Sunday, 18 January 2009

Is Old Holborn really a woman?

Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home were on the radio the other day - maybe Saturday's Week in Politics? - talking about blogging and its impact on politics. When questioned about the blogosphere being a mainly male preserve, one of them - Iain I think - said that the truth was that women just aren't as interested in politics. Probably right in the political anorak sense, rather than being interested in things which affect their daily lives. But then either Iain or Tim said that many of the people who post comments under male-sounding pseudonyms are actually female. Is that really true? Examples?


Martin said...

He behaves like one some times.

Katabasis said...

I've seen this happen a lot actually on discussion forums - especially those of an emotive nature, such as politics boards. (I'm referring here to fully fledged discussion boards, not blogs btw)

A lot of people also use handles with which there is simply no way to intuit a gender bias.

p.s. your attempted jabs at OH are starting to wear thin Kerry.

Iain Dale said...

Kerry, I don't think I quite said that. I said that the political blogosphere reflected political activism in general and that politics does tend to be make dominated. I made it quite clear that I was slightly horrified to find out that 85% of my blogreaders are male. The only reason for that is that men tend to be more interested in this form of political discussion than women. I don't know why that is. I don't think it's a left v right issue. If you look at the comments on Liberal COnspiracy or other left of centre sites they also tend to be male.

I know some of my commenters use pseudonyms which hide their sexuality. Not sure why that is, but on several occasions I have found out that people I thought were men, turned out to be women. Mind you, it's happened the other way around a couple of times too!

yellowbelly said...

You didn't read about OH's New Year with Mrs OH in Scotland then?

Northern Lights said...

I agree with Katabasis - leave poor Old Holborn alone - he's such a delicate and sensitive flower who wouldn't harm a soul. What has he done to deserve such unrelenting insults?

Kerry said...

K. I don't see why suggesting OH is a woman is in anyway derogatory.

And no, I don't read his site.

Iain, yes, I agree. Although I think it's even more true in the blogosphere than in politics generally. Not helped of course by the abuse doled out to women who do venture into the fray.

Red Mist said...

Would it especially matter if Old Holborn was a woman? I don't think it matters if the blogger in question has breasts or not. We could do with more female political bloggers anyway.

As for women in politics allegedly getting a harder time than men, this is utter crap. Everyone gives a hard time to the likes of Tessa Jowell and Jacqui Smith because they're rubbish ministers, not because of what's between their legs. And it's worth bearing in mind that women columnists in newspapers spend most of their time having a pop at other women.

The sisters certainly don't stand up for one another in this game, do they?

Kerry said...

Red Mist - you prove my point entirely with your references to female body parts.

Old Holborn said...

Kerry said

"And no, I don't read his site."

You missed an H

Guthrum said...

I hate sexism Kerry, stop it !

Dick the Prick said...

I was trying to explain Reggie Perrin to my mum today - I'm only 33 but don't really do modern stuff. There is a fundamental disjoint - whilst equality issues of race etc are perhaps important, they are in no way the biggest game in town.

Why don't lasses, especially since there's a generation my age - sans kids, rich, educated, et bloody cetera - beat hell out of us? I mind being beaten by quotas - everyone minds that. But talent - I love being hit that way.

Asian females of my age may shake things up a bit - I live in Huddersfield and have strangely veered towards aware lasses who say bullshit immediately. For all the scare stories that the press & government propogate, I think the main manifest is that we're a provincial country which doesn't know itself.

Time to change - Dave Cameron's just an wattling cloth, he'll do.

Red Mist said...

That proved nothing, Kerry.

Old Holborn said...


I just brought Iain Dale to your site by pointing him here on his site.

Between you and me, someone in the NL Web Watch will have noticed that YOUR blog has a post from Iain Dale, so now, at last, you are a cyber somebody.

That's how it works. Derek is taking a mega kicking because he doesn't get it, and now you have the chance to get it.

You are ambitious and dedicated, we may disagree on most things, but we agree on some (Gaza for example, I'm a left wing Libertarian after all) and I have a readership of nearly 100,000. Watch your stats ROCKET because I brought Iain here and because I wrote a silly post on your site.

When you understand this, you'll understand blogging.

You are in control.

If you are really smart, you'll use your blog to punch the glass ceiling, and take real bloggers with you. If you are dumb, you'll hope PMQ's will get you a junior ministers job for the last 18 months of Labour. What is your next move on this blog?

Tell you what. I've opened my blog to all and sundry. Seriously. Check it out.

If you write a piece, I'll publish it. Iain Dale reads my site. Guido Fawkes reads my site. Dizzy reads my site. And Derek Draper reads my site.

I will publish, uncensored, anything you wish to post.

Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes or Dizzy won't.


Kerry said...

So that would be the blog you announced you were closing down last week in a bit of a hissy fit, would it?

Iain Dale said...

Sorry to disappoint, Old Holborn, but I do not read your blog.

Kerry said...

