My Experience

I don’t think that there is room for female bloggers in the bibliosphere, Dannii. This is my honest opinion. I always feel uncomfortable around those who say that you can’t go to heaven unless you refer to God as male, or a woman can’t go to heaven if she does not believe in obeying her husband, and all that stuff. These may sound like hypothetical statements, but they are part of my experience.

Perhaps we should also make a point of asking interlocutors to be courteous about which languages they use and what most of the other interlocutors can follow? I propose that English, Hebrew, Greek, and German are basically on the table, as are other Indo-European languages. I do not wish to minimize the value of Eastern languages — So dayo! — but entire discussions should not be carried out on the basis of a language which only two interlocutors are likely to be familiar with. Kurk Gayle — I’m thinking of you specifically with this. I do not mean to diminish you or single you out in a negative way. The fact is, you just run semantic circles around me and I can’t keep up!
Gary Simmons

Pardon me, readers. I was listening in on a conversation between Sue and Dannii over at BBB. Peter Kirk had named the two in connection with ways to open up David Ker’s rather closed use of the English language’s default singularly male gendered third person personal pronoun he. (And David, rather benign in his attempt, so it seems, was not trying to leave people out, even if he slipped into the sexist default and, as if inadvertently, Freudianly, left out Sue by his language. David also posted this picture of men, not women, fighting.

Irony of ironies, David was pushing us mostly male commenters at the male-only authored BBB to Say what you mean without being mean. He didn’t mean to be mean to women, did he?)

Well, before I go on to the other things I overheard in conversation at BBB, let me just quickly say that my experience is Sue’s. No, to be sure, I have very very little idea what it’s like if someone would say, using the words of the Bible, that a man can’t go to heaven if he does not believe in obeying his wife. But I want to give my experience with the place of women in the biblioblogosphere, or whatever it’s called. And then, eavesdropping, I hear my own name, a comment directed at me; so let me address Gary Simmons’ complaint about me right here. Then, if I have time, I’d like us all to eavesdrop in on conversations of a girl, not yet 9 years old. This may be a long post, but many of you are longsuffering.

My experience in the biblioblogosphere is that women are silenced. It’s not intentional always. It’s as subtle as David’s use of he. It’s a subtlety worse among Bible bloggers than among Rhetoric bloggers or Philosophy bloggers or Chemistry bloggers or Mormon bloggers or Politics bloggers or Literature bloggers. I’m saying this from my own experience of several years of blogging, of listening in on blog conversations. Once upon a time, I myself did not use my nickname Kurk but rather went by my full name initials first, J. K. Gayle. Many assumed initially and incorrectly that I was a woman. Part of that was my blog’s name was Aristotle’s Feminist Subject. My experience in the Bible blogging arena is this: whenever a male blogger would discover I was a male, then there was a marked difference in how he would talk with me online. I’ve documented this. Men started reading my blog more knowing I was one of them. This is my experience among men blogging on the Bible. Whenever I drew attention to these facts of my experience, well then, all hell would break loose. It has not gotten any better, the unintended silencing of women blogging on the Bible, not in the months since. It won’t get any better, will it? What gives me hope is my experience that women are heard more by men in many other areas of blogging. Men, nonetheless, have the lock on blogging the Bible; speculate why all you want. Speculate all you want as to why this matters. Imagine all you can what it’s like to experience what Sue and other women have experienced. I think it’s mostly a very subtle thing, as big and as little as he.

Now, Gary, thanks for addressing me in the comments thread at David’s blog on saying what you mean and on not being mean. My experience is growing up bilingual, English and an Asian language. I went to a school, later, that used another Asian language. I happened to study a third Asian language in college (not Chinese because my American university didn’t have the world’s most spoken and most written language at the time); there I also began study of Greek. As a linguist, I studied Hebrew in graduate school. As a rhetoric and literature student, I studied Cherokee in another graduate school. I studied Chinese among friends. My experience. Sigh. It’s not everybody’s. So I’ll just be more careful drawing, or running, those semantic circles. I do find it a bit ironic, after your public plea to me, that Dannii, at Better Bibles Blog, would post today a language that very few have experienced in any way. I think I like that, I confess. And yesterday, I think I suggested I like davar more than monolingualism. That’s just my experience, and I don’t know what to do with it other than just to be more sensitive, more silent.

