It Takes More Than One

It Takes More Than One

For over a year now I have been writing these Chatter posts for NewMusicBox, and as the only woman blogger of the pack for much of that time (not that I don’t love you, Frank, David, Dan, Colin, Rob, and Ratzo), it started to feel a bit lonely pretty quickly. “Well, get some more women blogging then!” you say. If only it were that easy! After trying every which way to get other women on board and writing regularly for the site, with little success, it is becoming quite clear that blogging is simply not a format that interests many women. In fact, just when I thought we had found someone to join in over the summer, she decided that she was too busy to participate, and suggested a replacement—a male colleague!

My interest in having more women actively participating in the world of NewMusicBox has absolutely nothing to do with meeting quotas or filling gaps in demographics. It has to do with the fact that I want to know what women think about the topics covered here, and about what musical issues and experiences are relevant to them. Everyone should know about those things. I am also curious to know if women are even reading this stuff at all! Are you? Anyone?

Whenever I spend time with my musician friends who happen to be women, we have all kinds of things to talk about—many of them are great thinkers, articulate speakers, and eloquent writers in addition to being fabulous composers and performers. But regular online participation in the form of blogging, or even commenting on the writings of others, is generally not something they do. I completely understand this point of view—in real life I am not a particularly “share-y” person, and if writing an essay every week were not a job requirement, I’m not sure I would be doing it myself. Like many people (not only women), my preference is to talk about these things in person, in real life, ideally over wine or cocktails.

However, there must be some way to bring more women to the virtual round table to participate in these discussions, and I am at a loss regarding what that scenario might look like. So for any women out there who might be reading this, why do you, or why do you not, blog and/or comment on the writings of others? Is there another format that you would rather participate in? If so, what might that be?

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

16 thoughts on “It Takes More Than One

  1. John Clare

    It’s wild right? Of course, one of my favorite and most prolific blogger’s is another Alex, Shapiro: Let’s hoping for some comments now from the fairer sex!
    (BTW, tweeting doesn’t seem to be quite so unbalanced (sexist?) – but I have nothing to base that on, other than seeing seeming equal numbers of men and women.) Perhaps blogging isn’t so 21st century anymore?

  2. earworm

    Well, I’m here, and I’m reading!

    I understand where you’re coming from as far as preferring to talk rather than blog. I feel the same way, and yet realize that I may be taxing the patience of my friends, only ever wanting to talk about music – blogging is a decent outlet for some of the fervor. :)

    Would you be any more successful engaging women in discussion on Twitter, or something that requires less work? Speaking purely for myself, it’s much easier to reply to a discussion or retweet pertinent information than it is to post a blog comment. Most blog platforms have pretty clunky reply formats, and each one is different.

    Ultimately, though, however inconvenient it is, if the discussion is good, you won’t be able to keep me out. Can’t get a blog comment to save my life, but this might be due to the fact that a lot of readers are on smartphones (check your stats, this might be part of your issue as well) and it’s practically impossible to comment from one.


  3. MarkNGrant

    Hello Alexandra, I’ve recently noticed this too. However, when I was writing a biweekly blog for NewMusicBox in 2007-2008, women regularly posted on the thread to my columns, and, I think, if memory serves, also to others’. What has happened since? That is indeed a puzzlement.

  4. Leslie Olsen

    Not sure I totally agree–there are a multitude of women who blog about topics like Food and Parenting. In fact the most popular blog is The Pioneer Woman who writes about cooking and cattle ranching. I personally subscribe to many sites including NewMusicBox… Good luck!

  5. Jennifer Higdon

    Interesting observation, Alex. I read all of the blogs on NMB, and have done so for years (they’re great reading and thought-provoking). And several years ago, Frank Oteri asked me to become a blogger on this site, but I declined. I’ve discovered through the years that I’d rather be writing music than words, and that if I choose to write words, as I occasionally do [often short things for other organizations], it does interfere with my composing. It appears that this is just the way my brain works. But reading what is written here provides my brain with lots to think about in my not-thinking-about-what-I’m-composing-downtime. I comment only when I think I can contribute something meaningful.

    But hats off to all of the bloggers…I think you all contribute enormously to the community.

  6. Jan-Marie Petersen

    Interesting! This is a different perspective than mine. I feel like most of the bloggers I know are women.

