NYT op-ed: Not enough women are leaving comments at online sites

Classic example of a “First World Problem”

When Dylan Farrow posted a letter on this blog accusing Woody Allen of sexual assault, female commenters overwhelmingly supported her; male commenters were evenly split.

These were among my findings when I studied nearly a million comments made on The New York Times website. Women and men differ substantially in how they engage with online media. And these differences may have profound implications for media, gender equality, and even our democracy…

…Women were clearly underrepresented in my data. They made only a quarter of comments, even though their comments got more recommendations from other readers on average. Even when they did speak up, they tended to cluster in stereotypically “female” areas: they were most common on articles about parenting, caring for the old, fashion and dining. (Women got more recommendations than men on most of the sports blogs, but they still made, for example, only 5 percent of comments on the soccer blog.)

It seems unlikely that these effects are confined to The New York Times; studies of online commenting find broad signs of inequality. (While women are well-represented on some websites, like the image-sharing site Pinterest, these sites do not tend to focus on expressing and defending opinions. Online forums that do often have mostly male commenters: examples include Wikipedia edit pages, the social news site Reddit, and the question-answering sites Quora and Stack Overflow)…

…While we focus instinctively on how to get women to talk more, there’s another possibility: that men should talk less…

Katherine Coffman’s study implies that we’d make better decisions if women spoke up more; and even if your comment is inane, our democracy will function better if we get a gender-balanced sample of stupidity..


I left a comment saying she should simply stop worrying about it. What will be, will be. Commenting was light overall on the article.  NYT vets every comment.   

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