And neither does Derek Draper. In fact when I spoke to him on Saturday, I distinctly recall him saying 'Old Holborn who?' Still, I'm sure your Mum enjoys it.

Iain Dale said...

Kerry, I feel this correspondence is drawing us together. Fancy a coffee in Portcullis House? :)

Kerry said...

I would be delighted. Shall we invite your good friend too?

Iain Dale said...

I think that would be one step too far. I'm not sure I would recognise him out of his mankini.

Email me!

CarnackiUK said...

Old Holborn may possibly be a woman but, despite his name, I don't think he's
the Old Woman here. That title surely belongs to another.

If anything, OH is the token heterosexual in this debate.

Kerry said...

I have long been searching for a non-sexist alternative to describing someone as an 'old woman', mainly so I can use it to describe a certain (male) MP who drives me mad.

The best I can settle for is 'fusspot', but it doesn't quite hit the mark.

The Penguin said...

When are you going to join Mandy in Second Life, Kerry?

The Penguin

Anonymous said...

"abuse doled out to women who do venture into the fray"

I haven't noticed any of this, Kerry - except from other women, as RM points out.

Here on your blog (which is good fun btw) I generally seem to be ignored ... which is fine ... maybe you don't always have a ready answer.

Old Holborn said...

I'm at Millbank on Wednesday Kerry

Fancy a lentil/soya shake?

Dave H said...

Perhaps the readership is more representative than the commenters. The more embittered and nasty ones probably come, like me, via OH. A guest blogger posted affectionately about you there yesterday. I briefly thought about shouting 'Incoming' here but it would have been too late. Besides, they are all a mouse click away from the memory-hole and you must have reasonably thick skin to be a politician.

Grumbling at the state of the world rather than everyday difficulties is definitely a male hobby (I'll bet you OH's ovaries that your constituency mailbag reflects this).

Womankind has astrology, homeopathy and Gillian McKieth as compensatory embarassments.

Kerry said...

"abuse doled out to women who do venture into the fray" - come off it, Emerald, haven't you ever looked at Guido or OH? And what sort of comments do you think Nadine Dorries attracted before she put a stop to them altogether?

Note here, in CarnackiUK's comment, the almost mandatory suggestion that my putting even one toe in what he no doubt regards as loony feminist territory means I must inevitably not be of the heterosexual persuasion. And then ask Sadie how often she gets that.

And Red Mist - you should stop reading the Daily Mail.

Kerry said...

And Penguin - I already have! See much earlier posts.

Are you getting excited about Penguin Awareness Day tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

I can only speak from my own experience, which has been as I described. I do visit GF, and the abuse seems to fly around like a muckspreader outside the Town Hall, with no respect for any persons. I've certainly never seen anyone being abused simply because they have a female ID.

The fact is that politics has always been a notoriously filthy, backstabbing business. It is the nature of the beast. The only way you could change this would be to genetically re-engineer the human race (don't get any ideas, mind). This is why women like Mrs Humphry Ward believed that ladies should not sully themselves by meddling directly in politics.

In my experience even fewer women than men are interested in political, philosophical, or economic ideas nowadays. Unfortunately the cliches do actually appear to be true. Spend time in workplaces or homes across the land, and you will find women discussing fashion, boyfriends, children, grandchildren, food, drink, decor and many other such topics, but hardly ever ideas. Ideas are "boring", I'm afraid.

Northern Lights said...

I think Emerald's post reveals more about the kind of women who choose to associate with him than it does about women in general.

Anonymous said...

Northern lights my dear, have you smoked too much of your eponymous mixture?

I don’t visit any other Labour blogs (surprise, surprise!) and it speaks volumes to this Bristol East constituent that a Labour Party blog is the first one ever where my womanly identity has been questioned. What’s the matter? Do I not fit YOUR stereotype of how and what a woman should think and write? Remember the ludicrous perplexity over Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister? Squawking on the Left: “she’s not a real woman”. Hilarious.

Oops, will you now try and dismiss me as a Conservative?

In most people’s workplaces you don’t get to choose who you mix with. In my time I have worked in some very female dominated environments with a wide cross-section of women and can assure you that I merely speak as I find. The rest is simple historical observation.

Northern Lights said...

Ok, I think Emerald has kind of missed the point I was making - ie that it's a ridiculous generalisation (and I think quite an insult) to suggest that most women discuss fashion rather than ideas.

I know rather a lot of smart, intelligent women (who don't live in the 1950s) who would disagree

Anonymous said...

NL, please read what I have written:

"even fewer women than men are interested in political, philosophical, or economic ideas nowadays."

I did not say that NO women are interested, only that there appear to me to be fewer. Few men are interested either as it happens. Nowadays. Long gone are the soapboxes on street corners and street meetings of the past. Maybe it's the telly.

Anyhow, what is wrong with being interested in the practical details of life like cooking and children? An insult you call it? You seem to have some kind of snobbery that sees people with ideas as somehow "better" than practical people.

Is this the Fabian New Labour plan with the banks in free-fall? To remake everyone as pointy heads, wonks and spads, with hi faluting ideas and no common sense?

