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White Male Bibliobloggers and “rape threats as a matter of course”

October 21, 2015

Last month, the most recent biblioblogger carnival went up (by William Brown) and again with his links only to blog posts of males only.

(Pardon my redundancy, then, in using the adjectival phrase “white male” with the noun “bibliobloggers” in the title of my post. But where does one go to find blogging on the Bible by anybody else?)

Last week, the most recent announcement for the SBL and AAR blogger dinner and drinks gathering of bibliobloggers went up (by James F. McGrath posted on his biblioblog and then again on a “public group” site) on facebook.

“It’s just very…male, James McGrath. Very male looking,” comments Leigh Ann Hildebrand. And she goes on to self identify, to mark herself, as one not in this picture typically:

“I’m just making sure that you know. As a woman, based on this picture I would think, ‘This is not a gathering for me. I would feel uncomfortable attending.'”

This prompts some conversation, including a longer statement by Robert Cargill (who has the privilege of not self identifying and feels no need to explain that he’s a man):

It’s a valid point. What is odd about the “very male” criticism of blogging, however, is that there is no prohibition, disincentive, or touchscreen glass ceiling prohibiting *anyone* from blogging. Literally anyone can blog. And the blogging group (at least those of us involved in SBL’s blogging initiative) have sought out ways to increase women’s participation in blogging. But the fact that women do not blog as much as men according to any number of surveys does not appear to be the result of any institutional pressure. In fact, I’m encouraged at the number of women who participate in THIS forum (the Hotel Lobby), and see it as an example of positive gender representation within the academy. But I cannot for the life of me, however, understand why women don’t appear to be blogging as much as men, without venturing into speculative theories about different habits of women vs. men scholars, and I know better than to go there.

That said, Leigh Ann, you are correct about the symbolism of that image.


What prompts me, a man, blogging here at BLT, to write this morning is something that I read last evening that Leigh Ann Hildebrand also has written:

“I blog.”

She writes that to these men on facebook, and so her blog has been, because she’s a woman not a male, snubbed again by the monthly carnival. She has added this too:

“Carrie Schroeder raises a really important point. There are *strong* disincentives for women to blog these days. The harassment issue is real.”

She has added something else (marked in parentheses):

“(That is, I’m making a guess that male bibliobloggers do not get rape threats as a matter of course.)”

And Janet Elizabeth Spittler has this additional observation:

“Internet rape threats are a serious disincentive.”

Some years ago when some of us again and again and again were complaining about the censoring of women bloggers from the monthly rankings of biblioblogs and from the monthly carnivals of links, white male biblioblogger Jim West complained back to me directly:

“jk- why dont you host one instead of complaining?”

Well, we did.

But I want you to know that my BLT co-bloggers and I had lots of private conversations about whether or not to write a carnival. Of our team then, the women let the men know of threats they regularly received. And would continue to receive as a matter of course.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. jdhomie permalink
    October 21, 2015 9:02 am

    As a white male (occasional) biblioblogger, I’ve noticed the same issue, and yes, mysogyny on the internet is a real problem. But I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t also connected to another aspect of the biblioblogging community. As a liberal mainline Protestant studying in a liberal theological consortium, I often feel a distinct different between myself and the blogs I enjoy following. That is, the biblioblogging community seems leaned heavily toward evangelicals and conservative Christians, groups who historically are more uncomfortable with female leadership. Am I onto something here, or am I just reading very selected blogs? I’ve often wondered what a theological poll of the community would reveal.

  2. thefeatheredsleep permalink
    October 21, 2015 2:43 pm


  3. October 21, 2015 5:24 pm

    Thanks for self identifying and asking your thoughtful question, jdhomie.

    James McGrath would hardly identify himself as evangelical conservative. He’d lamented in the fb conversation that he “didn’t track down the one from Boston, with April DeConick the most visible biblioblogger at the table in the photo.” (She’s not to be classed evangelical conservative either.)

