February 12, 2003
Those troublesome women

Via DC Thornton, I see that Right Wing News recently hosted a Warblogger Awards competition. I find one thing moderately curious about this, which is that there are separate awards for Best Female Blogger and Best Overall Blog. I don't quite understand the distinction here. All of the other categories are about blog characteristics - funniest, original content, most bloodthirsty, best group blog, etc - but this one is the only subcategory that's defined by who the blogger is rather than what's in the blog.

(OK, that's not totally true, since there's also a Best Non-American Blog category. However, I'd argue that non-American blogs are mostly about non-American content and are thus in a genuinely different class, much as non-American films are in a different class than American films. I admit the distinction is a bit hard to pin down, but that's how I see it.)

There is, of course, a Best Overall Blog, which has male and female entries. It seems to me that if you're going to give a separate award for women, you ought to be consistent by eliminating the Best Overall award and simply honor Best Female Blogger and Best Male Blogger. To do it this way feels patronizing to me, as if it's an admission that a woman won't be in contention for Best Overall.

Putting it another way, it's wholly appropriate that the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors the Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor in a given year. It would be wholly inappropriate if they honored Best Overall Actor and Best Female Actor instead.

Like it or not, having a Best Female competition in conjunction with a Best Overall competition eventually degrades and devalues the Best Female competition. This is because everyone knows that being Best Female doesn't mean as much, since after all the field of competition is artificially limited.

An example of this is in the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). At its national tournaments, there are Open events and Women's events. In every possible metric - coverage, number of participants, buzz - the Open events have tons more prestige. Someone once told me that the only real reason for the Women's events these days is to provide employment opportunities for female professional players (since their clients tend to be women). Even that is changing, since some high-profile female clients have started hiring male pros and winning Open events. I don't expect the Women's events to ever go away, since they also serve as qualifiers for the international Women's championships, but it really doesn't matter since no one pays much attention to them anyway.

(Ironically, it was a lawsuit in the 1980s by a woman named Jillian Blanchard that led to the elimination of Men's events. Of course, those Men's events, in particular the national Men's Pairs championship, were still considered more prestigious. Blanchard and others like her just wanted the chance to test themselves against all competition.)

I'm probably making a needlessly big deal about something that was intended to be lighthearted amusement, and if so I apologize. Lighthearted or not, though, I got a message from that particular choice, and I'm sure it's not what the author intended.

UPDATE: To quote Eric McErlain, who was a judge:

Best Female Blogger: No Vote -- why? Because every female blogger can stand on their own in this competition, they don't need to be "ghettoized."


Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 12, 2003 to Blog stuff | TrackBack

Repeat the meme

Down with quotas! Down with Quotas!

Long live quotas! Long Live Quotas!

Posted by: ArchPundit on February 12, 2003 11:24 AM

He also had a kind of least annoying lefty blogger category in the original ballot, but he cut that out. Like a typical liberal, you don't know the whole story but you speak volumes on it as if you did.

I guess that means I was right for my selection in that category being Ken Williams instead of you. ;)

Kissy kissy!

Posted by: Laurence Simon on February 12, 2003 1:58 PM

Hey, DC nominated me as least annoying liberal. So, y'know, I've got that going for me. :-)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 12, 2003 2:54 PM

Having won a 'least annoying liberal blogger' award, I'd rather be recognized for that than as a 'best female blogger', thanks. The former, like the non-American blogger 'honor', is generally based on content, whereas the latter is not.

Of course, maybe they're just confused and think only girl bloggers talk about certain subjects. I know Virginia Postrel does a lot of blogging about the economic aspects of beauty in ways that many male bloggers wouldn't, whether from lack of perspective or excessive concern about image. I think that's the men's loss, myself, but what do I know? I'm an annoying liberal woman ...

Posted by: Ginger on February 12, 2003 2:56 PM

No irony at all in an avowed conservative site dividing folks by their demographics instead of merits, ideas, etc, eh? :)

I noticed it too.

To me, it would be more annoying to be pigeonholed as a warblogger. :) But what do I know, I just sit over in my little corner off the radar and carry on about beer and alt-country.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on February 13, 2003 8:33 AM

Before the Blanchard suit, it was indisputable that the top players in the country were men. Since the elimination of Men's events, it is my perception that the gap has narrowed significantly.

Rose Metzger is a Burmuda Bowl Champion. Rita Shugart captained a four handed team that won consecutive Reisengers and is a serious force in all major championships.

One of my former teamates, Patty Tucker, won the Grand National Pairs.

Having lost in major team championships to teams including women on three occasions, it seems to me that more and more women are more than holding their own in important events.

Jill Blanchard did the ACBL and all bridge players a huge favor.

Posted by: dwight meredith on February 14, 2003 1:20 PM

To the best of my recollection, the big team events (Reisinger, Vanderbilt, Spingold, and Grand Nationals) were always open, unlike the Men's Pairs. Still, it's only in the last couple of years that teams headed by women (clients) have won any of them. You have to go back to Helen Sobel in the 1940s (or maybe Dorothy Hayden in the 60s, I don't remember) before that.

The real measure of equality will be when teams that include women pros win one of the Big Four. I do agree that it's getting closer.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 14, 2003 2:02 PM


Rita Shugart won the Reisenger twice playing four handed. Regardless of whether she is a pro or a client, she played very single board.

Her four-handed team also knocked me out of the Spingold a couple of years ago by a depressingly small margin (4 imps).

She made 4h at our table on a guard squeeze near the end of the last set to win the match (although I could have made a better opening lead).

She can just flat out play. That is also true of other women. Playing against aggresive pairs such as Deas-Palmer or McCallum-Sandborn aint no picnic. You "never" get an uncontested auction and since they are always in game you risk 10 imps on defense every hand. Very high pressure tactics and quite effective. Karen McCallum in particlar is about as active an opponent as I have ever encountered (Meckwell, perhaps, excepted).

"Women's bridge" ain't what it used to be and that is all to the good.

Posted by: dwight meredith on February 14, 2003 2:47 PM

Oh, I agree with you, Dwight. I'm just saying that it'll be another step forward when the big name clients start hiring female pros for these events. We're not quite there yet.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 14, 2003 2:52 PM