brigham 2008-11-23 06:09AM | 0 recs
it's a man's world

firedoglake.com - 98% man (that's funny)

politico.com - 97% man

salon.com - 94% man (Joan is going to be pissed)

huffingtonpost.com - 94% man

fivethirtyeight.com, dailykos.com, drudgereport.com - 85% man

mydd.com, openleft.com, hillaryclinton.com - 84% man (all that for 1%?)

brianschweitzer.com - 78% (desmoinesdem > Brian Schweitzer in manliness)

theatlantic.com - 73% man

change.gov - 69% man

slate.com - 64% man

shop.com - 94% woman

by mboehm 2008-11-23 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

I write about music, movies and my personal life in addition to politics, and it concludes they are 85% sure my blog is written by a man.

by Susie from Philly 2008-11-23 06:38AM | 0 recs
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting this month
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting's latest magazine has an article about representation of women's voices in the progressive blogosphere. Sad to say, not much better than traditional media.


Huffington Post Mutes Women's Voices
New media, same gender imbalance

By Jessica Wakeman

Women's voices have long been lacking in corporate media. As Internet outlets compete more and more with traditional media as a source for news and opinion, will women's voices be heard there more frequently than in print publications? If the Huffington Post, one of the most prominent and successful blogs today, is an accurate barometer, the answer is no.

The Huffington Post is a left-leaning site that features opinion pieces by the site's founder and editor-in-chief, Arianna Huffington, as well as by a wide assortment of guest bloggers. According to the blog-tracking website Technorati, it is the single most-linked-to blog as of September 2008; Nielsen Online ranks it the 28th most popular news site in the U.S. (Editor & Publisher, 9/16/08). By at least one measurement (Alexa.com), it has surpassed in popularity some of its big corporate competitors, like Time.com and Newsweek.com.

The site highlights 13 "featured blog posts" on the home page at a time, and that selection is updated regularly. Extra! recorded those featured bylines twice every weekday for nine weeks and coded them by gender.* During the study period (7/7/08-9/5/08), only 255 of 1,125 bylines--23 percent--belonged to women.

The Post does seem to be making a conscious effort to include women's voices; despite the low percentages, the study found at least one female byline on the home page at all times. But if there is indeed such an effort, it stops far short of parity. Of the 89 times bylines were checked during the study, not once did the number of women's bylines equal those belonging to men. Only eight times did women account for more than a third of all bylines. And Arianna Huffington, appearing 57 times, accounted for more than a fifth of all women's bylines; 45 of those occupied the most visible top post. Only once, in fact, did a woman other than Arianna Huffington get her byline in the most visible top slot--Post editor-at-large Nora Ephron (8/26/08).

While the Huffington Post provides an outlet for certain voices that seldom make it into the corporate media, it falls perfectly in line with elite print media's abysmal gender numbers. In Extra!'s 2005 op-ed study (5-6/05) of major newspapers and magazines, U.S. News & World Report led magazines with a still-dismal 28 percent of op-eds penned by women, followed by Newsweek at 23 percent and Time at 13 percent. Newspapers fared even worse: Women's bylines appeared on 20 percent of op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, 17 percent in the New York Times and 10 percent in the Washington Post. For syndicated columnists, the numbers were likewise low, with women writing 24 percent of columns at the eight major syndicates (Editor & Publisher, 3/15/05)--which still beats the Huffington Post....

[more at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3647 ]

by chiefscribe 2008-11-23 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

My own blog:

We guess http://waywardepiscopalian.blogspot.com/ is written by a woman (51%), however it's quite gender neutral.

I'm a man.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-11-23 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

wow, that is stunning statistics, almost all men on political blogs?  And that is what men spent time on?

by ron2009 2008-11-23 09:44AM | 0 recs
Wow - so I'm 81% man, eh?

Let me check the mirror once more....verrry closely....hmmm....

Upon close inspection, I'm happy to report I'm still 100% female - if you're not counting that one persistent hair that keeps growing on my neck ..the one that I have to keep waxing. ;)

by iddybud 2008-11-23 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Writing about politics does not make me a man

Considering the sausage fest that is computer gaming... eh some of those assumptions are warranted. There's good reason why girl-gamer bloggers are treated as celebrity even if it's also creepy.

by MNPundit 2008-11-23 06:23PM | 0 recs

i do have a killer running shoe collection - is that gender neutral?

by canadian gal 2008-11-25 03:15PM | 0 recs


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