    So here is that photo now tracked down:

    And also tracked down is April DeConick’s post which gives the following, striking and similar, picture:

    Gender concerns among bloggers

    September 01, 2009

    I continue today writing on sex and gender and early Christianity (I’m finishing up c. 3 of Sex and the Serpent), but I took a lunch break and surfed over to the Biblioblog Top 50. I scrolled down the page and was struck by the fact that in that list of hundreds of names and blogs I am just about the only woman’s voice represented. And as a voice, my woman’s voice would have to be a voice asking us to rethink orthodoxy and heresy, to revision the struggle for power and authority, to listen to the echoes of those who lost the theological and social battles, and learn from our past to better our lives and those of our children.

    Why are there so many male bibliobloggers? Why are there so few females on that list?

    That was September 01, 2009. And the next day she asked what could be done about this.

    thefeatheredsleep, Thanks

  4. October 22, 2015 12:37 pm

    I just wanted to offer one correction. In that Carnival, my posts on 1-2 Chronicles (my blog is called CarpeScriptura) were listed, and I am a cis-woman.

    I don’t generally announce my gender, so I can understand your error. However, I think it’s important to note that there are two separate levels of effacement going on: 1) Failing to highlight women bloggers, and b) Assuming that bloggers are male unless obviously stated otherwise. There’s a very unproductive discussion to have about which is the worst component, but I think it’s easy to see how they work together to make blogging (in general, though this would apply most to academic topics where authority/authoritativeness matters) feel like it’s just not “a woman’s place.”

    I don’t get rape threats online, but my gender is also rather obscure. My name is ambiguous and my “About” page photo has me far from the camera, short-haired, and wearing non-coded clothing. And sometimes I wonder how much that has had to do with how welcoming the biblioblog community has been of me. There’s really no way to test that, unfortunately, but it’s always there as a suspicion.

    As for pro-active changes, I think it would be absolutely fantastic for people who are willing to actively search for posts by women to host more of the Carnivals. From a topic accessibility point of view, the Carnival has helped me to connect with many ideas that I would have had a hard time finding on my own (particularly as a “Bible-hobbyist” rather than an academic insider). The more women who are highlighted, the more women will be known within the community and put forward as resources to newcomers, and it becomes self-perpetuating.

    Typically, women’s voices are drowned out in public discourses. The best cure is to hand us a microphone.

  5. October 22, 2015 2:00 pm

    Dear MrPopularSentiment blogging at Carpe Scriptura,

    My sincerely apologies! And thank you so very much for correcting my error so graciously and so personally and now so publicly.

    Except that others’ presumptions may mark any of us individuals in terms or class, race, gender, and sexuality, why would we need to so identify with such specificity and regularity?

    I have been able to test sexism bias among bloggers. Especially when I started blogging, at my blog Aristotle’s Feminist Subject, most readers presumed that J. K. Gayle, who I am, must be female, and, therefore, not male. I did receive threats as such. As a woman blogging, as a feminist blogger even, these became more regular when my posts touched on the Bible. When I started my blog entitled “The WOMBman’s Bible: An Outsider’s Perspective on the Hebrew Males’ Hellene Book” (even with an initial post mentioning others in the project with me – “My daughters and my son and my wife”) there was provocation, and there were attempts to silence me, as a lesbian. I have never ever attempted, nonetheless, to hide the fact that I am a white male cis-gender middle class third-culture-kid with a US citizenship. When I have to mark myself, to self identify, then I am treated differently as a straight man. I am given access and respect that were denied me by the same individuals who mistook me at first to be a woman, whether cis or gay. My spouse, who is a woman, and our daughters, and their grandmothers have respectively endured the experiences of both subtle-implicit-systemic and unsubtle-explicit-severe sexism – because they are females, not males. My co-bloggers who self-identify as women with the microphone of their own blogs in their own hands have been threatened and disparaged and silenced. They certainly can speak publicly, and have sometimes done so, about this for themselves individually. They certainly have discussed it privately, more safely, a good bit more. These are useful conversations to be persistent in.