    Why don’t I blog? Lord knows I’ve tried. I have a good number of abandoned blog projects floating around out in the internet ether at the moment. For me, the fun part was coming up with the blog concept: setting it up, naming it, designing it, dreaming about it. I guess that is the editor in me.

    The difficult part was actually writing the damn thing. I guess that’s the perfectionist in me — it’s hard for me to just get er done and crank something out, regularly.

    Like you, I’m not really a share-y person by nature. I will say though that forcing myself to tweet throughout the day has actually helped me to overcome some of my sharing inhibitions. So maybe if I forced myself to blog everyday I’d find out that writing posts isn’t as laborious as I think it is! The fact that I’m commenting on this post is evidence that it’s easier for me to share things in a digital space now than a couple years ago.

    Jan-Marie Petersen
    Chorus America

  7. Elizabeth

    “blogging is simply not a format that interests many women”
    WHAT?? I honestly don’t think you asked enough people. I bet if you asked several males you would also find that some of them are too busy, etc. It may just be that your group of friends are such go-getters their time is honestly already filled. Or maybe you just had a bad pitch. It happens.

  8. Alexandra Gardner Post author

    Thank you all for the comments! Leslie makes a good point, and indeed, LOTS of women are blogging and commenting on topics that include food and parenting. So I should rephrase this and ask why are women who are as passionate about music as others are about food or parenting not participating in the online discussion as actively? Although there are fewer women than men involved in the field of contemporary music, the balance in real life is not so skewed as it appears to be when it comes to online presence. What might tip the scales a little further in the other direction?

  9. margaret schedel

    Hi Alexandra,

    Very interesting talking point. I myself and a complete skulker-arounder and don’t often comment or post. I often bring up things I’ve seen on blogs in conversation, and I do an occasional facebook repost, but I often feel I should contribute more to this online world I take advantage of.

    My main focus is computer music – I co-chaired the International Computer Music Conference last year and I’d be up for contributing – just not every week. I don’t know how you do it!


  10. Jeff Fairbanks

    I have also noticed the lack of music blogs/posts from women, and also contributions to the online music sharing sites I belong to (improv friday, society For ShortY new music, post totalism etc). There are many women members, but very few posts. On the other hand, when it comes to food, or travel blogs I follow, my favorites are from women. This issue is brought up in forums at the sites i frequent often, but predictably it is mostly men talking about why the women don’t contribute. Maybe women composers are just doing so much they don’t have time. Or perhaps many women composers have had bad experiences online trying to share? It may also be generational since my daughters are pretty involved with expressing themselves via technology. I do wish more women composers would contribute online because the men sorely miss their input (imo). Brava Alexandra and keep it up.

  11. john pippen

    I think it may also have something to do with who is allowed to engage in open debate. In my experience, there is no shortage of women composers, though I feel like in masterclass settings I’ve been in, more men than women engaged in the debate. This is purely anecdotal, but I feel like it has something to do with fanboy culture. It reminds me of the movie High Fidelity, in which men gather and work in a record shop and engage in endless debates and list making discussions about music that are rather competitive. Bourdieu has suggested that women in general are not encouraged to play games like this and that this puts them at a disadvantage in competitive settings. I feel like this is supported by a lot of movie that portray professional women as both unusual and personally unfulfilled (a sexist notion, for sure).

    I don’t find the blogs on new music box particularly competitive, but I do love a somewhat contentious debate about music, so my perspective may not be shared by others. I have no doubts that there are intelligent women interested in the topics discussed here, but I wonder if they feel empowered and inclined to start those debates on a prominent website read by many high profile players.

  12. Beata Moon

    I appreciate this discussion! The reason why I don’t blog is because I don’t have the time. Even though I’ve written some articles in the past (and I enjoy doing it every now and again), writing words is extremely time-consuming for me. And now that I am a mom, finding time for music can be challenging enough! I’m curious to find out how many women musicians don’t blog because they have children?

  13. john pippen

    @Beata Moon do male musicians generally have less children than women? I feel like the implication in your statement could be that when women have chicldren, they loose time for things, but that when men have children, they don’t. You totally didn’t say that, I’m just wondering about the ration of men with kids to women with kids and if that is different. If not, then this would perhaps be part of a larger issue about domesticity and women’s roles in the home.

  14. Mary Jane Leach

    I think the whole issue could be reframed as: why do so many men persist in blogging, instead of why do so few women blog? As the state of blogging has proceeded, I find that there are few people who can sustain an interesting mono or dialogue.


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