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.   

  • winniec

    Women tend to agree with other women who are upset, just to be nice. But civilized debate is healthier because everyone is externalizing their feelings and no one has to stifle.

    • b_marco

      …. and sometimes it’s about more than feelings.

      • We’re all entitled to our own feelings, as infantile as those feelings may be – but we are not entitled to our own facts.

        • b_marco

          Who’s “we” ?

          • You and everybody else. The human condition. You get to choose how you are going to feel about something. You don’t get to choose what actually happened in real life that you have those feelings about.

          • b_marco

            Thanks for clearing that up. The next time I’m unsure about basic philosophical perspectives I’ll be sure and give you a ring. But If “everybody else” includes you then count me out. And seeing as how it’s “express our feelings” time…

          • I have no idea what you are upset about here, nor about why you are telling me to f*** off.

          • b_marco

            I was just, you know, sharing my feelings.

  • Xavier

    Sounds to me like the NYT is biased against women.

  • BillyHW

    Our democracy would function better if women weren’t allowed to vote.

    • Xavier
    • Frau Katze

      I’m still pondering this…while I read about male/female differences. It might help to reintroduce other retro rules too, say, you have to be a tax-payer.

      • Xavier

        Property ownership is the old saw that everyone criticizes but it actually makes sense. Property ownership implies a lot of things, like maturity, paying taxes, saving money, and foresight. None of those are guaranteed but in a large sample they’d probably be accurate.

      • And a property owner. And over 25 unless you are in the military or have already served.

        • Frau Katze

          It’s too late now. We’re doomed as a civilization anyway.

          • While that is true, I must point out that the Kingdom of Heaven is within. That realization sustained tens of millions of people who lived and died within the former USSR.

        • BillyHW

          Beat me to it.

      • BillyHW

        And property owner.

    • I have to agree with that, and I’m a woman.

      • Frau Katze

        So I am (of course, don’t be fooled by the tie). So there are lots of women commenting on this site.

        • Minicapt

          … all the time, without stopping …


      • BillyHW

        Will you marry me?

        • With all due respect, I must decline. I am happily married (16 yrs.) and I intend to be married no more than once!


    • disqus_W6sfZCiOd8

      Too much emotion. I hate emotion!

  • Hard Little Machine

    Don’t you have to be a paid subscriber to comment? Maybe the ladies don’t want to buy the privilege.