Now, finally, we listen in on Scout. She’s saying a lot in Harper Lee’s only novel. It’s in English, thank goodness. Although it’s been translated much. Actually, I’m out of time for now. Scout’s father constantly has to get her to mind her language, not to say hell and such. He’s intent on helping her not be mean, to say what she means. But her experience with adults, with teachers in school even. Let’s just listen in on one little thing:

“how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home?”

It’s an interesting question in my experience.


22 responses to “My Experience

  1. Adam Kotsko recently pointed out this blog: I find it interesting, and they update a lot. Replace philosophy with biblical studies and/or theology, and these stories sound oh so familiar.

    • Being a David Rosenberg fan, JKG* has undoubtedly read The Book of J and thus knows Allan Bloom’s claim that the Bible was written by a woman, which makes this particular post self-referentially ironic.

      *Not John Kenneth Galbraith.

      • My Dear “Theophrastus,”

        One JKG can be self-referentially ironic but it’s when others conceive of her and talk of her and silence her but shift to him that the real ironies begin. (Ha, the gymnasium of my high school, an embassy school in a formerly-colonized nation state, was also given the name John Kenneth Galbraith. We all knew who HE was. It’s a small world after all.)

        I just *love* Allan Bloom on the Symposium (not the LXX, of course, or Rosenberg’s Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus either), on love (with some un-promised emotion yet commanded), as biblical:

        “Thus we are the heirs of two great teachings of the place of Eros or love in the life of man, the one passed down to us by the Bible, the other by the Greek philosophers, poets, and historians of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. The former rests on the ultimate ground of God and His Revelation; the latter rests on nature and its rational study by philosophers. The Jews were characterized by a steadfast loyalty to and love of God; the obedience to His law is the sum and substance of that love. The Greek philosopher is a skeptical investigator of nature, which does not speak in a clear voice and does not give laws for the conduct of human beings; he is less a doer than a speculator. Piety is the highest virtue for the one, whereas an investigation of the divine, which for many seems an impiety, is the most human activity for the other…. For the Jew, the only laudable and beautiful human erotic expression is found in the relation between husband and wife. For the Greek, the erotic ties were more diffuse and, as one sees in the Symposium, concentrated less on fidelity than on the quest for the beautiful, wherever it may be found.” (p 67)

        “It goes without saying [says Allan Bloom, and of course it does] that there is in the Bible no god Eros, but love surely has its place in the Bible. Abraham’s enduring attachment to Sarah [all vowed and only promise], and Jacob’s willingness to undergo great and lengthy hardships [without emotion, for sure, for that would be Eros] in order to possess Rachel, belong in the chapter of memorable love affairs [so we do forget Hank Williams and nothing’s memorable about Han Suyin]. David too had irrepressible longings for rare women and broke moral and religious law to have them [but why bring God into this?] He was also a wonderful poet. This most ambiguous of the biblical heroes was both a great sinner and a great repenter, a style not much to the Greek taste.” (p 63).

      • Sorry for conflating Harold and Allan. All those Jews who knew Leo Strauss look the same to me. At least I won’t mix up Leopold.

        But since you have at last mentioned the Symposium, I can finally ask the question that we all want to ask —

        Which do you find funnier: Aristophanes’ portrayal of Socrates, or Plato’s portrayal of Aristophanes?

      • Wonder if the future blogologists will be able to sort the complex differences between wordpress and blogspot? Two different cultures no? Did I say I think Plato’s portrayal’s funnier because I think he’s ironically funnier? And did you see those new Google Cars? Maybe those future blogologists will do their quick research in them:

    • Jender is the pseudonym of a blogger at beingawomaninphilosophy. Apt, if you ask me. His or her post “But the women never seem to want to speak” reminds me of linguist/rhetorician Cheryl Glenn’s assertion, “Except for rhetoric, no intellectual endeavor—not even the male bastion of philosophy—has so consciously rendered women invisible and silent. . . .” As you say, Rod of Alexandria, “Replace philosophy with biblical studies…. ” Thanks!

