Open mouth, insert foot.
That about sums up my mentioning in a post on my personal blog that I was disappointed that more women weren't writing about history on their blogs. I specifically mentioned the lack of women blogging at my favorite history blog, Cliopatria.
Almost immediately, Cliopatria blogger Ralph Luker took me to task for my ignorance of a whole slew of women bloggers. In his post, he named several women bloggers with whom I was unfamiliar, many of whom blog under their own names.
How the heck did it happen that I'd never heard of these women? I think it's because I frequent a corner of the academic blogosphere where women blog largely anonymously. And if you want to remain anonymous in academic circles, it's best not to reveal too many details about your work. In fact, some women academic bloggers even disguise their fields. (For example, Profgrrrrl claims to be a practitioner of "Complexification Studies.")
Even stranger was that my exploration of other academics' blogrolls hadn't turned up many women blogging about history. In a comment on Ralph Luker's post, Gillian Sarah Polack offered one explanation:
A blogfriend has a rather nice theory about blog society resembling 18th century salons. If someone doesn't see women historians then that person has simply not discovered which salons they attend. There are a bunch of us out there who don't often make lists for the same reason: I tend to be found on the lists made by sf/f writers, for instance, but I am an historian and I *do* post about history. I also post about food and about fiction, but that's because I have a faction of culinary history in my makeup and I publish fiction and review it etc. So I don't blog *only* history.
I use technorati to trace the visibility of bloggers in the eyes of other bloggers, and I think Sartorias (her LJ user name) is completely right about the salon effect.
Identity and race discussions also fit the salon notion. We talk with the people we know and extend from there, so there will always be people who don't know we exist or that we are saying anything of note.
Polack's comment is very insightful. I've tended to think about the academic blogosphere as being composed of overlapping neighborhoods, but the salon paradigm works well, especially when we're talking about discipline-specific blogs.
One of the reasons my sector of the academic blogosphere is such a tightly knit (yet quickly growing) community stems, perhaps ironically, from many bloggers' anonymity. Since they can't talk about specifics from their disciplines, they end up blogging about more universal concerns, like teaching, research, tenure, collegiality, and rogue students.
Still, this anonymity is a double-edged sword. When I run across the blog of a particularly thoughtful academic, I want to read his or her scholarly work. And until blogging no longer poses threats to one's academic career, it's unlikely these faculty and grad students will begin blogging under their own names.
In the meantime, I'm making a concerted effort to find academic bloghers who blog under their own names. Expect to see an update of the BlogHer Research, Academia, and Education blogroll soon. Until then, check out Luker's round-up or click around the Cliopatria blogroll to find more blogs by women historians.