    Your observations made here are just critical!

    Yes, indeed, it is “important to note that there are two separate levels of effacement going on: 1) Failing to highlight women bloggers, and b) Assuming that bloggers are male unless obviously stated otherwise.”

    And right, “it would be absolutely fantastic for people who are willing to actively search for posts by women to host more of the Carnivals.” April DeConick in 2009 used a blogroll of blogs by women on the Bible and on religion to be pro-active. She was not alone in this work. We here at BLT have experimented with group blogging, although we are hardly as diverse as we might be and could become with more effort, with just the few of us.

    At any rate, we all can admit our errors, our complicity in the implicit and systemic sexism, and raise awareness of the chronic problems of patriarchy and white male cis centeredness.

  6. October 22, 2015 7:45 pm

    Thanks, J.K.! I really appreciate this being talked about, as it’s an important issue that is, for obvious reasons, rather close to my heart!

  7. October 24, 2015 5:53 pm

    Thanks for this post, Kurk.

    Perhaps it was naive of me, but I was honestly shocked by McGrath’s comment

    But I cannot for the life of me, however, understand why women don’t appear to be blogging as much as men,

    Reallly? Really, there are still people on the internet who don’t know how much harassment women risk? Do they not actually talk to any women who have an online presence?

    This seems like a good place to promote this Kickstarter for a documentary about women & online harassment:

    Specifically, I’m making an episodic documentary (that means you don’t have to wait for the whole thing to be finished, since it will be released in episodes) about harassment and civility in the online world, how it relates to women and how some women are fighting back. I’m also creating multimedia pieces around the project as I go.

    While focusing on women’s stories in the modern, digital world and online spaces, I’m also including glimpses into historic examples of backlash against women’s voices (Think anti-Suffragist pamphlets and tactics, trolling letters to female literary greats and scientists, even corporate propaganda to get women out of post-war factories and back into the home). How did these previous attempts at silencing affect the way women conveyed information and organized for social change? By connecting past and present, I aim to find out how the conflict around who gets to have a public voice has (or, perhaps has not) changed over time, regardless of medium.

    The deadline is Nov 13 and it’s only about 25% funded so far.

  8. krwordgazer permalink
    October 24, 2015 11:50 pm

    I’m not actively blogging now, but I was actively ignored by the Biblioblog community through several years of direct asking to be included. In short, I was cold-shouldered.

    Though I have not received any actual threats, a substantial number of men have come to my blog over the years to correct me and put me in my place.

  9. krwordgazer permalink
    October 24, 2015 11:52 pm

    PS. McGrath has praised and promoted my blog in the past. I honestly don’t think he knows that I am not allowed to be among the bibliobloggers.

  10. October 27, 2015 4:34 pm

    We hope you see you’re not alone.

    Do you imagine perhaps there is implicit bias behind the statement James McGrath makes? The token of April DeConick in the photo as if that might encourage more women to join in the man-dominant spaces seems to suggest that, don’t you think?

    Thank you for the link to Amy Guth’s fundraiser for her documentary on bullying and harassment of women online. I love how the scope is wide and historically deep too:

    While focusing on women’s stories in the modern, digital world and online spaces, I’m also including glimpses into historic examples of backlash against women’s voices (Think anti-Suffragist pamphlets and tactics, trolling letters to female literary greats and scientists, even corporate propaganda to get women out of post-war factories and back into the home).

    What do you think of my questions here about him that I asked Victoria? We miss your blogging, and so I hope you’re taking a hiatus only because you’ve chosen that for yourself.

    Phillip J. Long has issued his “Last Call for Biblical Studies Carnival Links for October 2015“. Shall we do this, one more time, again, and make suggestions such as the following for wider and interesting inclusion?

  11. krwordgazer permalink
    October 28, 2015 11:41 pm

    Kurk, I’m not actively blogging because I’m working on a novel, and I find it very difficult to do both kinds of writing at the same time. But I do plan to post occasional blogs now and then anyway– when I find I have something I really want to say. Thanks for asking!