  2. Funny. I hadn’t read Book of J before, but clearly only a woman would imagine Adam being awakened by an Eskimo kiss. Or was it Bloom (Harold) who imagined that? His commentary is delightful in any event and I am enjoying as much as google books will allow.

  3. nothing’s memorable about Han Suyin

    Except for her brief flaunted Hollywood romance I suppose …. I read her autobiographical trilogy, and now can hardly find a word on the internet about her first marriage, except for the tragic death of her husband ,,, so sad. Has nobody ready these books? He beat her for ten years, and Birdless Summer was one of the early openly graphic books about an educated woman tasting the floor over and over again.

    I often wonder though, back to J, how many of those tales were spun by women, Rachel and the Mandrakes, Hannah and her baby son, Naomi and Obed, what man would spin such tales?

    • Has nobody ready these books?

      My House Has Two Doors (China: Autobiography, History) (v. 1), A Mortal Flower (China : Autobiography, History, Book 2), Birdless Summer (China : Autobiography, History, Book 3). Thanks for sharing some of the biography so forgotten, the decade of beatings, of this writer, Han Suyin.

      back to J, … what man would spin such tales?

      And Rosenberg confirms we need to ask this question of yours:

      What seems certain to me [David Rosenberg], on the basis of the Book of J, is that it was the normative misreaders who fostered a patriarchal ideal that is certainly alien to J, who mocks such an ideal throughout. Nor are her visions of polygamy very cheerful: Sarai persecutes Hagar, Rachel is violently jealous of her sister, Leah, and the strong-minded Rebecca cannot be conceived as ever allowing a rival, even if Isaac could be conceived as risking such audacity. Evidently on the [of course male-only] king was allowed (or perhaps could afford) more than one wife after the monarchy was instituted. Jacob, for all his flaws, seems to earn J’s regard because of his love for Rachel, the supreme [erotic too, with emotion at least] love of J’s story, transcending any other relationship between man and woman in the Hebrew Bible. [page 38]

  4. Rod,

    Thanks for pointing me to Jender, that other J.

  5. This was interesting enough to put down my guitar and have a closer look. I’m a bit bus-lagged but did want to pop in and say hi. I do think about the hes and shes when writing and more so thanks to the brute-force sensitivization of my feminist friends.

    I agree with Sue’s opening line although I don’t know why it is that way. There are notable exceptions. Two blogs I always read simultaneously are huffington and malkin. Both women. Cakewrecks is another. Jane Stranz another. Also Boing Boing has a couple of decent chick bloggers although gender at that place is less straight-forward than most.

    Recently a bunch of us were sitting around IRL and blabbing and one of the women just lost us men over and over again with all her parentheticals. After a while people started holding up a cupped hand (signifying a parenthesis) to show some of the slower among us that we were on another sub-topic but that there was hope of it all being resolved at some point in the distant future. I wonder about that and the way comment threads develop. Is blogging structured specifically in favor of male forms of communication? I notice that here you allow threaded comments. I tried to innovate that at BBB but it was shut down as being too confusing to my fellow linear authors.

    Well, men suck and it’s all their fault. They are worse sinners than women. And if they are white as well. Terrible, terrible people.

    Hilary and I passed through the gauntlet which is Beitbridge border post. The Zimbabwe side is a swarm. Madness. Chaos. Cars going the wrong way. Lines merging and dissipating. People jumping queues and shouting when someone else does the same thing. We were utterly lost. Our African fellow passengers told us to just go stand in the pedestrian line and tell people that we were walking across the border. The likelihood of a white family doing this is not impossible but it is laughable to anyone who we approached in the pedestrian line and tried to explain that we were walking across. (In fact I didn’t say we were walking across, I said we were told to stand in this line and say we were walking across and could you please help us). It worked out in the end. Our bus driver took our passports and a few fellow feckless Africans and got us stamped and on our way.

    The South African side was like a military camp. A drill sergeant, white and very sarcastic, had bus passengers lining up like new recruits and nobody moved until he said so. Inside, computers beeped. They have barcodes which they paste in our passports for crying out loud.