Lass said...

I can’t comment much on the blogosphere, though I do think some women may face, or granted, fear patronising prejudice from some, or, regardless of gender, decide the hostility isn’t worth engaging with. The main thing to avoid is reductionism.
The demographics of Parliament/ the government are a completely separate debate, and they cannot be used to judge the political apathy, interest or knowledge of people generally. For “formal” politics, economics or philosophy, you only have to look at think tanks, pressure groups and university lecturers to see that there are plenty of women for whom ideas, which can include everything, are not “boring”, even if they may not be in the top positions.
Among the public more generally, there is no significant gender difference in voter turnout, and it may now be higher among women. Although admittedly not the only form of political participation, it demonstrates interest of some kind. I cannot think of a single woman I know who would not be startled by the suggestion they find ideas boring, even if they tend to be more practical people. They can still start an engaging debate- you get out of conversation, with a male or female, what you put in and what you allow others to contribute.

Northern Lights said...

So there!

Kerry said...

I think that has to be comment of the week!

Red Mist said...

"And Red Mist - you should stop reading the Daily Mail."

Aww, poor widdle Kerry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to pop away for a while, some of us girls have baking, laundering and the rest to get on with. Cool that you had to go find a mysterious Lass to help you out, NL.

My basic contention is that men and women are different - a biologist might see them as two different populations with overlapping, but not identical, distributions around the mean. Most people are quite happy about this, and don't see it as a problem when blokes fix shelves, bikes, computers or whatever, and women do more childcare and homely things.

It's just a minority of ideologues on the Left that seem to have this obsession with trying to get men and women to do the same things all the time.

It's also just a minority on the Left that want to get everybody going to university, working in offices and becoming middle class. As their mentor Sidney Webb put it "I want no hewers of wood or drawers of water".

And what a crazy, dysfunctional society these idealists are producing.

Northern Lights said...

For Emerald:

Anonymous said...

I hope you're not paying this guy anything, Kerry.

Unlike yourselves, I prefer to rely rather more on what scientific research has to say about human biology and psychology, combined with my own experience, rather than ideology - or Harry Enfield.

I doubt that you'd find the general view in most of Old Labour's heartlands is any different from the view I have. Which is one reason why the aristocrats of New Labour like Ms Harperson seem so out of touch. Ms Harperson and her ilk appear to follow Soviet darling Lysenko in believing that the State can make people, animals and plants whatever the State decrees that we ought to be.

Go on, NL, have the last word, I know you want to. You could always top off your treatment of this female commenter by accusing me of lacking a sense of humour ...

Love and PMT,


Lass said...

After NL's link, I fear I may only embarrass myself, but here goes...

Emerald, there may be biological differences, but it is also a huge issue of social conditioning- society reinforces gender stereotypes and restricts choice for both men and women. From a very early age, via a whole range of media, we are told it is somehow "wrong" for a women to fix a shelf or a man to stay at home and care for children.

I'm not saying all men and women should be treated as identical, I'm saying that everyone should be treated as an individual who should be given the choice, and the opportunity, to do and try to achieve what they want.

This should not be constrained by social norms or, for instance with universities, the fact that no-one in their family has been before. People also have the right to choose university's not for them, which may be why apprenticeships are also being encouraged and expanded.

Kerry said...

Yes, Em, I have to pay people to post nice things on my blog. Anyone who posts anything remotely supportive or complimentary on here does so whilst I am standing over them brandishing a wodge of tenners. They hate themselves for it, but they need the money.

Northern Lights said...

Oh go on then, I do love having the last word and as it happens I would like to make one final observation:

We have two women (Emerald & Lass) having a debate with one man (me) about whether women talk about ideas less than men.

I'm no whizz with a calculator but I think that simple equation proves me right. I'll leave now with a line from Borat:

'Is it because women have smaller brain than a man?'

Kerry said...

The cheque's in the post.

Anonymous said...

2 mysterious Lass - yes, but this is motherhood and applepie isn’t it? Who would disagree with that?
2 NL - you’ve oversimplified and therefore distorted my comments, may I say … how typical for a man!
2 Kerry - “nice things”? NL’s comments seem to more hinder than help your New Labour case on this blog recently (giggle).

Rather than pointlessly complaining about how tough women supposedly have it on political blogs, this constituent would rather New Labour did something to redress the over-feminization of British society (leaving aside those enclaves you have bizarrely allowed to hived themselves off into private law and where women and girls really DO suffer constant repression).

These days it is men and boys who are losing out in British society, particularly working class men and boys. Boys are now suffering in schools, which appear institutionally sexist against males, and where boys’ character and needs are now put down or dismissed.

"Throughout the whole history of the British Labour movement there has been pressure by the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat through the agency of radicals, intellectuals, drawing-room and church socialists and Owenites who reject the class struggle and advocate the principle of social solidarity, preach collaboration with the bourgeoisie, bridle, enfeeble and politically debase the proletariat.”