    As for Dr. McGrath, I think he’s very open to women bloggers but may not understand all of the challenges we face. He seems to me to be a great guy! But I don’t think he knows that the biblioblog group he is part of, has a different, higher standard for women bloggers to be included than for men. Heck, the leaders of that group may not even realize this themselves.

  12. November 1, 2015 5:34 pm

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  13. November 3, 2015 1:37 am

    It appears that in the male dominated field of biblioblogging, I am being treated in much the same way that I was treated in the previous male dominated field in which I was trained – agricultural science. Kind of like one of the boys. I am a very obviously female biblioblogger, cis-female and straight. Although I haven’t posted much in the last year or so because personal circumstances have made it difficult for me to focus on bloggable material, I started my blog in January 2007 and so far have not been threatened with anything nasty by anyone. I haven’t received any negative comments on the basis of my gender and the only problematic posts have been those done by the usual suspects with particular bees in their bonnets that also harass male bloggers. I haven’t actually been highly recognised for my blogging, but my research area is Gospel of Thomas, which is not exactly a high profile field, so it’s not clear how much that’s the cause. And yet, I am very aware that there is something different about the way I interact that really does seem to make me an honorary male, despite the fact that as far as I am aware, I do not come across as ‘blokey’. I have seen my female colleagues in both fields treated very poorly. I have had male colleagues in both fields make very disparaging comments about women and when I say “hey, I’m a woman, too, you know” the response has been “yes, but *you’re* different”. So I am at a loss as to why this happens – unless its because I grew up as the only girl in a family of boys and the only girl in the neighbourhood, so outside school I only socialised with boys. And that isn’t something that other female bibliobloggers can change. So, not much help, really. But I can really see why lots of women are very wary about biblioblogging.

  14. November 3, 2015 3:40 am

    Actually, I just discovered that I blogged about this in June 2007 : -)

  15. November 3, 2015 5:53 pm

    Happy hiatus from blogging. We look forward to hearing about and, even more, to reading your novel!

    Vincent S Artale Jr.,
    Thank you for reblogging this post.

    Thanks for sharing your own experiences as a woman in these worlds of men. While others may have been more silenced or differently oppressed than you have been, your sharing here, I do believe, may be helpful to others. One thing is clear for sure:

    for more than eight years (June 3, 2007 to November 3, 2015) you’ve spoken up about the issues here “in the male dominated field of biblioblogging” and that of “agricultural science,” a woman must be tokenized as “an honorary male” to be allowed much presence or voice.

    I do recall in April 2010 your pointing out how it was mostly “(ordained)” women who were published in a particular theological journal (and you were comparing that to my anecdotal reports of a very low percentage of women among the men of biblioblogger top ranked lists: ).

    I did write to Phil Long to give him links to consider for his recent carnival. He replied that he “had a few of them already (a couple from Marg Mowczko, the DeConick announcement, for example).” As you may have noticed, he did select a few from the ones (as I’d posted in my comment above here) and did link to this post. He added in the email to me, “With this many links you could produce the first all-female BiblioBlog carnival.” My guess is his “you” is plural, since we co-blog here.

    However, it does seem that he considers me a “female BiblioBlog”er; in the carnival is this note:

    If you are heading to SBL, the annual Bloggers’ gathering at SBL/AAR is set for Sunday night…. While on the topic of white guys meeting together, J. K. Gayle comments on White Male Bibliobloggers and “rape threats as a matter of course.” She laments the ongoing dearth of women in BiblioBlog carnivals, in ranked biblioblog listings, and at biblioblogger dinners and social functions around academic conferences.[my bold font here for emphasis]

    These carnivals can go on and on, and, while it was great to see Phil include a few suggested links in his, I was disappointed that this one didn’t include posts by either Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney or Rev. Dr. Mihee Kim-Kort, both ordained scholars.


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