    Feeling somewhat racist at the moment, I wondered to Hilary if this place runs better because it’s run by that white guy. I also wondered if it really was any faster. Maybe the hive system works better than the ant system. Both borders took us relatively about the same amount of time.

    Sue mentioned on her blog missing BBB the other day. The feeling is mutual. I miss BBB in its heyday. And I miss Sue who is one of the most interesting and deeply educated people I’ve had the privilege to communicate with. I can give you some insider info here and say that the BBB guys are discussing what BBB is and should become. I’m personally lobbying that we might become less and you might become more. That is less of an oligarchy and more of crowd. More bazaar and less cathedral.


    • Great comment, David! Thanks for stopping by as you and Hilary cross so many borders and journey. We’re wanting to share that with you, as we can. Thanks for mentioning Sue, the other bloggers, and Jane. You got me posting about Jane posting about translating.

  6. Dave,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. First, I felt that you were using the masculine pronoun in a perfectly correct way – there are only male bloggers at the BBB and across the bibliosphere.

    Second, I understand that overall there are more women who blog than men who blog. Women blog more.

    Third, in science, math, technology and other areas which are stereotypically male, the percentage of women participants is still about 20 to 30 %.

    Fourth, there are only one or two women in the bibliosphere in any one year, That’s less than one per cent.

    Fifth, it isn’t just me, because I was quite a successful blogger in the writing system and technology blogosphere.

    Sixth, male bibliobloggers are just guys, they are not uniquely sexist.

    Therefore, there must be something which is causing this effect.

    The most difficult aspect of biblioblogging for me has been the wide-spread notion among the majority of bibliobloggers that there must be equal acceptance of the doctrine of the subordination of women, as there is for the belief in the functional equality of women. I won’t do it, not now and not ever.

    If that is a conversation stopper, then I am sorry. There is also the small matter of wading through dog pooh like articles about biblical gynecology.

    Having said that, I do miss those good old days when i still had some kind of hope that someone on the BBB, would simply announce that the subordination of women was not on on the BBB, and that people who harrassed me with ad hominem remarks would be moderated. Too bad. That never happened.

    I know this is unrealistic, that the bibliosphere will never stand up for women in an unequivocal way. It just isn’t possible.

  7. Sue, I’ve grown disenamored of the biblioblogosphere for other reasons. The most avid bloggers were hyper-Calvinist or didn’t seem to really believe the Bible. I enjoyed tangling with them for a while. But conflict is bad for my health these days. I wonder if we both exited stage left pursued by a different bear. Or maybe we were the bear?

  8. Who is this David Ker? He is speaking truth to power!

  9. The most avid bloggers were hyper-Calvinist or didn’t seem to really believe the Bible.

    I have had to come to grips with this dichotomy also. It is very difficult to have all one’s beliefs challenged. I have personally decided to stop being a wuss and just attend a liberal church.

    But amen to seeking health above all. I am with you in that. We need to make decisions that are good for us.

  10. What I meant was that for me, moving from fundamentalism to a liberal environment, was a matter of courage, of not being afraid. Everyone has their own journey, their own fears that keep them from moving forward.

    Perhaps it is the journey that makes it hard to keep blogging. Does the blogosphere expect a blogger to be static, to represent the same position year after year? Or perhaps the opposite, to move through something faster.

  11. Does the blogosphere expect a blogger to be static, to represent the same position year after year? — Sue

    Is blogging structured specifically in favor of male forms of communication? I notice that here you allow threaded comments. I tried to innovate that at BBB but it was shut down as being too confusing to my fellow linear authors. — David

    I think you two are on to something.

    Maybe Nancy Mairs is too when writing about the dominant discourse and alternatives, also quoting (Julia Kristeva); she says:

    The difference that emerges here is not the polarity intrinsic in the dominant discourse, which reduces “woman to man’s opposite, his other, the negative of the positive.” No, this is an absolute and radical alterity that enfolds the other, as in pregnancy a woman’s immune system shuts down in such a way that she shelters and nourishes, rather than rejects and expels, the foreign body within her: “Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. Within the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is an other. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on.”

  12. Pingback: I Like Bloggers Who… | Mind Your Language

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